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Learning Chinese through Songs Posted by on Sep 21, 2020 in music

I love Chinese food, I adore Chinese characters, and I savor Chinese music. Chinese songs are not only pleasant to the ears, they are also a good way to learn the language.

Image via Pixabay

One of my favorite Chinese song is 其实你不懂我的心 (qí shí nǐ bù dǒng wǒ de xīn). Recorded in 1989 by the Taiwanese singer and songwriter 童安格 (Angus Tung), and the recipient of many covers since, 其实你不懂我的心 is a sad love song. With short lyrics, but loaded with emotions. The song has touched many.

The singer addresses an anonymous girl, repeating her words to him:

你说我像云 (nǐ shuō wǒ xiàng yún, you said I’m like a cloud)

你说我像梦 (nǐ shuō wǒ xiàng mèng, you said I’m like a dream)

你说我像谜 (nǐ shuō wǒ xiàng mí, you said I’m like a riddle)

The girl describes the speaker as someone unreachable. She compares him to elusive things, such as a cloud, a dream, and a riddle. She uses the verb 像 (xiàng), meaning to resemble, to seem as, to be similar to. 像 is used to compare a specific characteristic of two things or people in the structure of noun 1 + 像 + noun 2. In this structure 像 is translated as just like. For example: 他像他的爸爸 (tā xiàng tā de bà ba, he is just like his dad).

Usually a verb or an adjective will follow to indicate the similarity. For example, from our song: 你说我像梦忽远又忽近

Nǐ shuō wǒ xiàng mèng hū yuǎn yòu hū jìn

You said I’m like a dream, suddenly far and suddenly near

忽 is an adverb meaning  suddenly, abruptly. The pattern 忽(而)。。。忽(而)。。。[hū (ér)… hū (ér)…] that usually connects adjectives, describes something that constantly changes. The girl says the singer he’s like a dream – suddenly far and suddenly near.

The speaker contradicted all of her sayings. After each of her sentences he tell us: 其实你不懂我的心 (qí shí nǐ bù dǒng wǒ de xīn). The line, which is also the title of the song, says: you don’t really understand me. The useful adverb 其实 (qí shí) means actually, in fact, really, and is used a lot in spoken language.

The song describes a huge, missed opportunity. A great regret over an unfulfilled love. The singer confesses to his listeners about his deep feeling (深情 shēn qíng) for the girl. But it seems he was actually afraid to devote himself to this relationship. Although deeply in love, he doesn’t dare get close to her: 不敢靠你太近 (bù gǎn kào nǐ tài jìn). The verb don’t dare (不敢 bù gǎn) is commonly used in spoken language. For example: 我不敢告诉他 (wǒ bù gǎn gào sù tā, I dare not tell him). It is also part of the phrase 不敢当 (bù gǎn dāng) we’ve already discussed in our blog. It means you flatter me, and is used as a polite response to a compliment.

The singer concludes with another of the girl’s saying, and the song eventually ends with his heart broken: 你说要远行暗地里伤心

Nǐ shuō yào yuǎn xíng àn dì lǐ shāng xīn

You said you want to leave, inwardly breaking my heart

He didn’t let her see his crying eyes.

Watch Angus Tung perform the song live, lyrics on screen:

你说我像云捉摸不定

其实你不懂我的心

Nǐ shuō wǒ xiàng yún zhuō mō bù dìng

Qí shí nǐ bù dǒng wǒ de xīn

你说我像梦忽远又忽近

其实你不懂我的心

Nǐ shuō wǒ xiàng mèng hū yuǎn yòu hū jìn

Qí shí nǐ bù dǒng wǒ de xīn

你说我像谜总是看不清

其实我永不在乎掩藏真心

Nǐ shuō wǒ xiàng mí zǒng shì kàn bù qīng

Qí shí wǒ yǒng bù zài hū yǎn cáng zhēn xīn

怕自己不能负担对你的深情

所以不敢靠你太近

Pà zì jǐ bù néng fù dān duì nǐ de shēn qíng

Suǒ yǐ bù gǎn kào nǐ tài jìn

你说要远行暗地里伤心

不让你看到哭泣的眼睛

Nǐ shuō yào yuǎn xíng àn dì lǐ shāng xīn

Bù ràng nǐ kàn dào kūqì de yǎnjīng

好好学习,天天向上!



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