Top 10 Chinese songs for Mandarin beginners

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Here’s a top 10 of Chinese songs that are suitable for beginners. When I say beginners, I don’t mean absolute beginners, but learners with at least a few months of learning experience. Did you know listening to Chinese music helps you to extend your vocabulary and get a feeling for the tones?

Do you have any songs that helped you improve your Chinese skills? Please leave a comment below.

Nr. 1. Teresa Teng – 月亮代表我的心

Teresa sings “月亮代表我的心” (the moon portrays my heart)

For those who do not know her yet: Teresa Teng (邓丽君 (dèng lì jūn), 29 January 1953 – 8 May 1995) was an extremely popular singer from Taiwan. Her fame spread all over Southeast-Asia in the 70’s and 80’s, although her romantic songs were officially banned from mainland China for being to “bourgeois”. Her records could still be bought on the black market though and were played all over China, even in government circles and night clubs. Her fans from mainland China nicknamed her “Little Deng” as she shares her family name (邓) with the communist leader Deng Xiaoping. The saying went that “Deng the leader ruled by day, but Deng the singer ruled by night”.

By the way, she not only recorded songs in Mandarin but also in Taiwanese, Cantonese, Japanese, Indonesian and English. She even spoke French fluently.

Nr. 2. Teresa Teng – 甜蜜蜜

Trying to remember where I saw that sweet smile before

Some people may know the song from the Hongkong movie “Tian mi mi” which was released in 1996. Teresa’s music is featured prominently throughout the whole film; in fact, the cinema classic is considered a “love poem” to the Taiwanese singer. The song is about love at first sight.

甜蜜蜜  Tián mì mì
你笑得甜蜜蜜  nǐxiào dé tián mì mì
好像花儿开在春风里  hǎo xiàng huā er kāi zài chūn fēng lǐ
开在春风里  kāi zài chūn fēng lǐ
在哪里在哪里见过你  zài nǎ lǐ zài nǎlǐ jiàn guò nǐ
你的笑容这样熟悉  nǐ de xiào róng zhè yàng shú xī
我一时想不起  wǒ yī shí xiǎng bù qǐ

Teresas Teng – 甜蜜蜜

Nr. 3. Teresa Teng – 你怎么说

“You can’t even speak my name properly” – Teresa Teng loosing patience with her lover

The reason Teresa’s songs are so excellent for learning Chinese is they are mostly slow love ballads sung with her sweet and clear voice. The lyrics are simple and pure. From a learning perspective you only need basic grammar to be able to follow. Repetition is key here. Soon you are singing along and can impress your Chinese friends in a karaoke bar of your choice.

你说过两天来看我
Ni shuo guo liang tian lai kan wo
一等就是一年多
Yi deng jiu shi yi nian duo
三百六十五个日子不好过
San bai liu shi wu ge ri zi bu hao guo
你心里根本没有我
Ni xin li gen ben mei you wo
把我的爱情还给我
Ba wo de ai qing huan gei wo

Teresas Teng – 你怎么说

Nr. 4. Teresa Teng – 美酒加咖啡

Teresa’s melancholy drinking song “美酒加咖啡”

The idea of mixing wine and coffee or drinking both simultaneously didn’t occur to me till I heard this Chinese drinking ballad. In this song, a heartbroken Teresa assures her listeners time and time again that she is not yet drunk but just brokenhearted and looking for equally grief-stricken company to empty another cup.

美酒 加 咖啡我只要喝一杯 Měijiǔ jiā kāfēi, wǒ zhǐyào hè yībēi
想起了过去又喝了第二杯 Xiǎngqǐlai guòqù yòu hēle dì èr bēi
明知道爱情像流水管他去爱谁 Míng zhīdào àiqíng xiàng liúshuǐ, guǎn tā qù ài shéi
我要美酒 加 咖啡一杯再一杯 Wǒ yào měijiǔ jiā kāfēi, yībēi zài yībēi

Teresas Teng – 美酒加咖啡

Nr. 5. 李娜 – 女人是老虎

女人是老虎

“Women are tigers”. This may be common knowledge to some, but for the poor monk in the song it serves as a warning not to mingle or even come close to the opposite sex as they will swallow him alive. Listen to Li Na to find out what became of him.

Nr. 6. 于文华、尹相杰 – 纤夫的爱

纤夫的爱

The original name of this unbelievably catchy love song seems to be “纤夫的爱” or “boat tracker’s love” and is another gem from yesteryear. I love the epic video clip of the heroic bloke with the glasses pulling the boat with his “younger sister” behind him. ”The virtues of Chinese rural life”, someone commented. The “dangling rope” between them becomes a metaphor for their unfolding love. He pulls her, he sweats for her: This is old-school Chinese chivalry (with “traditional” gender roles), no matter if the male singer (Yǐn Xiāngjié) was arrested for possessing drugs or not.

妹妹你坐船头
mei mei ni zuo chuan tou
哥哥在岸上走
ge ge zai an shang zou
恩恩爱爱
en en ai ai
纤绳荡悠悠
qian sheng dang you you

于文华、尹相杰 – 纤夫的爱

Nr. 7. 于文华、尹相杰 – 天上有太阳

The sun is shining

If you found the last one a bit too hard, try this one. It’s another extremely catchy duet between gege and xiaomei, still breathing the rural spirit of the nineties. As their relationship enters into a more mature stage, gege – in an optimistic and forward looking mood – is wondering how to satisfy xiaomei’s dreams and expectations.

Nr. 8. Joyce Chu -【好想你 I MiSS U】

好想你!是真的吗?

Joyce Chu is a young singer from Malaysia. She changes her outfit and whereabouts just about every second in this clip just to underline how she misses you. It’s the kind of song you can sing along with pretty quick.

Nr. 8. Wanting 曲婉婷 – 我的歌声里 (You Exist In My Song)

Wanting 曲婉婷 – 我的歌声里

Do you hear an English accent? I wonder if Wanting Qu does it on purpose, because she was born in Harbin, China and already 16 years of age when she moved to Canada. Wanting earned a degree in international business and relocated to Vancouver where she began her musical career. “You exist in my song” is about lost love that still lives on in heart and dreams.

你存在 我深深的脑海里
Nǐ cúnzài wǒ shēn shēn de nǎohǎi lǐ
我的梦里 我的心里 我的歌声里
Wǒ de mèng lǐ wǒ de xīnlǐ wǒ de gēshēng lǐ
你存在 我深深的脑海里
Nǐ cúnzài wǒ shēn shēn de nǎohǎi lǐ
我的梦里 我的心里 我的歌声里
Wǒ de mèng lǐ wǒ de xīnlǐ wǒ de gēshēng lǐ

曲婉婷 – 我的歌声里

Nr. 9. 慕容晓晓 – 爱情买卖

慕容晓晓 – 爱情买卖

Murong Xiaoxiao became famous with this poppy R&B song from Chinese street life that even involves some rap elements (I guess that was something new back then). It could be heard allover China on every street corner in 2009 (and afterwards). I heard it often in China when I was there. 买卖 or 做买卖 literally means buying and selling (doing business) and is often used to refer to small businesses and street vendors. In this case, it’s Xiaoxiao’s love that’s been bought and sold and she obviously feels wronged by her lover who thinks love is something that can be purchased and thrown away anytime.

chūmài wǒ de ài bī zhe wǒ líkāi
出卖我的爱 逼着我离开
zuìhòu zhīdao zhēnxiàng de wǒ yǎnlèi diào xiàlái
最后知道真相的我眼泪掉下来
chūmài wǒ de ài nǐ bēi le liángxīn zhài
出卖我的爱 你背了良心债
jiùsuàn fùchū zài duō gǎnqíng yě zài mǎi bù huílai
就算付出再多感情也再买不回来

dāngchū shì nǐ yào fēnkāi fēnkāi jiù fēnkāi
当初是你要分开 分开就分开
xiànzài yòu yào yòng zhēn’ài bǎ wǒ hǒng huílai
现在又要用真爱 把我哄回来
àiqíng bù shì nǐ xiǎng mài xiǎng mǎi jiù néng mài
爱情不是你想卖 想买就能卖
ràng wǒ zhèngkāi ràng wǒ míngbai fàngshǒu nǐ de ài
让我挣开让我明白放手你的爱

慕容晓晓 – 爱情买卖

Nr. 10. 筷子兄弟 – 小苹果

筷子兄弟-小蘋果

This extremely popular song by the Chopstick Brothers “traumatizes” a lot of people on their first trip to China. Imagine getting caught in a massive swarm of elderly women (阿姨) dancing in formation to the beat of “xiao pingguo” and being forced to join their revolutionary movement as happens to numerous innocent tourists every year. Most of them don’t make it back. The upside is though, that the lyrics are plain and simple. Listen to it once or twice and the song will stick with you for days!

你是我的小呀小苹果 Nǐ shì wǒ de xiǎo ya xiǎo píngguǒ
怎么爱你都不嫌多 zěnme ài nǐ dōu bù xián duō
红红的小脸⼉温暖我的⼼窝 hóng hóng de xiǎo liǎn er wēnnuǎn wǒ de xīn wō
点亮我生命的⽕ diǎn liàng wǒ shēngmìng de huǒ
⽕火⽕火⽕ huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ

筷子兄弟-小蘋果
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