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“Listening to Jay Chou the secret to learning Chinese” according to Mandarin pro in GZ

Posted: 06/5/2013 7:00 am

The Guangzhou round of hanyuqiao, the best known Chinese-language contest for foreigners, was held Monday. Thirty-one laowai from 20 countries displayed talents such as playing the zither, Chinese paper cutting, singing, and storytelling.

According to the Nandu Daily, the show was stolen by a Sudanese who will compete in the final in Beijing in August thanks to his brilliance in cross-talk, a traditional form of Chinese stand-up comedy.

But the headline of the newspaper article was a quote from a 19 year-old Malaysian runner-up who attributed his advanced Chinese skills to listening to the music of Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou.

Jay Chou

Jay Chou’s lyrics are notoriously difficult to grasp on hearing them for the first time, even for a native speaker. His work also incorporates a wide variety of styles including rap, so the lyrics can fly past you a mile a minute.

This is in contrast with, say, 1980s megastar Teresa Teng (also from Taiwan), who in her tragically short life bestrode Asia’s pop music scene like a colossus. Her Mandarin songs were thoroughly simple and a lower-intermediate learner of Chinese could theoretically sing some of the most famous ones, such as “The Moon Represents My Heart” and “Sweet Honey.”

Terea Teng, who died in Thailand in 1995.

Another success story from the competition was a 25 year-old American named Nathan. He gave a word-perfect, note-perfect rendition of “Girl Over There, Come Here” despite only having studied Mandarin for 10 months.

The website Fluent in 3 Months lists seven reasons why singing in a foreign language is good for the learning process.

But I would recommend getting to at least upper-intermediate level before you tackle Jay Chou.

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