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Learn Chinese with Songs: 15 Popular Tracks for Mandarin Music Listening

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 with songs.

Contents

1. “Ambiguous” — Rainie Yang

Chinese:《曖昧》楊丞琳
Pinyin: “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.

Sample lyrics:

曖昧讓人受盡委屈
(ài​ mèi rànɡ rén shòu jìn wěi qu)
Ambiguity makes people feel wronged

找不到相愛的證據
(zhǎo bú dào xiānɡ ài de zhènɡ jù)
They can’t find evidence of love

2. “The Drunken Concubine” — Li Yu Gang

Chinese:《新貴妃醉酒》李玉剛
Pinyin: “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.

Sample lyrics:

愛恨就在一瞬間
(ài hèn jiù zài yí shùn jiān)
Love and hate in a flash

舉杯對月情似天
(jǔ bēi duì yuè qíng sì tiān)
Raise a glass to the moon, our passion as endless as the sky

3. “WeChat” — The Higher Brothers

Chinese:《微信》海爾兄弟
Pinyin: “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.

Sample lyrics:

妹都愛跟我聊騷因爲[I’m a]天蠍座
(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

不斷有消息來打擾
(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” — Namewee ft. Wang Leehom

Chinese:《漂向北方》黃明志 ft. 王力宏
Pinyin: “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.

Sample lyrics:

飄向北方別問我家鄉
(piāo xiàng běi fāng bié wèn wǒ jiā xiāng)
I drift to the north, don’t ask about my hometown

高聳古老的城牆 擋不住憂傷
(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” — G.E.M

Chinese:《光年之外》邓紫棋
Pinyin: “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.

Sample lyrics:

記住望著我堅定的雙眼
(jì zhù wàng zhe wǒ jiān dìng de shuāng yǎn)
I remember (you) gazing steadily in my eyes

也許已經 沒有明天
(yě xǔ yǐ jīng méi yǒu míng tiān)
Maybe there already is no tomorrow

6. “Playhouse” — JiaJia

Chinese:《家家酒》家家
Pinyin: “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.”

Sample lyrics:

抱歉 不擅長模仿
(bào qiàn bú shàn cháng mó fǎng)
Sorry I’m not good at imitating

你想要的 那種優雅
(nǐ xiǎng yào de nà zhǒng yōu yǎ)
The kind of elegance you want

7. “My Chambers” — Soft Lipa

Chinese:《房間》蛋堡
Pinyin: “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.

Sample lyrics:

磚塊水泥鋼筋 做成四方空心
(zhuān kuài shuǐ ní gāng jīn zuò chéng sì fāng kōng xīn)
Bricks, cement and steel bars made into a four-sided emptiness

空間裏所有動靜 運作以我爲中心
(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” — Xie Tian Xiao

Chinese:《阿詩瑪》謝天笑
Pinyin: “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!

Sample lyrics:

我願在雲海中掩飾着你
(wǒ yuàn zài yún hǎi zhōng yǎn shì zhe nǐ)
I’d like to hide you in the sea of clouds

也願在黑夜將愛情拋棄
(yě yuàn zài hēi yè jiāng ài qíng pāo qì)
And also abandon love in the dark (night)

9. “Sing For You” — EXO

Chinese:《爲你而唱》EXO
Pinyin: “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?

Sample lyrics:

我指尖吉他的節拍 染上寂寞的純白
(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

今天要把未完的故事說完
(jīn tiān yào bǎ wèi wán de gù shi shuō wán)
Today I must finish telling the unfinished story

10. “Hero” — Jay Chou

Chinese:《英雄》周杰倫
Pinyin: “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!

Sample lyrics:

人生不是一個人的遊戲
(rén shēng bú shì yī gè rén de yóu xì)
Life isn’t a one man’s game

一起奮鬥一起超越
(yì qǐ fèn dòu yī qǐ chāo yuè)
Together we struggle, together we transcend

一起殺吧[sup]兄弟
(yì qǐ shā ba [sup] xiōng dì)
Sup brothers, together we can kill it

好戰好勝戰勝逆命
(hào zhàn hào shèng zhàn shèng nì mìng)
Being warlike and competitive prevails over going against fate

11. “Enough” — Eric Chou

Chinese:《受夠》周興哲
Pinyin: “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.

Sample lyrics:

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” — Eason Chan

Chinese:《十年》陳奕迅
Pinyin: “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.

Sample lyrics:

如果對於明天沒有要求
(rú guǒ duì yú míng tiān méi yǒu yāo qiú)
If there’s no need for tomorrow

牽牽手就像旅遊
(qiān qiān shǒu jiù xiàng lǚ yóu)
We’ll hold hands just like we’re traveling

成千上萬個門口
(chéng qiān shàng wàn gè mén kǒu)
Through thousands upon thousands of doorways

13. “Your Answer” — A Rong

Chinese:《你的答案》阿冗
Pinyin: “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.

Sample lyrics:

低著頭期待白晝
(dī zhe tóu qī dài bái zhòu)
Keep your head down, look forward to the day

接受所有的嘲諷
(jiē shòu suǒ yǒu de cháo fěng)
Accept all the ridicule

向著風擁抱彩虹
(xiàng zhe fēng yōng bào cǎi hóng)
Toward the wind, embrace the rainbow

14. “Like a Breeze” — Seven Tan

Chinese:《Like a Breeze》譚松韻
Pinyin: tán sōng yùn

From the 以家人之名 (yǐ jiā rén zhī míng) — “Go Ahead” soundtrack, this tune is another 2020 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.

Sample lyrics:

你喜歡微笑
(nǐ xǐ huan wéi xiào)
You like to smile

逼著我撒嬌
(bī zhe wǒ sā jiāo)
Forcing me to throw a tantrum

你瞧就怪你總是慣我
(nǐ qiáo jiù guài nǐ zǒng shì guàn wǒ)
You see and just blame yourself for always indulging me

15. “No Love” — Khalil Fong ft. Miss Ko

Chinese:《愛不來》方大同 ft. 葛仲珊
Pinyin: “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.

Sample lyrics:

我的最愛,什麼方式對待
(wǒ de zuì ài, shén me fāng shì duì dài)
How should I treat my most beloved?

跟你在的時候,時間過得最快
(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!

 

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 learning Mandarin Chinese.

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