Chinese language learning materials for kids are currently undergoing rapid growth. One area which needs special development is the creation of engaging Chinese learning songs.
Unfortunately, many older songs used not only fail to inspire learners but are also not well suited to Western non-native learners. Chinese Buddy is passionate about writing new songs to help children learn and here are some tips to make songs an awesome learning tool for Western kids learning Mandarin.
Tip #1. Avoid rehashing nursery rhyme melodies.
I’m always amazed how often ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ is rehashed for Mandarin learning or ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ is ‘re-done.’ These songs are not only over-done but they also hold significantly less power to excite and engage older children.
Mandarin learning songs can better engage Western learners through fresh and original rhythmic melodies. Be creative; it will go a lot longer way!
Tip #2. Words/lyrics need to be practical.
While ‘2 Tigers’ is an all time standard Mandarin learning song, the lyrics are not immediately suited for a learner who knows little to no Mandarin.
There is currently a huge need for songs which give kids everyday vocabulary which they can quickly put to use. While songs which discuss the zoo animals might be cool at some point, they are less practical when a learner knows next to nothing. This is because zoo animals don’t contain a lot less immediately practical language.
Ever think about repeating ‘elephant’ twenty times a day?
Tip #3. Melodies need to be catchy.
As someone with a Masters degree in music composition, I’ve put a lot of thought into this point. Catchy melodies are repetitious melodies. The scope of vocabulary for each song also needs to be highly focused and limited. Songs for Western kids should avoid long lists and/or multiple song sections/verses.
In all the songs I write, I try to provide 2 complimentary sections with a highly limited scope of words.
One of my songs goes: Wǒ kěyǐ shàng cèsuǒ ma? (4x), then yī hào, èr hào, wǒ yào qù, chōngshuǐ, chōngshuǐ, skip-a-dee-do!
Plenty of repetition focusing on just a few phrases makes for great learning content.
Tip #4. Professional Production
This one I am always working on to improve! While I’m more of a composer than a singer, I see this as a very important area. I’ve heard plenty of learning songs which not only have low production quality but also really grate on your ears.
Good microphones, getting professional singers with smart arrangements are all needed. Professional quality not only makes the song immediately pleasing to learners but also lengthens the life and usefulness of the song’s vocabulary, as students will likely enjoy listening again and again.
So, there you have it! Mandarin learning songs are a fantastic way to engage kids learning Chinese. The above four tips, although just some basic guidelines, I feel will help any teacher seeking to venture off into creative songwriting to benefit their Mandarin students.
If you want to get Chinese Buddy’s awesome Mandarin learning songs, you can get them here.