Pinyin is a system of writing the sounds of Chinese using English letters—an indispensable tool for learning to speak Chinese.
If you are going to learn Chinese, you first have to know what it is, or it least what it's called.
As a Chinese teacher, I feel like I am at war. The enemy is a voice in the back of my students' minds repeating "you can't do this." If they quit, the battle is lost.
I am frequently asked for advice on how to learn Chinese. My answer always includes a pitch for perfecting pinyin. (Pinyin is a system which romanizes Chinese Characters, whereby is rendered nihao.)