Learn Chinese with Songs: 15 Mandopop Hits for Fun Listening Practice
Music is the language of the soul.
It can also be a language learning tool!
Yep—if you do it right, music can be a powerful way to advance your language skills.
So, maybe you want to understand Chinese covers of popular English songs, impress your friends with some Chinese karaoke or simply jam along to some catchy tunes.
Here are 15 tracks to help you learn Chinese through songs.
- 1. “Ambiguous” by Rainie Yang
- 2. “The Drunken Concubine” by Li Yu Gang
- 3. “WeChat” by The Higher Brothers
- 4. “Stranger in the North” by Namewee ft. Wang Leehom
- 5. “Light Years Away” by G.E.M
- 6. “Playhouse” by JiaJia
- 7. “My Chambers” by Soft Lipa
- 8. “Ashima” by Xie Tian Xiao
- 9. “Sing For You” by EXO
- 10. “Hero” by Jay Chou
- 11. “Enough” by Eric Chou
- 12. “Ten Years” by Eason Chan
- 13. “Your Answer” by A Rong
- 14. “Like a Breeze” by Seven Tan
- 15. “No Love” by Khalil Fong ft. Miss Ko
- How Can I Learn Chinese with Songs?
1. “Ambiguous” by Rainie Yang
Chinese: 《曖昧》楊丞琳 (“ài mèi” yáng chéng lín)
The Taiwanese drama 惡魔在身邊 (è mó zài shēn biān) — “Devil Beside You” was one of my favorite television shows when I began learning Mandarin Chinese.
Other than being the lead actress of the show, Rainie Yang also produced one of the main songs from the series. This 2005 hit is elegant and entrancing, and the chorus is sure to get stuck in your head.
(ài mèi rànɡ rén shòu jìn wěi qu)
Ambiguity makes people feel wronged
(zhǎo bú dào xiānɡ ài de zhènɡ jù)
They can’t find evidence of love
2. “The Drunken Concubine” by Li Yu Gang
Chinese: 《新貴妃醉酒》李玉剛 (“xīn guì fēi zuì jiǔ” lǐ yù gāng)
“The Drunken Concubine” was a Qing Dynasty opera in Peking (today’s Beijing). The play is still celebrated and performed in the city to this day with lavish choreography and extremely detailed costuming.
Popular Chinese singer and performer of opera, Li Yugang, found fame when he performed the leading role. He recorded a song based on the play as well, blending modern and traditional Chinese music to make a truly interesting track.
The coolest part of this 2007 song is Li Yugang’s uncanny ability to hit high notes traditionally done by females.
There are a lot of simple prepositions and nouns in this song, so it would definitely be easy to memorize as a beginner.
(ài hèn jiù zài yí shùn jiān)
Love and hate in a flash
(jǔ bēi duì yuè qíng sì tiān)
Raise a glass to the moon, our passion as endless as the sky
3. “WeChat” by The Higher Brothers
Chinese: 《微信》海爾兄弟 (“wēi xìn” hǎi ěr xiōng dì)
The Higher Brothers have made waves in the West and were described as the next big rap group in China. Their songs are comedic, modern and fun, and this four-person rap group can seriously spit some rhymes.
Their 2017 song “WeChat” has a mix of Mandarin and English lyrics, making it a good beginner song for Mandarin learners. You can also learn a bit about today’s youth culture in China, like restricted access to free internet, sex, romance, food, classism, fashion and slang.
(mèi dōu ài gēn wǒ liáo sāo yīn wèi [I’m a] tiān xiē zuò)
Girls love to chat with me because I’m a Scorpio
(bú duàn yǒu xiāo xi lái dǎ rǎo)
I am constantly disturbed by news
While that last line is a little awkward in English, it makes sense in the full context of the song. Here, 楊俊逸 (yáng yùn yì) — Psy.P is talking about his Scorpio tendency to start drama with his words.
4. “Stranger in the North” by Namewee ft. Wang Leehom
Chinese: 《漂向北方》黃明志 ft. 王力宏 (“piāo xiàng běi fāng” huáng míng zhì ft. wáng lì hóng)
Taiwanese pop music has its own fairly long list of pop music icons, and Wang Leehom is definitely one of them.
Released in 2017 by him and Namewee, “Stranger in the North” is catchy and high-energy, making it the perfect song to try and memorize while sitting in traffic.
There are a lot of complex prepositions in this song and the rapping portions are fairly quick, so it’s ideal for the intermediate learner.
(piāo xiàng běi fāng bié wèn wǒ jiā xiāng)
I drift to the north, don’t ask about my hometown
(gāo sǒng gǔ lǎo de chéng qiáng dǎng bú zhù yōu shāng)
The towering old walls can’t hold back the sadness
5. “Light Years Away” by G.E.M
Chinese: 《光年之外》邓紫棋 (“guāng nián zhī wài” dèng zǐ qí)
This 2016 pop ballad from artist G.E.M. is a great track to listen to for learning due to its alternating timing and use of tones.
Because Mandarin is a tonal language, it may seem as if singing in Chinese would be difficult. “Light Years Away” demonstrates how to maintain tones so that they’re understandable while also playing around with how those tones can be used in song.
(jì zhù wàng zhe wǒ jiān dìng de shuāng yǎn)
I remember (you) gazing steadily in my eyes
(yě xǔ yǐ jīng méi yǒu míng tiān)
Maybe there already is no tomorrow
6. “Playhouse” by JiaJia
Chinese: 《家家酒》家家 (“jiā jiā jiǔ” jiā jiā)
Jia Jia’s track about self-acceptance isn’t just inspiring and beautiful, but it’s also slow enough for beginners to understand and memorize.
This 2017 pop ballad is a popular mainstream song in China and was used in the soundtrack for the romantic Taiwanese comedy 極品絕配 (jí pǐn júe pèi) — “The Perfect Match.”
(bào qiàn bú shàn cháng mó fǎng)
Sorry I’m not good at imitating
(nǐ xiǎng yào de nà zhǒng yōu yǎ)
The kind of elegance you want
7. “My Chambers” by Soft Lipa
Chinese: 《房間》蛋堡 (“fáng jiān” dàn bǎo)
If you’re a fan of more chill, laid-back music, this 2012 tribute to bedrooms by Soft Lipa will definitely put you in a good mood.
Keep in mind that because it’s rap music, the lyrics go by pretty quickly. This track would be ideal for intermediate or advanced speakers.
(zhuān kuài shuǐ ní gāng jīn zuò chéng sì fāng kōng xīn)
Bricks, cement and steel bars made into a four-sided emptiness
(kōng jiān lǐ suǒ yǒu dòng jìng yùn zuò yǐ wǒ wéi zhōng xīn)
All the movement in the space is centered on me
8. “Ashima” by Xie Tian Xiao
Chinese: 《阿詩瑪》謝天笑 (“ā shī mǎ” xiè tiān xiào)
China has quite an interesting underground rock scene. If all the pop ballads and high-energy rap tracks we’ve mentioned thus far aren’t your cup of 茶 (chá) — tea, maybe this hard rock anthem will be.
This 2013 song has very repetitive lyrics and simple vocabulary words, so if you’re a beginner, enjoy!
(wǒ yuàn zài yún hǎi zhōng yǎn shì zhe nǐ)
I’d like to hide you in the sea of clouds
(yě yuàn zài hēi yè jiāng ài qíng pāo qì)
And also abandon love in the dark (night)
9. “Sing For You” by EXO
Chinese: 《爲你而唱》EXO (“wéi nǐ ér chàng”)
EXO is a pretty interesting boy band. They perform songs in a mix of English, Mandarin and Korean.
If you’re an advanced Mandarin speaker, a novice Korean speaker or just up for a challenge, why not try to memorize this beautiful ballad released in 2015?
(wǒ zhǐ jiān jí tā de jié pāi rǎn shàng jì mò de chún bái)
My fingertips strum to the beat of the guitar, tainted by the pure white of loneliness
(jīn tiān yào bǎ wèi wán de gù shi shuō wán)
Today I must finish telling the unfinished story
10. “Hero” by Jay Chou
Chinese: 《英雄》周杰倫 (“yīng xióng” zhōu jié lún)
Need some inspiration? This Jay Chou track is a powerful anthem about sticking together, no matter how hard life gets.
This 2016 song has a lot of very basic nouns, verbs and prepositions, many of which you’d typically learn in Chinese 101. Great for beginners!
(rén shēng bú shì yī gè rén de yóu xì)
Life isn’t a one man’s game
(yì qǐ fèn dòu yī qǐ chāo yuè)
Together we struggle, together we transcend
(yì qǐ shā ba [sup] xiōng dì)
Sup brothers, together we can kill it
(hào zhàn hào shèng zhàn shèng nì mìng)
Being warlike and competitive prevails over going against fate
11. “Enough” by Eric Chou
Chinese: 《受夠》周興哲 (“shòu gòu” zhōu xìng zhé)
Eric Chou is referred to by Taiwanese media as the “king of the lovelorn people.”
The lyrics of this 2020 chart-topper are pretty straightforward, so you don’t have to worry about missing the underlying message because of metaphorical language.
Not to mention, the repetition makes the song quite catchy.
受夠 一次 兩次 三次 沒有說
(shòu gòu yí cì liǎng cì sān cì méi yǒu shuō)
Enough; once, twice, three times without saying
後悔 再也沒 機會 讓你懂我
(hòu huǐ zài yě méi jī huì ràng nǐ dǒng wǒ)
I regret no longer having the chance to let you understand me
12. “Ten Years” by Eason Chan
Chinese: 《十年》陳奕迅 (“shí nián” chén yì xùn)
A popular choice for karaoke singers, this nostalgic tune, released in 2013 by Cantonese actor and singer Eason Chan, is worth adding to your playlist.
The grammar is quite simple, which is perfect for beginners who are familiar with basic sentence structures.
(rú guǒ duì yú míng tiān méi yǒu yāo qiú)
If there’s no need for tomorrow
(qiān qiān shǒu jiù xiàng lǚ yóu)
We’ll hold hands just like we’re traveling
(chéng qiān shàng wàn gè mén kǒu)
Through thousands upon thousands of doorways
13. “Your Answer” by A Rong
Chinese: 《你的答案》阿冗 (“nǐ de dá àn” ā rǒng)
Although the sentence structures and vocab of this 2019 hit are beginner-friendly, enunciation isn’t a strong suit for A Rong.
His voice is beautiful and soothing, but the way he sings might make it a little difficult for novices to follow along.
In spite of this, his songs (and this one in particular) are great listening practice for learners of all levels.
(dī zhe tóu qī dài bái zhòu)
Keep your head down, look forward to the day
(jiē shòu suǒ yǒu de cháo fěng)
Accept all the ridicule
(xiàng zhe fēng yōng bào cǎi hóng)
Toward the wind, embrace the rainbow
14. “Like a Breeze” by Seven Tan
Chinese: 《Like a Breeze》譚松韻 (tán sōng yùn)
From the 以家人之名 (yǐ jiā rén zhī míng) — “Go Ahead” soundtrack, this tune is another favorite.
With the short, sweet lyrics and the English phrases in the chorus, it doesn’t get any easier to sing along to a Chinese song. The slow and steady rhythm really helps you hone in on your pronunciation as well.
(nǐ xǐ huan wéi xiào)
You like to smile
(bī zhe wǒ sā jiāo)
Forcing me to throw a tantrum
(nǐ qiáo jiù guài nǐ zǒng shì guàn wǒ)
You see and just blame yourself for always indulging me
15. “No Love” by Khalil Fong ft. Miss Ko
Chinese: 《愛不來》方大同 ft. 葛仲珊 (“ài bù lái” fāng dà tóng ft. gě zhòng shān)
To conclude this list, here’s an upbeat song from 2014 that will surely liven up a karaoke party (or the shower, if you’re not into KTV).
In the beginning, the way that Khalil Fong takes a breath between every word makes the track very approachable for listening and speaking practice. Even the rap in the song is easy enough for a beginner to repeat.
(wǒ de zuì ài, shén me fāng shì duì dài)
How should I treat my most beloved?
(gēn nǐ zài de shí hou ， shí jiān guò dé zuì kuài)
When I’m with you, time flies by the fastest
How Can I Learn Chinese with Songs?
Watching Taiwanese dramas and listening to Mandarin music helped me immerse myself in the Chinese language and gain some fluency.
While listening to a song isn’t the same as participating in a lesson (which can provide you with more tools to learn the language properly), it can do a few things to improve your fluency:
- You can learn new Mandarin vocabulary through the song lyrics. On the FluentU Chinese program, music videos and other media clips come with bilingual interactive subtitles to help you understand the lyrics as you’re reading or singing along.
- By listening to an album or track repeatedly, you can memorize the words and associate the lyrics with their English translations. This is a nice, relaxing change of pace from the usual flashcard learning.
- You’ll also eventually be able to belt out a Chinese ballad with ease, improving your pronunciation and accent. This will surely impress (or confuse) your friends!
- If you’re having trouble with complex lyrics, you can start with easier songs—like Chinese songs for kids, which tend to feature repetitive, easy-to-follow lyrics.
How catchy are these Chinese songs?
Once you make a playlist of your favorites from this list, you can listen to them while you cook, study or when you’re just chillin’—all while improving your Mandarin Chinese.