Learning Mandarin through Music and Lyrics: Why Music Should Be Part of Your Study Plan

by Diane H. Won

Most people like the music of some kind and that makes music a great way of learning languages as well as paper writing. In fact, everybody can ask to write my essay, but anything that makes you want to expose yourself to Chinese that isn't actually studying is excellent, and music is perhaps the most readily available example of this.

Photo of someone making notes

Problems with Listening Ability in Chinese

Problem #1 – Listening Speed

This problem is very common and it means that it simply takes too much time from when you hear a sound until you have correctly recalled its meaning. This means that you will lag behind the speaker because the person speaking won't slow down just because it takes you a few seconds to figure out what a specific word means.

Problem #2 – Phonological Awareness

If you want to be able to understand spoken words, you need to be able to correctly distinguish the different sounds in Mandarin. If you can't do this, it doesn't matter if you know ten thousand words, you still won't understand what people are saying. This of course includes tones. If you find this hard, research suggests that you should try to listen to many different native speakers, don't just listen to your teacher.

Problem #3 – Vocabulary

This isn't actually related to listening directly, but I still want to bring it up here because it's so common. According to my experience, this is actually the most common problem of all. Students often complain that they don't understand what people are saying to them.

Expand your vocabulary by reading and listening more, preferably using text or audio that is at or slightly above your current level.

Finding Chinese Music You Like

One of the biggest obstacles to learning Chinese through music is that many foreigners don't really like mainstream Chinese music. If you do like mainstream Chinese music, you should have no problems finding as much music as you want. For the rest of us, though, finding music we like can be difficult. There are several ways you can find the music you like:

Search

This is pretty straightforward, and a search engine can usually return decent results. You can even search in English if you want. For instance, this is what you get if you search for "Chinese metal" on Google. You now have a few brand names you can start with.

Expand

Now that you know roughly what you're looking for, you can try finding related artists. If you go to video sharing sites, they usually have related content and the same is true for most music streaming services. Try their suggestions and see what you think.

Ask

If you have Chinese friends, ask them. If they only listen to mainstream music (which is likely, there's a reason it's called "mainstream"), they can at least help you search or ask one of their friends who might know something suitable).

How to Study Mandarin with Music

As I said in the introduction, the reason music is such a powerful way of studying is because it's fun. Therefore, the cardinal rule must always be that if it isn't fun, you're doing something wrong, or you’re using the wrong kind of music. That being said, you will need to study a bit to get the most out of your musical adventures.

Here's what I suggest:

When you have completed this, you will be able to sing the song without listening to the music or seeing the lyrics. You now have a lot of Chinese in your head, the words, the sentences, the grammar, and to some extent the pronunciation. Great, well done! Now find a new song you'd like to learn.

A Warning for Beginners

If you're new to Chinese, you should know that tones don't work very well in songs. Instead of retaining the correct tones, syllables and words often change according to the melody. This makes music a bad model for beginners to practice their pronunciation. I advise against using music to learn Chinese in the very beginning. Once you have basic knowledge of Pinyin and tones, though, you'll be fine!

About the author

Diane H. Wong used to be a teacher for ESL students. Besides, she is a writer at DoMyWriting so she prefers to spend her spare time working out marketing strategies. In this case, she has an opportunity to share her experience with others and keep up with advancing technologies.

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