I've been listening to the song 芒种 recently as it's quite catchy.

My Chinese is fairly advanced in that I can have a conversation about pretty much anything with a Chinese person on everyday topics. I can watch Chinese tv series and movies and understand ~95% without subtitles.

Listening to this song I couldn't really understand anything. Looking at the lyrics and an English translation I discovered that it's quite poetic language.

I wonder how easy a native Chinese speaker finds it to understand these lyrics just hearing them.

I mean I'm a native English speaker and there are plenty of English songs that I can't catch all the lyrics to so I assume the same phenomenon occurs in Chinese.

  • 2
    ... so I assume the same phenomenon occurs in Chinese: totally agree - this is close to being a linguistic universal, no?
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 15:52
  • @Michaelyus Yeah , I'd imagine it occurs in all languages. But I wonder if it is more of an issue in Chinese as tones are not expressed as clearly whilst singing.
    – Kantura
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 15:55
  • It also depends who is the singer. When they sing words clearly, it's easier. But you know, sometimes they sing them vaguely deliberately for some musical effects. In this case, no one can make out the words.
    – dan
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 22:53

1 Answer 1


I can understand the meaning of the song about 80% by literal and 20% by context.

Due to some of the terms were poetic terms that do not belong to high-frequency words to daily life, I cannot understand the lyrics by only listening to the song.

  • So just to get a better feel. Say a Chinese person listened carefully to the song 3 times, what percent would you say the average Chinese person would understand ?
    – Kantura
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 15:59
  • 1
    @Kantura I believe People should look into the lyrics then they are able to understand the meaning. In my personal opinion, this is not kind of song the creator excepting the audiences to understand what they singing. hahaha Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 16:06
  • Haha , well I feel better now that I know that even Chinese people have difficulty understanding it. 谢谢
    – Kantura
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 16:18

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