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3 Nursery Rhymes To Help Your Kids Learn Chinese

Jinna Wang | March 22, 2016 | | 1 Comment
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Do you often sing English nursery rhymes such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “London Bridge” with your children? If your children have started to study Mandarin Chinese, you can consider teaching them a few Chinese nursery rhymes. You might have heard that song are a great way to get your kids to love learning Chinese, and nursery rhymes are especially a fantastic learning tool for younger children.

Why are nursery rhymes a useful learning tool?

Not only are nursery rhymes (known as "童谣 (tóng yáo)" in Chinese) fun and catchy as pop songs, what makes nursery rhymes especially great for beginner Chinese learners are two things: simple vocabulary and repetition.

Nursery rhymes are generally designed to contain simple vocabulary that are crucial for children to learn at a young age. As the kids begin to grasp the new vocabulary, the nursery rhyme is then designed to repeat those words in the lyrics, making it easy for your children to naturally practice and remember the words.

Lastly, some nursery rhymes are songs that have been passed down through the generations, with lyrics that have close ties to Chinese history and pop culture. By teaching nursery rhymes to your children, you are connecting them to a pool of knowledge that is shared with their peers in China. 

There are many great reasons to teach your children Chinese nursery rhymes, and now the question is: “How do I get started?” Here we present to you three popular and easy-to-learn Chinese nursery rhymes that you can sing with your children. 

Popular Nursery Rhymes
小燕子 (Xiǎo yànzi) – The Little Swallow

Easily one of the most popular nursery rhymes in mainland China, “小燕子” has been a hit since it was first played in 1957. This song expresses the little swallow’s love for nature, spring, and its home. Lyrics and Pin Yin are included below, and you and your children can also follow along with the tune here:

Chinese

小燕子, 穿花衣, 年年春天到这里,

Pin Yin

Xiǎo yànzi, chuān huāyī, nián nián chūntiān dào zhèlǐ

Meaning

Little swallow, wearing colorful clothes, returns here every spring

Chinese

我问燕子你为啥来, 燕子说, 这里的春天最美丽

Pin Yin

Wǒ wèn yànzi nǐ wèi shà lái, yànzi shuō, zhèlǐ de chūntiān zuì měilì

Meaning

I ask the swallow why it comes here, the swallow says: “The spring here is the most beautiful.”

两只老虎 ( Liǎng zhī lǎohǔ)  – Two Tigers

This is a silly and nonsensical tale about two tigers. One tiger is missing its ears (耳朵 Ěrduǒ) , and the other is missing its tail (尾巴 wěibā). Find the tune here

Chinese

两只老虎,两只老虎,跑得快跑得快,

Pin Yin

Liǎng zhī lǎohǔ, liǎng zhī lǎohǔ, pǎo dé kuài pǎo dé kuài,

Meaning

Two tigers, two tigers, running fast, running fast

Chinese

一只没有耳朵,一只没有尾巴,真奇怪,真奇怪

Pin Yin

Wǒ wèn yànzi nǐ wèi shà lái, yànzi shuō, zhèlǐ de chūntiān zuì měilì

Meaning

One has no ears, one has no tail, so strange, so strange 

小兔子乖乖 (Xiǎo tùzǐ guāiguāi) – The Good Little Rabbit

The nursery rhyme “The Good Little Rabbit” actually comes from a well-known children’s story. In the story, Mama Rabbit had to leave the house, and instructed her three children not to open the door for anyone who isn’t her. After she leaves, a big bad wolf comes to knock on the door, but the good little rabbit listened to Mama Rabbit, and did not open the door. This song is often used by Chinese parents to teach their children about “stranger danger.” You can find the tune and an adorable video for it below:

Chinese

小兔子乖乖, 把门儿开开

Pin Yin

Xiǎo tùzǐ guāiguāi, bǎmén er kāi kāi

Meaning

Good little rabbit, open the door

Chinese

快点儿开开, 我要进来

Pin Yin

kuài diǎn er kāi kāi,  wǒ yào jìnlái

Meaning

Open it quickly, I want to come in

Chinese

不开不开我不开, 妈妈不回来, 谁来也不开

Pin Yin

bù kāi bù kāi wǒ bù kāi, māmā bù huílái, shuí lái yě bù kāi

Meaning

I won’t open it, if mom is not home, I won’t open it for anyone

Chinese

小兔子乖乖, 把门儿开开

Pin Yin

xiǎo tùzǐ guāiguāi,  bǎmén er kāi kāi

Meaning

Good little rabbit, open the door

Chinese

快点儿开开, 我要进来

Pin Yin

kuài diǎn er kāi kāi, wǒ yào jìnlái

Meaning

Open it quickly, I want to come in

Chinese

就开就开我就开, 妈妈回来了, 我就把门开

Pin Yin

jiù kāi jiù kāi wǒ jiù kāi, māmā huíláile, wǒ jiù bǎmén kāi

Meaning

I’m opening it, mom has returned, so I’m opening the door

By singing these nursery rhymes, your children will not only be able to practice Mandarin Chinese, but they will also feel proud of what they are able to accomplish with their new Chinese skills.  We hope you and your children enjoy these musical sing-along jam sessions!

Related: 7 Mandopop Songs To Help You Improve Your Chinese

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Jinna Wang

Jinna Wang

Jinna Wang is a contributing writer for TutorMing. She grew up in the city of Harbin in northern China, and attended college at NYU where she majored in Finance and Management. In her spare time, Jinna likes to travel, eat, and write about both.

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