I am working on an art project where I would like to collect hundreds of different transliterations of 「中文」 zhōng wén in Mandarin Chinese. (Pronunciation available here: https://translate.google.com/#zh-CN/de/中文)

How can I transliterate zhōng wén in French? (For example, "zhong wen" would be the closest pronunciation in English.)

3 Answers 3


If you wanted a way to write 中文 such that native French speakers with no specific training could pronounce it as accurately as possible, I'd suggest djong-ouène. The zh sound of pinyin is very close to French dj.

Here are some alternatives I considered and decided against:

  • zhong-... - the zh would normally be read as z
  • ouenne - the e might be read like a schwa
  • djongouène - written as one word, this might be read djon-gou-ène
  • djong-wen - w may be read as v, it's ambiguous for unknown words

Source: I'm a native French speaker and speak some Mandarin.

  • Nice. However, Wikipedia gives a voiceless affricate for the Pinyin sound indicated by "zh". Would tch give the wrong impression instead of dj? (I speak no Mandarin, so not sure how this would come across perceptively — could be completely wrong.)
    – Luke Sawczak
    Apr 2, 2017 at 20:04
  • tch would be wrong. It corresponds to pinyin q, not zh.
    – qoba
    Apr 2, 2017 at 21:19
  • 1
    Fair enough, but one French spelling can map to two Mandarin sounds if French doesn't distinguish between two respective voiceless fricatives and Mandarin does! The fricative component of the affricate spelled "zh" is voiceless too. That said, since neither tch nor dj actually indicates either sound precisely in terms of articulation, I guess it's more useful to have two spellings for two sounds than to try to make French spelling do IPA's job...
    – Luke Sawczak
    Apr 2, 2017 at 21:51
  • I can't read IPA but I can tell you for sure that reading it as tchong will come off to a native speaker as wrong whereas it'll have a chance to be understood if pronounced djong. zh is voiced. There is another sound in Chinese (pinyin j) that also sounds like French dj, with a different tongue position, so the transcription isn't perfect, but neither would be understood if spoken as tch.
    – qoba
    Apr 2, 2017 at 22:23
  • 1
    According to Wikipedia it's not voiced (though "it may take on the voicing of adjacent sounds"), but I'll take your word on the likely misperception of "tch". Thanks for the responses.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Apr 2, 2017 at 22:38

Probably something like tshongue ouénne if one decided to really go full French on it. The EFEO, a French institute teaching Asian languages, developed a romanisation system for Chinese, and following it, it would be tchong wen. Can't remember how tones were noted.


On parle ici de la langue chinoise ou du mandarin. En utilisant un outil, j'ai obtenu un résultat fort similaire à celui d'une autre réponse mais sans l'emploi de l'accent : djong-ouenne. Dans l'article Wikipédia, on indique qu'on parle de 普通话 / 普通話, pǔtōnghuà, pour « langue commune », de 国语 / 國語, guóyǔ, de 华语 / 華語, huáyǔ ou même de 汉语 / 漢語, hànyǔ pour toutes les langues de l'ethnie Han; le même outil suggère pou-tong-roua, gou'eau-iu, roua iu et ranne-iu respectivement.


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