12 Chinese Songs That Can Help Improve Your Language Skills

learn Chinese with songs

Listening and singing along to music is a captivating way to learn Chinese, offering a rich blend of linguistic and cultural nuances. Unlike the rigid dialogues in textbooks, songs in Mandarin Chinese present authentic and casual language, reflecting a glimpse of everyday vernacular.

The 12 songs chosen here cater to a wide range of learners, from beginners to advanced, making them versatile tools for language acquisition. The lyrics, or “歌词 (gēcí),” are laden with new vocabulary, idioms, and everyday expressions, offering a vibrant platform to grow your linguistic repertoire. Plus, the melody in songs mirrors the natural intonation and rhythm of spoken language, aiding in the grasp of Mandarin’s tonal nature.

Exploring Chinese songs to learn Mandarin not only accelerates language learning but also opens a window into China’s rich cultural tapestry. Popular Chinese songs often carry cultural narratives that keep learners intrigued and motivated, enriching their overall learning experience.

If you’re less of a music-lover and prefer to learn Chinese through TV shows instead, here are 22 Good Chinese TV Shows to Learn Mandarin.

But for music-loving language learners, let’s take a look (and listen) to the best Chinese songs to help you learn Mandarin.

Beginner Chinese songs to learn Mandarin

1. Baby, I’m Sorry — CoCo Lee

This emotive ballad by CoCo Lee is a wonderful starting point for those starting their Mandarin learning journey. The clear pronunciation and relatively slow tempo of the song allow beginners to follow along and pick up new vocabulary and phrases. The lyrics reflect on themes of apology and reconciliation, which are universal and make the language-learning experience more relatable.

You can watch the video here.

Example of the lyrics:

  • English: And love’s emotions can also make you cry in the midst of laughter
  • Pinyin: Ài de qíngxù, yě zài huānxiào zhōng kūqì
  • Chinese: 爱的情绪 也在欢笑中哭泣
Baby, I'm Sorry — CoCo Lee

2. The Moon Represents My Heart — Teresa Teng

One quintessential Chinese song to learn Mandarin with is 月亮代表我的心 (The Moon Represents My Heart) by Teresa Teng. This classic melody remains a staple in Chinese pop culture, transcending generations since its release in the late 1970s.

The song’s enduring popularity makes it a delightful and authentic resource for language learners. The song’s rendition by international artists like Jon Bon Jovi showcases its cultural significance and timeless appeal. Practicing along with different versions of the song can enhance your linguistic skills, making learning Chinese a much more enjoyable endeavor.

Check out the video here.

Example of the lyrics:

  • English: A gentle kiss already touched my heart, a deep love, teach me to miss now.
  • Pinyin: Qīng qīng de yīgè wěn, yǐjīng dǎdòng wǒ de xīn; shēn shēn de yīduàn qíng, jiào wǒ sīniàn dào rújīn
  • Chinese: 轻轻的一个吻   已经打动我的心   深深的一段情   教我思念到如今

Related Reading: How to Express Your Love in Chinese

3. Sorry, My Chinese is Not Good — Transition

Of all of the songs to help you learn Chinese, “对不起我的中文不好 (Sorry, My Chinese is Not Good)” by Transition is a delightful pick, particularly for those who can relate to the lyrics as Mandarin learners. Transition, an English rock band, brings a fresh and engaging perspective to the Mandarin-learning experience with this song.

The catchy tunes and humorous narrative about the highs and lows of learning Chinese make it an enjoyable listen while serving as a practical language-learning tool. This song encapsulates the essence of how one can learn Chinese with songs, blending entertainment with education.

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Example of the lyrics:

  • English: Sorry, my Chinese is not good. I’m sorry, I don’t know what you said!
  • Pinyin: Duìbùqǐ wǒ de zhōngwén bù hǎo, duìbùqǐ duìbùqǐ, wǒ bù zhīdào nǐ shuō shénme!
  • Chinese: 对不起我的中文不好,对不起对不起,我不知道你说什么!

4. Little Apple — Chopstick Brothers

This song by the Chopstick Brothers is a hallmark in the world of Chinese songs to learn Mandarin, especially for those who appreciate a cultural touchstone in their learning journey. Released in 2014, this song became a cultural phenomenon, uniting both the young and old in a collective dance craze.

Though its heyday has passed, the song remains a significant part of 2000s Chinese pop culture, frequently referenced in media and social conversations. Its catchy tune and repetitive lyrics make it an excellent choice for Mandarin learners to pick up new vocabulary while enjoying a taste of modern Chinese pop culture.

Check out this version of the song.

Example of the lyrics:

  • English: You are my little apple; I can never love you too much; your blushing face warms my heart; lighting up the fire of my life!
  • Pinyin: Nǐ shì wǒ de xiǎo ya xiǎo píngguǒr, zěnme ài nǐ dōu bù xián duō; hóng hóng de xiǎo liǎr wēnnuǎn wǒ de xīnwō, diǎn liàng wǒ shēngmìng de huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ
  • Chinese: 你是我的小呀小蘋果兒   怎麼愛你都不嫌多   紅紅的小臉兒溫暖我的心窩   點亮我生命的火 火火火火

5. Friends — Zhou Huajian

The song “朋友” (Friends) by Zhou Huajian, also known as Wakin Chau, stands as a timeless anthem in the catalog of Chinese songs to learn Mandarin. Released in 1996, this classic tune delves into the profound theme of friendship, resonating with listeners across generations.

Friends — Zhou Huajian

Its enduring popularity has cemented its place in Chinese pop culture, often featured in graduation ceremonies and karaoke sessions, rendering it a touching melody that bonds people together. The simplistic yet powerful lyrics make it an excellent choice for Mandarin learners, providing a heartwarming context to pick up new vocabulary and phrases while immersing in a culturally significant narrative.

This version of the song comes with English and pinyin subtitles, which also helps.

Example of the lyrics:

  • English: One word, one lifetime, a lifelong relationship, a cup of wine.
  • Pinyin: Yījù huà, yībèizi, yīshēng qíng, yībēi jiǔ
  • Chinese: 一句话   一辈子   一生情   一杯酒

6. Forget Love Potion — Andy Lau

The enchanting tune of “忘情水” (Wàng Qíng Shuǐ) by Andy Lau takes a special place in the anthology of Chinese songs to learn Mandarin, especially for those with a penchant for classic melodies. This song, reigning in popularity during the 90s, continues to be a beloved classic, with its lyrical simplicity making it an accessible choice for Mandarin learners.

The title, translating to “Forget Love Potion” metaphorically explores the quest for a magical solace to heal the aching remnants of love lost, a theme that can resonate deeply with listeners.

Have a listen here

Example of the lyrics:

  • English: Even if I get drunk, even if I’m heartbroken, you won’t see me cry.
  • Pinyin: Jiùsuàn wǒ huì hē zuì, jiùsuàn wǒ huì xīn suì, bù huì kànjiàn wǒ liúlèi
  • Chinese: 就算我会喝醉   就算我会心碎   不会看见我流泪

Intermediate Chinese songs to learn Mandarin

7. Distant Place — Tong Li

Tong Li’s rendition of “在那遥远的地方” (Zài Nà Yáo Yuǎn De Dì Fāng), translating to “In that Distant Place,” is a beautiful fusion of old lyrics with a touch of romance and melancholy.

This song is a splendid choice for individuals looking to learn Chinese with songs, as its slow tempo and the melodious accompaniment of stringed instruments create an enchanting atmosphere conducive to language learning. 

The song’s nostalgic lyrics, coupled with the traditional Chinese melody, make it an easy and enjoyable listen, offering a serene backdrop to pick up Mandarin Chinese phrases and vocabulary.

Have a listen

Example of the lyrics:

  • English: In that distant place, there is a good girl. People walked past her tent; I have to look back with nostalgia.
  • Pinyin: Zài nà yáoyuǎn dì dìfāng, yǒu yīgè shànliáng de nǚhái. Rénmen zǒuguò tā de zhàngpéng, wǒ bùdé bù huíshǒu liúliàn.
  • Chinese: 在那遙遠的地方,有個善良的女孩。 人們走過她的帳篷,我不得不回首留戀
Distant Place — Tong Li

8. Beijing Beijing — Wang Feng

Immersing in “北京北京” (Běijīng Běijīng) by 汪峰 Wang Feng is like going on a melodic voyage through the heart of China’s capital. Wang Feng, who actually sounds a little bit like British singer Sting, presents a rock music experience that’s easy on the ears, making it an enjoyable choice for those looking to learn Chinese with songs.

His clear articulation and intriguing lyrics provide a rich tapestry of linguistic and cultural insights, making this song a delightful resource for Mandarin learners. Wang Feng’s clear and captivating vocal delivery makes this song a fascinating choice for those diving into Chinese songs to learn Mandarin, bridging the realms of language learning and musical enjoyment.

Start listening here.

Example of the lyrics:

  • English: When I walk on each of these streets, my heart never seems to be at peace.
  • Pinyin: Dāng wǒ zǒu zài zhèlǐ de měi yītiáo jiēdào, wǒ de xīn sìhū cónglái dōu bùnéng píngjìng
  • Chinese: 当我走在这里的每一条街道   我的心似乎从来都不能平静

9. Mr. Almost — MC HotDog

If you’re a fan of the Mandarin hip-hop arena, MC HotDog’s “差不多先生” (Chā Bù Duō Xiān Shēng) or “Mr. Almost” is a fascinating way to learn Chinese with songs. MC HotDog, a legend and pioneer in Mandarin hip-hop since 1996, encapsulates a satirical critique of contentment with mediocrity through this song.

The repetitive nature of the lyrics, coupled with the street vernacular, provides a window into modern-day colloquial Chinese, making it an engaging piece for those keen on learning Mandarin amidst contemporary cultural expressions. 

“差不多先生” by MC HotDog not only stands as a linguistic learning tool but also serves as a mirror reflecting certain societal attitudes, rendering it a captivating choice among songs in Mandarin Chinese. The song’s rhythmic flow and clear articulation of words make it easier for learners to grasp the lyrics and comprehend the underlying message. 

Example of the lyrics:

  • English: It’s almost time to go back, to that average home of mine
  • Pinyin: Shíjiān yě chàbùduōle, gāi huí wǒ nà chàbùduō de jiā
  • Chinese: 时间也差不多了   该回我那差不多的家

Take a listen, and maybe spend some time brushing up on your Chinese cuss words if you’re going to start learning Chinese through Chinese hip-hop!

Related Reading: The Sounds of Mandarin Chinese

10. Regular Friends — David Tao

David Tao’s “普通朋友” (Pǔ Tōng Péng Yǒu), or “Regular Friends,” is a gem among Chinese songs to learn Mandarin. Renowned for his unique blend of R&B and hard rock, David Tao brings a sweet, spine-tingling melody to this track from his award-winning 1999 album “I’m OK.

The song tenderly explores the anguish of being seen only as a friend by the object of one’s affection, making it relatable to a lot of people. Its clear articulation and engaging storyline provide a rich context for Mandarin learners to pick up new vocabulary and phrases while delving into the intricacies of romantic expressions in Chinese.

Check it out here.

Example of the lyrics:

  • English: But you said I only wanna be your friend, I’m just a friend in your heart, not a lover, I appreciate you for being honest with me, But I can’t take back the love I gave you.
  • Pinyin: Dàn nǎi shuō I only wanna be your friend, zuò gè péngyǒu; wǒ zài nǎi xīnzhōng zhǐshì just a friend, bùshì qíngrén; wǒ gǎnjī nǎi duì wǒ zhèyàng de tǎnbái, dàn wǒ gěi nǎi de ài zhànshí shōu bù huílái
  • Chinese: 但妳說 I only wanna be your friend   做個朋友   我在妳心中只是 just a friend   不是情人   我感激妳對我這樣的坦白   但我給妳的愛暫時收不回來
Regular Friends — David Tao

11. Tonight Is Unforgettable — Li Guyi

Embark on a cultural journey as you dive into “难忘今宵” (Nán Wàng Jīn Xiāo) or “Tonight Is Unforgettable” by 李谷一 Li Guyi. This folk tune holds a special place in the hearts of many as an unofficial anthem of Chinese New Year, often echoing through the jubilant celebrations annually.

It’s a great choice among the various Chinese songs to learn Mandarin, especially if you want to resonate with the patriotic vibes and engage in communal sing-alongs. The melody carries with it a sense of unity and nostalgic reverence, making it a heartwarming experience for both the listener and the learner.

Take a listen and get ready to feel that New Year buzz.

Example of the lyrics:

  • English: Tonight is unforgettable, tonight is unforgettable, It doesn’t matter if you are at the ends of the earth or sea, We are all in the same embrace of our vast country.
  • Pinyin: Nán wàng jīn xiāo, nán wàng jīn xiāo, wú lùn tiān yá yǔ hǎi jiǎo, shén zhōu wàn lǐ tóng huái bào.
  • Chinese: 难忘今宵,难忘今宵,无论天涯与海角,神州万里同怀抱。

Related Reading: Is Chinese Hard to Learn?

Expert-level songs to learn Chinese

12. My Exciting Solitary Life — Elva Hsiao

Step into the world of self-empowerment with Elva Hsiao’s “一个人的精彩” (Yī Gè Rén De Jīng Cǎi) or “My Exciting Solitary Life.” This track is a vibrant expression of independence and self-contentment, making it a motivational pick among Chinese songs to learn Mandarin.

Elva Hsiao, a Taiwanese pop sensation, has been captivating audiences with her catchy tunes since her debut in 1998. This song, often referred to as the 头发甩甩 (tóu fǎ shuǎi shuǎi) song, is a testament to her ability to create engaging and relatable music. The upbeat music and empowering lyrics provide a fantastic backdrop for learning Mandarin in an enjoyable and meaningful way.

The relatable theme and clear articulation make this song a delightful choice among songs in Mandarin Chinese.

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Example of the lyrics:

  • English: Accept love; fate has its own course. Who is my love? Loneliness accompanies me, as the colors of freedom come to me.
  • Pinyin: Jiēshòu àiqíng zì yǒu ānpái, shuí cái shì wǒ de ài, jìmò bànsuí zìyóu sècǎi yíngmiàn lái
  • Chinese: 接受愛情 自有安排,誰才是我的愛,寂寞伴隨 自由色彩 迎面來

Using Chinese songs to learn Mandarin

Often, the tonal aspect of Mandarin presented in audio teaching resources or classrooms is quite accentuated to help learners differentiate between tones. However, real-world spoken Chinese isn’t solely about tones. It encapsulates other elements of natural speech, such as stress and emphasis, which are vividly portrayed in songs in Mandarin Chinese. 

Engaging with Chinese songs, whether by listening or singing along, enables you to moderate the tonal aspect, fostering a less robotic and more natural articulation when speaking.

Related Reading: Why Learn Mandarin Chinese?

Unlocking and retaining new vocabulary

The conventional route of memorizing HSK-oriented vocabulary lists can be quite monotonous and unengaging. The lack of a meaningful connection between learners and the listed words often results in a fleeting retention of the vocabulary.

Music transcends this barrier, emerging as a dynamic and imaginative approach to learning, especially for language enthusiasts. Through tunes and lyrics, learners can discover and remember new vocabulary, making the process less tedious.

Whether it’s delving into Chinese renditions of popular songs, reverting to the simplicity of Chinese children’s songs, or exploring music videos with subtitles, the journey to learn Chinese with songs becomes an enriching and enjoyable endeavor.

Transcend classroom boundaries

Ever found yourself stuck in the endless loop of textbook exercises and classroom drills while learning Mandarin? It’s time for a change. Music offers a unique, engaging, and effective approach to mastering Chinese. It’s not just about memorizing phrases. It’s about immersing in a culture, understanding the rhythm of the language, and making learning an enjoyable journey. 

Now, imagine harnessing the magic of music coupled with proven methods to accelerate your Mandarin learning journey. Intrigued? Your pathway to speaking fluent Mandarin doesn’t have to be a dull or overwhelming experience. It’s meant to be exciting, practical, and culturally enriching! And the good news?

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