I attempted to write a beginner-level introduction to Buddhist chanting. It's tricky to write about chanting, because there must be a gazillion different chants and no two sects seem to do the same ones. So I cannot say "when you go to a Buddhist temple first you will chant this and then you will chant that," or even if you will chant a lot or not at all.
Western Zen is having a little bit of an issue with translations. Most of us appear to be using the same basic chanting liturgy, more or less, but no two Zen centers seem to use the same translations. So there can be considerable variation in the chanting between one Zen center and another, even though technically we may be chanting the same things. Maybe someday the teachers will get together and come up with a standardized English Zen chanting service, but I don't expect to live to see that.
Chanting seems to annoy a lot of newcomers. They show up expecting to meditate, and then somebody starts beating a drum and everybody chants stuff that makes no sense. And that's the English language chanting; the rest of it seems to be in no recognizable language at all. It grows on you, though.
I don't remember any more how I first felt about the chanting. After a couple of meditation periods on the zafu I probably was just happy to be standing up. I'm fine with the chanting service now, though, especially the dharanis.
There is one bit of liturgy that is part of the oryoki service that I particularly enjoy, although I haven't done it for years. It sticks with me, for some reason.
In the midst of the Three Treasures
With all sentient beings
Let us recite the names of Buddha:
Pure Dharmakaya Vairochana Buddha
Complete Sambhogakaya Vairochana Buddha
Numerous Nirmanakaya Shakyamuni Buddhas
Future Maitreya Buddha
All Buddhas through space and time
Mahayana Sadharma Pundarika Sutra
Great Manjusri Bodhisattva
Mahayana Samantabhadra Bodhisattva
Great compassionate Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
All Bodhisattva Mahasattvas
Maha Prajna Paramita.
I didn't even know what most of those names referred to when I was a newbie, and I still liked the chant. We'd get to the part about "Great com-passion-ate A-va-lo-ki-tesh-va-ra Bod-hi-satt-va" -- that's one name I recognized -- and so much energy had built up it seemed Guanyin herself was bursting out of the walls. Well, maybe you had to be there.
Looking back, it's interesting that the Lotus Sutra -- Mahayana Sadharma Pundarika Sutra --is included as a "name of Buddha." Perhaps the chant is from the Heian period of Japanese history, when the Tendai sect dominated Japanese Buddhism. Tendai Buddhism is big on the Lotus Sutra. I'm just guessing, though.
Chants translated into English sometimes end up with an entirely different rhythm, or no rhythm at all, which changes the experience of chanting it. On the other hand -- the advantage of chanting in English, even if you don't understand what you are chanting, is that you internalize the words in a very intimate way. And sometimes later on, out of the blue, a line from a chant will pop into your consciousness and tell you something. The deeper meanings have a way of revealing themselves when you are ready.