Listening to music can be both passive (just put the music on and doze off or do dishes) and active (study lyrics, listen to songs repeatedly and sing along), which makes it a great activity to use for both types of learning—and a way to practice some Chinese even if you don’t have enough energy for more active study.
You can learn vocabulary from song lyrics, and singing along to music is excellent pronunciation practice, although not necessarily a good way to practice tones. You’ll need to put in extra time on tones outside your music time.
Knowing Famous Singers Is Important for Cultural Literacy
Right about now, you’re probably thinking that you’re more into indie bands who have a loyal following of 800 people. That’s fine. But you still need to know who the famous people are, or when people make reference to them in conversation you won’t know what’s going on. It’s like not knowing who Lady Gaga or The Beatles are. Part of getting the cultural literacy is knowing not just who the person is, but being familiar with his or her most famous work.
Famous Singers Are a Gateway
If you want to ultimately be a connoisseur of obscure Chinese music, it’s best to start with getting to know not-so-obscure work. It’s also a lot easier to find song lyrics, YouTube videos and other materials online for well-known artists and their well-known work than it is for more obscure titles.
You can also listen to Mandopop radio, but that’s best for times when you’re just looking for background music. If you’re doing a more active listening exercise, it’s best to be intentional about what songs and singers you’re listening to.
So let’s dive into some Chinese singers!