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7 Apps for Enjoying and Learning from Chinese Music

Music is in the air.

And it’s here to teach you Chinese!

We may not generally think of listening to music as a tangible and effective way to learn a new language.

But while supplementing music-listening with a course or lesson plan is definitely preferable, you’d be surprised at how much music on its own can help you improve your listening and comprehension skills.

Learning a new language doesn’t have to involve strict lessons and laborious studying all the time. It can be fun. And when something’s fun, it’s easier to do.

Not only that, but the presence of apps makes listening to music in a variety of languages easier than ever.

Our list of awesome Chinese music apps will get you on the right track to learning Mandarin through tunes!

How Can Chinese Music Apps Help Me Learn Mandarin?

  • Listening to music is one of the best ways to improve your listening, comprehension and memorization skills. Many bilingual people out there will tell you that listening to music in a particular language helped them learn. It might seem like a subconscious thing, but actively trying to translate lyrics and singing along helps bridge gaps between unfamiliar words and their translations.
  • You can listen to them during downtime to improve your fluency while not doing much else. Actively studying 24/7 is impossible, but throwing some passive practice into your leisure time is a great way to add variety to your language learning routine without having to do much work.
  • Some of these apps feature music videos with subtitles, which can help you improve your reading skills in Chinese. Listening to music doesn’t have to just improve your listening and speaking skills—it can improve your reading and comprehension skills as well!

7 Chinese Music Apps for Singing Your Way to Fluency!

Youku (iPhone and Android)

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Youku is China’s biggest video streaming provider. Think of it as YouTube and a public broadcast channel mixed together.

While there are certainly a ton of television shows and films you can watch on Youku, they have a ton of music videos available as well. If you’re looking for an app that provides more than just music, Youku is the one. All you need to do to browse music videos is select the 音乐 (yīnyuè) — “music” button.

You’ll find that a vast majority of Youku’s videos don’t have subtitles in English, so this app would be better suited to intermediate and advanced learners. As of now, the Youku app is free to download.

We suggest checking out:

  • 于文文《其实其实》(yú wén wén “qí shí qí shí”) — Yu Wen Wen’s “In Fact, Actually”
  • Tizzy T’s “Runnin'”

Radio FM China (Android)

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If you like radio-style apps, this one is the best for listening to random Chinese music on the go. This app has just a few simple features:

  • Dozens of radio station broadcasts from China and Taiwan
  • A favorites section
  • Quick search for specific stations
  • Free use with few ads
  • A simple user-friendly interface
  • Genre and city browsing

All levels of learners can use this app, as most of the navigation is in English. This one is as basic as it gets, and it’s perfect for listening to Chinese music via your smartphone or tablet.

We suggest checking out:

  • 上海动感101 (shàng hǎi dòng gǎn 101) — Shanghai Dynamic 101: A mix of hip-hop, pop and electronic music.
  • Billboard Hot 100 Tianjin Radio: Hot songs popular in mainland China with a mix of Chinese and English songs to keep you on your toes.

FluentU (iPhone and Android)

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FluentU is much more than a music app, but music is a big part of what we do. We have a ton of Chinese music videos in our Mandarin library for you to watch and sing along with. FluentU takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.

The interface is English and videos are given English titles for easy reference, so learners of any level who are English speakers should have no trouble navigating the app and keeping track of all their favorites (which can also be marked and kept in a separate section of the app).

All videos come with optional 拼音 (pīn yīn) — Chinese romanization, 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters and English subtitles, and a Plus plan gives you customized quizzes for learning key vocab in the videos.

We suggest checking out:

  • “Goodbye” by Taiwanese artist Zhang Zhenyue if you’re an intermediate learner who wants to learn vocabulary related to leaving a place with a catchy song.
  • “Friends” by Groovi Pauli & Friends if you’re a beginner who wants to get a little silly while learning some basic Mandarin words.

These are just a couple examples from the many tracks we currently have in our growing video library. And that’s not even scratching the surface of the rest of the 1500+ videos available to Chinese learners. Sign up for a free trial and see for yourself!

Xiami Music (iPhone and Android)

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Xiami Music is one of the most popular Chinese music apps in mainland China. Luckily, it’s available for iPhone and Android users for free! Think of it as a Chinese Spotify.

Enjoy millions of songs, an album store, high-quality audio and billions of playlists made by Xiami users.

They even offer a nifty “Cassette Mode” that will take you back to the good ol’ days.

The navigation is partially in English, so all levels of learner can figure this app out. It’s worth noting that this app contains a mix of Chinese- and English-language music.

We suggest checking out:

  •  新歌 (xīn gē) — New Songs: This Xiami-generated playlist contains top new releases. Be sure to select the 华语 (huá yǔ) — “Chinese” section to hear hits from mainland China.
  • 每日30 (měi rì 30) — 30 Daily: This playlist changes every day to give you a refreshing mix of new music based on your listening history.

YouTube Music (iPhone and Android)

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YouTube Music has to be the best resource for finding Chinese music videos, ever. Some Chinese music videos come complete with Chinese and English subtitles and HD audio and video. You can save different videos to your favorites with ease, too.

Just about any learner can use this super simple music video app. YouTube Music is free to use with ads but they also offer a premium subscription.

To find Chinese music, try searching for these keywords in either English or Chinese:

  • 中国 (zhōng guó) — China
  • 中国音乐 (zhōng guó yīn yuè) — Chinese music
  • 中国流行音乐 (zhōng guó liú xíng yīn yuè) — Chinese pop music
  • 中国嘻哈 (zhōn gguó xī hā) — Chinese hip-hop
  • 国语音乐 (guó yǔ yīn yuè) — Mandarin music
  • 普通话曲调 (pǔ tōng huà qǔ diào) — Mandarin tunes

We suggest checking out:

  • Best Voices of Mainland China: This playlist features some of the most incredible Chinese singers in multiple genres.
  • Chinese City Pop/Boogie/Funk/Soul: If you love city music and want to find out what’s popular in Beijing right now, check out this playlist.

Spotify (iPhone and Android)

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Spotify is super popular all over the world and for good reason! This app contains streaming tunes for every corner of the world, including Mandarin-speaking countries. Like Xiami, you can easily find user-made playlists and albums in Chinese. Spotify is free to use with brief intermittent ads.

To find Chinese music, we suggest searching for the same keywords we mentioned in the YouTube Music entry.

We suggest checking out:

  • Chinese Songs TOP 100 playlist by David Li: This playlist is updated weekly with new mainland China pop hits.
  • 中文流行金曲 (zhōng wén liú xíng jīn qǔ) — Chinese POP playlist by Annikens: Tons of new and old Chinese pop hits.

Chinese Popular Music (Android)

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Like Radio FM Chinese, this app is fairly simple to use. Rather than being channel-based, this app provides an assortment of a couple hundred new songs that are synced daily. You can make your own playlists, but you can’t access other users’ playlists. You can choose either English or Chinese navigation and song titles once you install this app.

There are four types of playlists you can generate, including local, online, playback history and favorites. The unique aspect to this app is that it has an automatic ringtone converter so you can make ringtones out of your favorite Chinese tunes. This app is free with video ads.

 

It’s surprising how many Mandarin-language music apps are out there, isn’t it?

We bet at least a couple of these handy apps will become a staple for you when you’re commuting to work or school. If you can, don’t be afraid to sing along!


Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.

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