Guest Post: Learn Mandarin Chinese Like Lovers Do

I’ll admit it — I’m a huge fan of “the karaoke method” for learning Chinese. It’s why I wrote a few years back about 8 Bands to Help You Learn Mandarin Chinese for Matador. And it’s also why I’m happy to share this post from Yang of Learn Mandarin Now

Do you have a guest post you’d like to see published here? Visit the submit a post page to learn more about guest post guidelines and how to submit

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Learn Mandarin Now Guest Post Picture

Listening to Chinese love songs is a really great way to learn Chinese, and was highly rated in a recent survey we undertook, details of which are consolidated in our blog post: How to Learn Chinese: 50+ bloggers give their tips.

We believe Jocelyn agrees with this, as recall reading one of her own previous blogs on the subject some time ago; so, before we go further, many thanks to her for letting us from Learn Mandarin Now make another guest post here, but this time all about one of our favourite topics: Chinese Love Songs!

Whilst, naturally, everyone has their own tastes in music, listening to Chinese love songs is, perhaps, one of the very best ways to learn Chinese, as it will be sure to get the attention of your girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband—and probably find you a “special” tutor into the bargain!

Some of the songs below, both from the past and more modern times, can be considered “classics” and are extremely popular amongst many Chinese people—in some cases being an integral part of Chinese music culture.

Here are four we especially like:

1. The Moon Represents My Heart – 月亮代表我的心

This song is really one of the classic Chinese love songs and almost all Chinese, no matter old or young, will know the lyrics and are happy to sing along with it.

The song was actually written in the early 1970s but it was not until the late 1970s that it came to prominence and fame when Teresa Teng’s(邓丽君) version, which has been described as: love song with a waltz-like lilt”, made the song known throughout Asia.

The essence of the song expressing the feelings that words cannot adequately convey the speaker’s love, whereas the moon, a symbol of romance the world over, can.

2. The Goodbye Kiss – 吻別

First released in 1993 by the famous Jacky Cheung’s (张学友), this song became one of the most popular Chinese love songs in the 1990s. Jacky Cheung, with records sales of over 25 million and internationally famous, is known as one of the “Four Heavenly Kings”(四大天王) of Hong Kong.

In addition to the song, the music video was also very popular in China and, if you ever went to KTV in the country during the 1990s, you would have almost certainly heard people asking for and singing along with this song.

3. Red Bean – 红豆

Written by the famous Hong Kong lyricist Lin Xi(林夕), Red Bean is one of the most famous and successful of Faye Wong’s(王菲) love songs, released in 1998 at the height of her success.

Faye Wong is considered to be one of the “divas” of Chinese music, as well as the queen of “Canto-pop”—and one of the highest paid singers in the region. These days, Faye Wong rarely appears on TV or in movies or releases any new albums, yet when she does do a concert it’s usually sold out in just minutes, no matter how high the ticket prices.

4. Marry Me Today-今天你要嫁给我

Marry Me Today, sung in a duet by famous Taiwanese artists David Tao(陶喆) and Jolin Tsai(蔡依林) is, not surprisingly in view of its title, one of the most popular songs heard at Chinese weddings.

Released in 2006 on David Tao’s fifth studio album “Beautiful”, this song became an almost instant hit for the singer, for whom it subsequently won the “best song” at the prestigious GMA Awards. It can usually be heard at any typical KTV session where couples love to sing it together/to each other.

There are so many Chinese love songs to choose from that we had a hard time selecting only four. In fact, if you have some special love song which has helped you learn Mandarin Chinese, be sure to let us know by visiting our website: www.learnmandarinnow.com.

Yang is a serial web entrepreneur whose latest website is www.learnmandarinnow.com. He is passionate about learning new languages and cultures. 

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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Guest Post: Learn Chinese with phrases of love and affection

A while back I started a Friday column of my own titled Mandarin Love, covering how to express your love in Chinese with some special Chinese idioms. (My Mandarin Love post on Chinese phrases on love and destiny is one of the 10 most popular posts on this site.)

So I was thrilled to receive this guest post from Yang of Learn Mandarin Now, who offered to revive my Mandarin Love series with an entry of his own. 

Do you have a few good Chinese phrases or a great story to share on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn how you can have your guest post published here.

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Learn Mandarin Now_1Firstly, sincere thanks to Jocelyn for inviting us from Learn Mandarin Now to write a guest blog post.

Following on with Jocelyn’s own theme of phrases and of love and affection in Mandarin Chinese, we’d like to highlight several more very well known Chinese phrases dealing with matters of the heart and highlighting the yearning and passion lovers can have for each other…

One of our favourites is:

Jin Yu Liang Yuan (金玉良缘, jīnyù liángyuán) which literally means: a perfect couple, with a shining, ideal future.

This phrase often appears with reference to Chinese weddings and refers to   the prospects for a good marriage. It is originally from the Dream of the Red Chamber(红楼梦), one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels. This novel was written sometime in the middle of the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty and is considered to be a masterpiece of Chinese literature.

With its inferences for a good future and a successful marriage, Jin Yu Liang Yuan is also a popular name for many TV shows and dramas in China.

Then there is Fei Cheng Wu Rao (非诚勿扰, fēichéngwùrǎo) which literally means: “If you are not sincere, don’t bother me.”

There are two main reasons this phrase is so popular in China, and both relate to the cinema and TV.

The first reason relates to the name for the popular love story/romantic comedy movie, from 2008: ”If You Are The One” which starred two famous Chinese movie stars, Shu Qi(舒淇) and Ge You(葛优), and was also directed by one of China’s best known directors, Feng Xaiogang(冯小刚).

The other reason is that Fei Cheng Wu Rao is also the name of a TV show produced by the Jiang Su television station and is the Chinese version of the well known dating TV show “Take Me Out”. This Chinese version is hosted by famous TV host Meng Fei(孟非) although, in fact, in recent years, more and more single foreigners, including overseas Chinese, have also joined the show, and some of them have even found the right partner.

Learn Mandarin Now_2

Another very popular expression (shown below) literally means “Once, true love was placed before me, but I didn’t cherish it. After I lost it, I regretted it. This was the most painful thing in the world and if heaven could give me another chance, I would say to that girl three words, “I love you.” If I had to place a time limit on this love, I hope it would be 10,000 years.”

曾经有一份真诚的爱情放在我面前,我没有珍惜,等我失去的时候我才后悔莫及,人世间最痛苦的事莫过于此。
如果上天能够给我一个再来一次的机会,我会对那个女孩子说三个字:我爱你。
如果非要在这份爱上加上一个期限,我希望是……
一万年

This expression originated from a Stephen Chow (one of Hong Kong’s most famous film stars who combines kung-fu style action with comedy) movie and most Chinese growing up at the time this movie was released know this line well. Although not so popular at first in Hong Kong, the movie finally became well known in Mainland China and became recognised as one of the best movies made by Stephen Chow—especially for these classic lines.

Of course, there are many other Chinese phrases which convey the feelings of cherished love and you can find some more of them with a little research or, if you simply wish to brush up on your Mandarin, take a look at our site Learn Mandarin Now

Yang is a serial web entrepreneur whose latest website is www.learnmandarinnow.com. He is passionate about learning new languages and cultures. Yang is currently working on researching the preferred ways 50 international bloggers learn Chinese, and will share the results in his blog shortly.

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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Chinese Language Learning Game w/ AMWF Love Angle Needs Beta Testers

Kaitlyn in ChinalandA reader working on a fantastic new Chinese language learning game — which has a white girl with Asian male love interests in it — needs beta testers! It’s available on Windows, Mac, Linux and Android. Here’s the description for the demo:

It’s Chinese New Year! And we’re celebrating the year of the Yang (sheep) with the first short game of Kaitlyn in Chinaland.

When the self-consumed, all-American prom queen wannabe Kaitlyn gets sent to China as a punishment, she must navigate the waters of the language, the culture shocks… and the boys.

It’s a West meets East romantic comedy about some of the pitfalls of living in China and struggling to belong.

In this short spin-off game you’ll meet the characters of the upcoming Kaitlyn in Chinaland game to learn some Chinese words, celebrate New Year and maybe find sheep along the way.

Here’s a link to the demo (you can also download it on Google Play). For more information, you can visit the Kaitlyn in Chinaland Tumblr or check out this post in a forum that talks about the game.

To learn dialect or not? When your Chinese family doesn’t speak Mandarin Chinese

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My Chinese Grandma is a lovely woman…who doesn’t speak Mandarin Chinese at all.

“Learn some Mandarin Chinese” is a suggestion I offer any foreigner dating someone Chinese, especially if they want to make a great first impression with the family. Even just knowing a handful of phrases makes a difference.

But what happens if you’re like me, someone now fluent in Mandarin Chinese after years of study…with a Chinese family whose local dialect is a completely different language.

My husband John hails from Western Zhejiang Province and his local language is one of China’s Wu Dialects (a family of languages that includes the dialects of Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo and Wenzhou). There are literally thousands of dialects within this family. Even here in the Hangzhou region, which includes the county where my husband was born and raised, his local dialect differs from the county seat’s local dialect which also differs from the Hangzhou dialect. When John and I visited a friend in Yiwu, a city in Central Zhejiang Province, the local dialect there was completely different as well — and tough for both of us to understand. Still, nothing can beat Wenzhou dialect, considered one of China’s most difficult local languages to comprehend (supposedly, it was used for communications in China during World War II to ensure no enemies — especially Japan — could intercept wartime messages).

How is John’s local language different from Mandarin Chinese? Here are few examples:

Grandmother
– Mandarin Chinese: Waipo
– John’s local dialect: Abu

Child
– Mandarin Chinese: xiao haizi
– John’s local dialect: xia ninguo

Play/have a good time
– Mandarin Chinese: wan
– John’s local dialect: xi

Shoe
– Mandarin Chinese: xie
– John’s local dialect: a

Oneself
– Mandarin Chinese: ziji
– John’s local dialect: xiguo

Hour
– Mandarin Chinese: xiaoshi
– John’s local dialect: zhongtou

You get the idea…it’s an entirely different language!

But unlike Cantonese or Shanghainese, which are local languages in some of China’s biggest business/financial centers (Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shanghai), my husband’s local dialect is only spoken in John’s hometown, a mountainous rural backwater. You won’t see foreign language students flocking to study John’s dialect, nor will doing so boost my resume.

So why bother learning at all?

That was my initial feeling when I first spent time at my husband’s home in the village. I had invested so much of my language study on Mandarin Chinese…and besides, we never stayed at his hometown for more than a few days or a week, providing me few opportunities to learn or practice.

But over the years, I started to find myself hitting a wall — and that wall was named Grandma (Waipo to you Mandarin speakers, Abu out here). See, Grandma doesn’t speak a word of Mandarin Chinese. And to make matters worse, she was born in the Wenzhou area…so her local dialect is clouded with a Wenzhou accent, making it even more of a challenge to understand her. During the summer of 2011, when John left me here at the family home, I passed many uncomfortable moments at Grandma’s house, trying to decipher what she was trying to say — missing out on opportunities to get to know her as person.

That’s the thing: this is the language of people I care about.

Yet it’s more than that, as this author reminded me in an article praising the importance of local dialects in China:

I don’t know where the tipping point was when dialects turned from a communication obstacle to a cherished heritage for Chinese culture. But when I stumbled upon children in my hometown talking to each other in Mandarin while playing on the street, it dawned on me that the days for most dialects are doomed. They would disappear within one generation or two. Possibly within my lifetime, most dialects would go down the road of calligraphy, or worse the abacus, where they would be under academic scrutiny and government protection, but out of the daily use of the common folk.

By learning John’s local dialect, even if it isn’t obviously “useful” or “practical”, I could actually help preserve part of China’s cultural heritage.

Of course, that’s if I ever actually master the language. For now, it’s just a phrase here, a phrase there, and a smattering of words.

But you should have seen the way John’s Grandma beamed at me when I opened her door and finally called her “Abu!” It warmed my soul to know that we were finally communicating for the first time in years. And though I have a long way to go (John still does most of the talking with her) I know in my heart I made the right decision to learn.

Have you ever considered learning an uncommon Chinese dialect? Why or why not?

Update: scratched out the entries under “Hour” above, thanks to the commenters who noted that Mandarin Chinese speakers may use both. Good catch!

Is it better to say 4,000 yì or 400 billion?

(photo by Thanasis Papathanasiou via Flickr.com)

The other night, when the evening sunset made the horizon blush, I thought about the vastness of the universe. “Just imagine,” I said to John, “Our sun is one of 400 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.”

“Four hundred billion…that’s sìqiān yì.”

“Four thousand yì equals 400 billion?” I asked.

“One billion is shí yì.”

Of course one billion was 10 yì! I wanted to slap my forehead in what was arguably a huge “doh!” moment. Hadn’t I learned Chinese so many years ago — including numbers and their equivalents? But yet it took me a few extra seconds to remember the difference between billion and yì.

I shook my head. “It always seems like I can’t keep the numbers straight. I had the same problem when I went to Spain and was speaking Spanish. But maybe it’s even harder in Chinese. You have yì, we have billion and they don’t equal each other. And of course I like billion — because that’s what I grew up with.”

“I like yì,” said John.

It’s funny that we can stare at the same setting sun, imagining the exact same number of potential stars, and express it in a completely different way — all because of cultural and linguistic preferences.

Is it better to say 4,000 yì or 400 billion? Who knows? But whatever your choice of number, there’s nothing like gazing at the night sky — or a sunset — and wondering about all of the unanswerable “whys” in the universe.

From the Archives: On Language and Love

A shot of traditional Chinese characters
(photo by am y)

The other night my husband and I were talking about our relationship — and how it’s pretty cool to be able to communicate in more than one language. So while on vacation, I pulled several posts from the past that discuss how language and love collide in our relationship (and other relationships like ours). Enjoy!

And I’ll return with fresh content on Friday June 21!

I Love You, Just Not in Chinese. All these years, my Chinese husband had told me “I love you” in English but could never bring himself to say the same in Mandarin Chinese.

The Relationship Between Language and Falling in Love. Have you found you have a better relationship in the language you used when you fell in love with someone?

The Couple That Wordplays Together, Stays Together? Do bilingual cross-cultural relationships like mine make it easier for couples to become equal partners? Does bringing a different native language to the table encourage lovers and spouses to work together in a beautiful way?

Mandarin Love: Chinese Idioms For Talking About Sex

A red, light-up sign that says "Sex in progress"
(photo by Jean KOULEV)

Maybe it’s the summer, but I’ve got love…and love-making on my mind.

So let’s talk about sex, baby…in Chinese. The language has some splendid idioms on the subject — here are three of my favorites. And who knows? Maybe a little talk about what goes on beside your pillows might turn into a little pillow talk after all. Continue reading “Mandarin Love: Chinese Idioms For Talking About Sex”

Mandarin Love: Breaking Up (In Chinese)

A girl looking at her cell phone and looking sad over a breakup
(photo from Ed Yourdon’s Flickr)

Blame it on moving.

One day, just before my husband and I hit the road — and left Idaho in our rearview mirror — I joked with him, “Finally, we’re breaking up with Idaho.”

Then I got to thinking about breaking up, and the idioms people use in Chinese to talk about it. Sure, I’m happily married, but I’ve had my share of breakups on the road to my own “double happiness” (including two other guys in China before John) and chances are, so have you — perhaps even at the moment you read this.

Here are some of my favorite Chinese idioms to use when talking about breaking up. Continue reading “Mandarin Love: Breaking Up (In Chinese)”

Ask the Yangxifu: He Won’t Speak Chinese With Me?

An open mouth
(photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert)

Lana asks:

I’ve been dating this Chinese guy in Beijing recently. We have this great chemistry and he’s wonderful to me in every possible way except one thing….he doesn’t really want to speak Chinese with me. Whenever I would try to talk w/ him in Chinese, he would answer back in English, so we would just usually end up speaking only English. He knows I studied Chinese before, and I asked him if we could speak a little more often….he always says he will, but we never do. I know my Chinese isn’t perfect but it’s not that bad. What gives? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: He Won’t Speak Chinese With Me?”

The Couple That Wordplays Together, Stays Together?

A shot of traditional Chinese characters
(photo by am y)

You might call it “lust in translation.” This Chinese-English online quiz, one I agreed to do complete well before I met John, turned into a perfect excuse to visit John a little more often at work. I translated the English words into Chinese, and then brought my work over to him for proofreading. Sure, in between our “how do you say”s and “zenme shuo”s, we flirted a little. But we also learned something too, more than just the right way to say rainjacket or maozi. We made a pretty awesome translation team.

Nearly eight years later, we still help one another with language and translations. John’s my go-to guy for Chinese when I’m stuck on translating a word, and I’m the one he calls on to give his English writing a final check. One week, he tells me about a new Chinese idiom; the next, I’m explaining a new saying in English. You might say we’ve re-written that old cliche — now, the couple that wordplays together, stays together. Continue reading “The Couple That Wordplays Together, Stays Together?”