Are you ready for some “CSL”?

CSL, as in, “Chinese as a Second Language,” not, “China’s Sassy Lyrics,” though either works for this song. One of our friends downloaded a bunch of popular Chinese songs for us this weekend. He said if I learn them, I could be the King of Karaoke (K歌之王). This is the “MV” (卡拉OK version!) for “中國話” by S.H.E. You gotta at least watch through the first chorus (lyrics below):

(If the video doesn’t work, you can probably see it here, here, and here.) Or you can listen to the mp3:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


The chorus says:

The whole world is learning Chinese
Confucius’ words are becoming more and more international
The whole world is speaking Chinese
What we say makes all the people of the world listen up!

[Click here to show/hide 汉字 & pīnyīn]

全世界都在学中国话
孔夫子的话 越来越国际化
全世界都在讲中国话
我们说的话 让世界都认真听话
qián shì jiè dōu zài xué zhōng góu huà
kǒng fū zǐ de huà yuè lái yǔ4 guó jì huà
qián shì jiè dōu zài xué zhōng góu huà
wǒ men shuō de huà ràng shì jiè dōu rèn zhēn tīng huà

In the verses, they alternate rapping Chinese tongue twisters with little stories of Chinese culture spreading around the world (like, “In London, Marilyn bought a qí páo as a gift for her mother”), and lines like this:

People of every skin color
People with hair of every color
What they’re reading, what they’re saying…
Chinese is becoming the new trend

How many years did we painstakingly practice English pronunciation and learn their grammar?
For a change, now it’s their turn to get their tongues all in a knot!
How smart the Chinese are! How beautiful the Chinese language is!

[Click here to show/hide 汉字 & pīnyīn]

各种颜色的皮肤
各种颜色的头发
嘴里念的说的开始流行中国话

多少年我们苦练英文发音和文法
这几年换他们卷着舌头学平上去入的变化
平平仄仄平平仄 (仄仄平平仄仄平)
好聪明的中国人 好优美的中国话

gè zhǒng yǎn sè de pí fū
gè zhǒng yán sè de tóu fa
zuǐ lǐ niàn de shuō de kāo shǐ liú xíng zhōng góu huà

duō shào nián wǒ men kǔ liàn yīng wén fā yīn hé wén fǎ
zhè jǐ nián huàn tā men juǎn zhe shé tóu xué píng shàng qù rù de biàn huà
píng píng zè zè píng píng zè (zè zè píng píng zè zè píng)
hǎo cōng ming de zhōng guó rén hǎo yōu měi de zhōng guó huà

The black guy at the end, with the Shanghai skyline in the background, says: “Pardon me, where’s the nán xiáng xiǎo lóng?” in typical language student style Chinese (请问,南翔小笼在哪里?).

Our school’s teachers performed this song karaoke-style for last semester’s China Night.

S.H.E. is an impossibly-white, inhumanely-photoshopped girl group from Taiwan. You can see them sing this 2006 hit live here.

See a full translation of the lyrics here (thanks to tammiest@AsianFanatics). You might notice that the karaoke Chinese characters are different from the characters I’ve provided. I’ve used simplified characters (the Mainland’s script); the karaoke video uses traditional characters (the more complicated characters used by Hong Kong and Taiwan).

Ha… are you scared yet? ;)

9 thoughts on “Are you ready for some “CSL”?”

  1. Dude great cultural analysis. This was a good read. Rachel wants to know if your going to learn the dance steps along with the song? I want to know if your going to learn the Kong Fu? Either way, it’s interesting to see how imperialistic this song seems. Why must cultures seek superiority or atleast brag about their own distinctiviness? Our own desires in our culture to oppress other cultures seem to be deeply influencing this response from China.

  2. Dance moves… I hope Rachel’s not holding her breath on that one. Though Jessica and I might try and sing this cheesy Chinese love song together at next semester’s China Night. If we start learning it now, we might just have enough months to get it good enough.

    I don’t hold it against them that they’re happy Chinese language and culture are beginning to spread around the globe. I mean, those Taiwan kids have had English stuffed down their beaks since they were little. Besides, in the West we are reacting badly to the collective guilt we feel about our past ‘unpolitical correctness’ (the imperialism, colonialism, etc.), and it’s hard for us to understand that it’s not always wrong to celebrate your language, culture, or maybe even your race.

  3. Can’t say it makes me want to be Chinese, but the wǔ shù break dancer guys were cool.

    Hey, at least you actually found out it was a girl’s name – a lot of times people don’t want to say anything because they’re afraid of making ‘bad feeling’ in the relationship.

  4. Thanks for the insight Joel my analysis sucked, but I was attempting. I should probably learn the language before having any true opinions about this.

  5. Don’t worry, Sean. I agree that learning the language is essential, but until that happens, you can be like us and not know the language and have only half-baked opinions. It’s kind of fun, actually, and probably safer, too!

  6. Oh good! This was on my list of songs to translate. Now I don’t have to.

    Yeah, when the girls are doing their talking part (not that guy’s rap stuff, which is about how everyone everywhere is embracing Chinese culture) it seems to be traditional Chinese tongue twisters (my favorite is the one about spilling the vinegar and getting the cloth wet…all though the white swan one is cool too).

  7. Oh, and I might as well put in my two jiao on the culture. I heard that a few years ago this group went on record as saying they’re not “Chinese” but are, in fact, “Taiwanese.” This outraged fans on the mainland as well as some on the island. I’ve always suspected this piece, with it’s title of “Chinese Language” as being a kind of PR patch-up attempt.

  8. I also heard in passing something about one of them saying something controversial like that, but I never knew if it was before or after they released this song. I did think it was curious that a Taiwan group used “中国话。”

    I thought all three of them were girls?

    Haha, two jiao. Does that mean our opinions are worth a little more over here?

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