Aldous Huxley once wrote “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” Music is and has always been a great source of inspiration and entertainment for many. And even more so when accompanied by brilliant lyrics that gives the song its soul.
But here’s a fun insight. A vast majority of the music that we come across in our life has lyrics in languages we do not speak, hence rendering “the soul of music” incomprehensible, inaccessible. But should this stop us from listening to them anyway? Common sense dictates, yes. But I’m here to prove otherwise.
As strange as it may sound, music can be a great tool to learn a language. If you’re learning a new language or at least planning to learn a new language, you should definitely be listening to songs written in it.
There have been lots of research on the role of passive listening in learning a new language. And listening to music can be described more accurately as passive listening on steroids.
You may have experienced this before. You listen to some catchy tune and you later find yourself involuntarily trying to sing it yourself. What we are talking about is trying the same thing with foreign songs.
To brute logic, music may be an organization of rhythm and melody accompanied by lyrics that serve as the prime content of the song. However, as an art form, music is much more than just an organization.
The prime asset of any song is the accompanying emotion. How does it make you feel? And one thing about emotion is that it that there are no cultural barriers, such as different languages, that define it.
Any piece of music in the world, sung in any language, will have an accompanying emotion that its listener can almost immediately comprehend. So the language of a foreign song shouldn’t matter at all as long as it makes you feel the way you wish to feel, which is true of all music.
One of the prime purposes of music throughout history has been as a means for dancing. Every culture has its own form of dances and with them, songs that accompany these dances. Like emotions, rhythm is something that has no cultural barriers, and anyone who loves to “move” can move to a movable piece of music regardless of the language.
How many times have you come across an upbeat song like Hot Chip’s latest release with no knowledge whatsoever of what the singer or singers are singing about, and you just felt like dancing along? I know I have. This is true for upbeat songs of almost every language.
This is particularly important if you’re a creative musician. But it may be just as important for someone simply passionate about music. Every culture in the world has its own unique path of evolution. And with it, its own cultural values, norms and a unique style and flavor of art.
This is just as true for music as it is for any other art form. If you are open to listening to foreign songs, you have opened yourself a gateway to a new dimension of music to draw influences from. Most creative musician draw all their influences from songs originating in one culture. Imagine if they had the entire world to draw influence from.
Even if you wish to stick to the genre of your culture, there is music of the same genre that is sung in many languages. Rock music, heavy metal, hip hop—whatever you happen to like, it is practiced throughout the world. And each language adds its own unique flavor to the genre.
There could very well be a musician in Mongolia who influences you more than someone in your own country. The point is, if you are open to listening to songs in foreign languages, you do not restrict your influences. There could be a piece of music waiting to inspire you out there. Don’t let one barrier separate you from it.
You are living in the 21st century for god’s sake! You have access to tools that can actually help you decipher the meaning behind the words of that foreign song you’ve so much grown into. Most of these tools are free and incredibly accurate.
Translating the words will for starters help you understand the content of the song, so that the next time you feel like singing it out loud, you actually know what you sing of. Then there is the unique insight the translated words provide on the culture associated with the song.
Every traveler dreams of being treated by the locals as one of their own. Every traveler also knows how hard it is. Hence, most of us end up travelling to new places but simply miss out on living that new place. Well, once again the answer is music.
Imagine yourself in a room with a foreigner. A tense environment. Suddenly, he starts singing a folk song of your culture. How happy would that make you? Every culture has a set of songs it holds very dearly and if you can sing along with the locals, they will undoubtedly treat you as their own.
How many times have you come across a great piece of music only to end up being disappointed with the shallow lyrics? How many times have you appreciated the singer’s singing but just loathed the weak lyric he/she sings?
Well, here’s some great news in the context of this article: this isn’t going to be a problem with foreign songs. If you like the music, you just like it, regardless of how the lyrics go. And having avoided this tragedy, you are free to draw a subjective influence from the music. The greatest artists will tell you: subjective influences are the best!
The modern world is incredibly lacking in people who are cultured. And to be perceived as one can be a great asset to hold. If you genuinely enjoy foreign songs, then you are, to the average eye, more cultured than the rest.
Be it cooking dinner while listening to Italian Opera, or working out with Rammstein playing in your work out headphone, if you enjoy doing these things, then you already hold an appreciation for the foreign cultures that they originated from; this is something that is very uncommon among average people and hence “unique.” Cultivating this habit can be as beneficial to your career as it is to your personal life.
Time and again, history has proved that art can be a great means to connect the world. This has been especially true in the modern world where technology has made art forms from every corner of the world accessible. And it is no different with music, the queen of the art forms.
You know this when you see people who don’t speak Korean enjoy k-pop, people who don’t speak Hindi dance to Bollywood songs, or people who don’t speak English produce music in genres that originated in English speaking nations. Basically, we are all becoming a part of one huge mega-culture.
Featured photo credit: Wikimedia via upload.wikimedia.org
Love this article? Share it with your friends on Facebook