Singing for the world proves worth the effort

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Chinese pop singers (from left) Leah Dou, Zhang Jie and Jane Zhang test the international waters with good English skills. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Chinese pop singers (from left) Leah Dou, Zhang Jie and Jane Zhang test the international waters with good English skills. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Many Chinese pop singers are polishing their English-language skills to speak -- and sing -- to a global audience.

Zhang Liangying, aka Jane Zhang, is one of those ambitious -- and capable -- enough to release albums with English lyrics.

Her latest single, Dust My Shoulders Off, produced by US singer-songwriter Timbaland, reached the top five on the iTunes chart-a first for a Chinese artist.

In April, she will release her first English album.

"Though I have been a singer for more than 10 years in China, I am a newcomer to the US market. I am still learning the language, especially spoken English," the 32-year-old says.

Zhang rose to fame in 2005 when she finished as the second runner-up in Super Girl, a Chinese reality-TV singing contest.

The vocalist, an English major from Sichuan University, has long been performing songs by Western artists, such as Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera. She was even a guest singer on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

"Though I learned English in college, it's still hard to speak English like a native. For example, I have an accent when I say 'son', 'sun' and 'song'," Zhang says.

"Idioms and slang are also hard to master."

Dou Jingtong, aka Leah Dou, is another Chinese pop star known for her English tunes. The 20-year-old singer-songwriter released her debut album, Stone Cafe, in April 2016. It includes 10 English tracks she wrote.

It received critical and popular acclaim, especially among young fans.

Dou isn't just one of China's most popular singer-songwriters-she was famous even before she was born, as the daughter of Asian pop diva Faye Wong and rock singer-songwriter Dou Wei.

Dou Jingtong studied in the US and the UK.

She has worked with many Western musicians.

She sang backup vocals at her mother's most recent concert last month in Shanghai's Mercedes-Benz Arena.

Wong released the English-language hit, Eyes on Me, as the theme song for the popular Final Fantasy VIII video game in 1999.

During the recent Shanghai show, she performed This Mortal Coil's song With Tomorrow.

Indeed, Chinese musicians hoping to tour overseas are increasingly realizing the importance of English.

Music-scene veteran Zhang Jie recently launched his Sound of My Heart world tour in Beijing, marking his first performance in the West.

After traveling through China, the tour will continue to such cities as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sydney, London and Milan.

The native of Sichuan province's capital, Chengdu, recalls learning English by listening to Michael Jackson's albums at age 12.

"I learned English by reciting English lyrics," the 34-year-old says.

"I also watched US TV shows, such as Friends and The Big Bang Theory. I followed and repeated the lines in the shows."

In 2013, he spent a year in the US studying music, as well as English.

"The tour will introduce Chinese pop music to the Western audiences. It will also offer me a chance to meet my overseas Chinese fans," says Zhang Jie, who has released 11 studio albums.

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