Music Vocabulary to Teach Your Chinese Students

China has one of the biggest growing markets for foreign educators, especially those that can teach English. Over time jobs in China are increasing at a rapid pace for the educational sector as well as the commercial sector.

Teaching jobs in China start with but are not limited to teaching the English language. Industries and locals are starting to realize the importance of English as a spoken language. This creates the opportunity to work as a translator as well as an educator in China.

Why Should You Teach In China?

China is considered to be one of the most important countries in the world. Due to its booming economy, there are a plethora of job opportunities for the domestic and international populations. What’s so compelling about living in China?

Firstly, China offers numerous tourist attractions and amicable culinary adventures. Beijing is home to The Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. Both of them are culturally and religiously significant landmarks in Chinese culture and history.

Additionally, the country provides a variety of living experiences. Shanghai and Hong Kong both are modern-day architectural masterpieces with skyscrapers and infrastructure. On the other hand, Suzhou is a rather small but beautiful city which is remarked as the “Venice of China”.

In conclusion, working jobs in China would allow you to learn and witness a 4,000-year-old culture filled with elements of architecture, cuisine, literature, religion, martial arts, and music. All year-round, the country hosts festivals and events such as the Spring Festival, one which calls for huge celebrations including music and dancing.

Significance of Music in Chinese Culture

Traditional Chinese music can be dated as far back as nearly 7,000 years ago. Initially, only royal families of the Xia, Zhou, and Shang dynasties enjoyed music and dance. Later on, during the Tang Dynasty music spread to the common people and was thoroughly enjoyed.

During the Ming and Qing dynasties, traditional opera became highly appreciated and developed in several regions. The art form soon developed into one of the three main pillars of Chinese culture and was referred to as Peking Opera (also Beijing Opera), and was performed in the capital.

The art form combines elements of music, story-telling, dance, mime, and acrobatics to create a rich and integral component of Chinese culture which we now know to be Peking Opera.

Besides the opera, Chinese peasants composed folk songs with each region having its independent flare. Needless to say, music is an important part of Chinese culture and is highly regarded by the people.

China’s Current Relationship with Music

Music is an art form consumed all over the world, and China is no stranger to it. Apart from China’s cultural music, modern genres of music in China have emerged such as C-pop (Chinese pop), cantopop, and mandopop. In fact, Mandarin rap has also emerged in the modern cities of Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Similarly, music is taught at school levels in the country. Primary school students are taught an instrument of their choice. Formal instruction begins in kindergarten. Daily music activities that are taught include playing instruments, dancing, moving, clapping. These are mostly conducted in the classroom but sometimes in dedicated music rooms or out in courtyard or playground areas.

Additionally, it is expected of every student to learn a musical instrument, the most common one being the piano. Some of the world’s most skilled pianists are from China. Lang Lang and Yuja Wang are two of them.

English Vocabulary Related to Music

Here is a list of music-related vocabulary in the English vocabulary that may prove useful in your teaching. The words are listed with their respective pinyin, i.e. the standard system of romanized Mandarin.

English Words for Common Instruments

English Pinyin

Piano gāngqín

Guitar jítā

Bass bèisī

Saxophone sàkè sī fēng/sàkè sī guǎn

Drums gǔ

Flute dízi

English Words Generally Associated with Music

English Pinyin

Music yīnyuè

Musician yīnyuè jiā

Song gē

Songwriter/Composer zuòqǔ jiā

Album zhuānjí

Lyrics gēcí

Musical Scale yīnjiē

Band yuè duì

Rehearsal páiliàn

Stage wǔtái

Performance biǎoyǎn

Live Performance xiàn chǎng yǎn chū

Concert yǎnchū

English Phrases/Expressions Generally Associated with Music

English Pinyin

I really like this song wǒ zhēnde xǐhuān zhèshǒu gē

I don’t like this song wǒ bù xǐhuān zhè shǒu gē

What is your favorite instrument? nǐ zuì xǐhuān de yuèqì shì shénme?

What is your favorite song? nǐ zuì xǐhuān shénme gē?

Do you like music? nǐ xǐhuān yīnyuè ma?

It’s too loud hēngyīn tài dà le

Out of tune pǎo diào

You don’t know how to read sheet music lián wǔxiànpǔ nǐ dōu kàn bù dǒng

English for Genres in Music

English Pinyin

Peking Opera jīngjù

Traditional chuántǒng yīnyuè

Alternative lìng lèi
Blues lán diào
Bluegrass lán cǎo
Soul líng hún
Rock And Roll yáo gǔn
Reggae léi guǐ
Electronic diàn yīn
Jazz jué shi
Rhythm And Blues (R&B) jié zòu bù lǔ sī
Classical gǔ diǎn
Pop liú xíng
Instrumental Music qì yuè
Disco dí sī kē


If you’ve reached the end of this article then you must have developed an understanding of the importance of music in China and how it frequents in the educational sector.

As an ending note, music is a widely appreciated form of art in the world. In China, people value music traditionally as well as just for leisure. Peking Opera is a classical art form that is found in China which is a major part of the culture China has to offer. China produces some of the world’s most famous classical musicians as well.

Hence, these words and phrases listed above are bound to come up in daily life, and consulting this article will help you relay them to your students easily. Additionally, they’ll be able to use these words daily which will help them to learn them easily.

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