There is a Chinese Alphabet. There are two main phonic guides for Chinese characters in use today, 注音 (Zhuyin) and 拼音 (pinyin). 拼音 borrows from the English alphabet and was created to internationalize and standardize the spelling of Mandarin Chinese.
Yes, There IS a Chinese Alphabet
That'd make it a lot easier eh. There are thousands of Chinese characters, and although most of the complex/compound characters will hint at pronunciation, it was not until quite recently that standard phonic guides were put in place. It's no wonder that so many dialects developed in China over time! The common saying is that one would find a new dialect for every 100 kilometres traveled in China.
There are two main guides in use today, 注音 (Zhuyin) and 拼音 (pinyin). The former predates but as of 2009, will be completely replaced by the latter system. 拼音 (pin yin) borrows from the English alphabet and was created to internationalize and standardize the spelling of Mandarin Chinese. After Taiwan and Hong Kong's virtuoso spelling of words, places, and names, the standardized 拼音 is a welcoming tool.
I will be using 拼音 (ping ying) for the tutorials.
Don't be intimidated by the long list! The weird consonants and congested vowels are the only ones you should really remember to get the jist of speaking Chinese. Use this page as a reference for odd words and vowel combinations and soon enough you'll have it in memory.
the easier consonants
b, d, f, h, k, l, m, n, p, and t -- pronounced the same as in English.
g -- pronounced like the "g" in "go"
j -- pronounced like the "gee" in "jeep"
q -- pronounced like the "chee" in "cheeze"
x -- pronounced like the "see" in "seep"
the weirder consonants
z -- pronounced "zs"
c -- pronounced "ts"
s -- pronounced "ss" like in "sssshop"
r -- pronounced "zr" like "z" but with the tongue curled up
zh, ch, sh -- pronounced like the first 3 weird consonants but with the tongue curled
If these consonants are the only sound for a word, an "i" follows but is not pronounced
the basic vowels
a -- pronounced like the "ah" in "blah"
o -- pronounced as is
e -- pronounced like the "uh" in "blur"
ê -- pronounced like the "eh" in "egg"
ai -- pronounced like the "ai" in "die"
ei -- pronounced like the "ay" in "ace"
ao -- pronounced as is
ou -- pronounced like the "oh" in "blow"
the congested vowels
pronounced with nasal resonance, like the "ang" in "bang"
an -- pronounced "an" like the "a" in baseballas in
en -- pronounced like the "en" in "render"
ang, eng -- pronounced like the other two, but with even more nasal "ng" and slighly opened mouths
the combo vowels
these vowels can stand alone or lead off other vowels
i -- pronounced like the "eee" in "easy", and i written with "y" when it's the first sound in a word, and "yi" if it's the only sound
u -- pronounced like the "wu" in "why", and is written with "w" when it's the first sound, and "wu" if it is the only sound
ü -- pronounded "yuee"