Chinese is a tonal language, but in songs, it’s incredibly hard to incorporate the tones. For example one pinyin word like ‘wo’ pronounced in a different tone can mean me, nest, hold, crouch or snail depending on the tone and the character – 窝 and 蜗 are both the first tone, but one means nest, the other means snail. Therefore, this can lead to a lot of misheard lyrics, especially for us language learners.
Here are some of my misheard lyrics, I won’t tell you how long it took me to find out their real meanings:
你是我心内的一首歌 – Selina/ 王力宏
Pinyin: haoxiang wen ni
I heard: 好想吻你; I really want to kiss you
Actual lyrics：好想问你; I really want to ask you
The next line of this song is 对我到底有没有动心 (if your feelings about me have changed at all), so looking at it in that way, it’s quite obvious that it’s a question.
送你一首吉祥的歌 – 乌兰图雅
Pinyin: lailailai heipengyoumen
I heard: 来来来，黑朋友们; come here, black friends!
Actual lyrics: 来来来，嘿朋友们; come here, hey friends!
The ‘hey’ in this song is a Chinglish word, they used the English word ‘hey’, and the Chinese word for black is also hei. It sounds pretty similar. Other lyrics in the song also say ‘it doesn’t matter where you come from, we’re all friends’, so my interpretation 真有道理！
我的蒙古马 – 乌兰图雅
Pinyin: wo de menggu ma
I heard: 我的蒙古man; my Mongolian man
Actual lyrics: 我的蒙古马; my Mongolian horse
Wulantuya is my current favourite artist, so it’s only likely she’s on this list. She usually sings about the grasslands and she has some songs about a guy she likes, so I thought she was revealing that she liked a Mongolian man, and added the English word ‘man’ in, just because it’s cool to mix languages in songs. But I should have listened more carefully, actually, the first sound you hear when you play this song is a horse’s whinny, and yeah, the video is full of horses.
I heard: 一杯子 (a cup)、亿倍次 (a million times)、一被子 (a quilt)
Actual lyrics: 一辈子; a lifetime
This song is about time passing fast and his parent’s relationship, but 一辈子 is a word I hear in a lot of Chinese songs. I first thought it meant a cup, like sharing a glass of wine or a nice drink together. The previous lyrics are 生儿养女: bearing and bringing up children, so maybe a million times would be suitable, meaning that his parents would do it all over again and again. Then I thought, as I’d heard yibeizi in plenty of love songs, it meant a quilt, like moving in with someone and sharing a quilt with them, cos that’s romantic right? All of those times I was wrong, and it was infact 一辈子，the Chinese word for ‘a lifetime’.
What songs have you misheard in Chinese or any other language? Did you make any of the same mistakes as I did?