What’s a good way to learn Chinese words?

No habla español. I don’t speak Spanish, but if you ask me to say “I am a sincere man.”, I can do that in a blink of the eye. That’s because “Yo soy un hombre sincero” is the first line of the “official” lyrics for the song “Guantanamera”. I like that song so much that I have committed it to memory, Spanish and all.

How many of you recognize a popular song or a piece of elevator music right away even if you have never sung or hummed it? You may even be able to recite part or all of the associated lyrics. This is because the songs have been repeated to you so many times that they have gotten stuck in your mind. Repetition plays a major role in memorization. It helps the language student to read the same passages, listen to the same audio tapes, or watch the same TV program or movies repeatedly. So, why not learn songs in the new language and sing them whenever and wherever you like?

The songs will be easier to learn when you are already familiar with the tunes. Take, for example, the song “The More We Get Together” included in the book “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes” written by yours truly. Hearing the title of this song, have you not already begun to nod your head and tap your feet? Sing it in Chinese, and in no time at all you will know how to say (nĭ you), (wǒ I), 我們 (wǒmén we), 一起 (yīqǐ together) and (xiào smile, laugh).

Remember the song called “Love Somebody”? Sing the following simple version three times in Chinese and I’m sure you’ll have the words in the first line down pat. On the other hand, I know you’d hate me if I asked you to read this line out loud eighteen times in a row. If you’ve forgotten the music, click on this link then select “Love Somebody” to hear the tune.

我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
他是谁? 你们不要问. Tā shì shéi? Nĭmen bùyào wèn.
Love somebody, but I won’t tell who.

我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
我有一个心上人. Wǒ yǒu yī gè xīn shàng rén.
Love somebody. Yes, I do.
但愿我也是他的心上人. Dànyuàn wǒ yě shì tā de xīn shàng rén.
And I hope somebody loves me, too.

(yǒu) is the verb “to have”.
(gè) is a unit of counting individual entities.
心上人 (xīn shàng rén) means someone in my heart, or sweetheart.
一个心上人 (yī gè xīn shàng rén) translates to “a sweetheart”.
你们 (nĭmen) ) is the plural you.
(shì) is the verb “to be”.
(shéi Who?) means the same as 什么人? (shénme rén Who?). 他是谁? (Tā shì shéi?) means “Who is he?” (Please note that the Chinese way of asking this question is: “He is who?”)
(bùyào wèn) is the verb “to ask”.
不要问 (bùyào wèn) means “Don’t ask.”
但愿 (dànyuàn) means “I wish” or “if only”. You could substitute it with the word 希望 (xīwàng), which means “to hope”, or “a hope”.
(yě shì) means “also”. You can see why is the character adopted for the third person (he or she).
Just as 我的 (wǒ de) means “mine”, 他的 (tā de) means “his” or “hers”.

Now, you should be able to ask someone this question in Chinese: “Who’s your sweetheart?”

If you have a question related to learning Chinese words or language rules, send me a message by using one of the “Leave a Comment” links. Before you have learned how to input the Chinese characters, you could use pinyin to spell out the Chinese words in your message. Adding the tone numbers to the pinyin will help reduce ambiguity.

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