The Language of Music

The Significance of Listening to Music in Another Language
Nietjuh / Pixabay

Music can be found all around the world with lyrics in many different languages.  Many people tend to polarise towards songs with lyrics that are presented in a language that they understand.  However, does it really matter whether the lyrics are understood or not?

Originally music was played without lyrics.  The tune would invoke feelings simply through the sound of the instruments.  Eventually lyrics were added to music, and in places like churches the lyrics used were in Latin.  Latin, a language which few people understood at the time, was the language used in many songs.  Therefore, despite people not knowing the meaning of the words they could still enjoy the song.

China gives another good example of this.  Chinese is a language base on tones.  Therefore, Chinese spoken without tones or with tones changed to fit a song can be very obscure even to native speakers.  Despite this many people listen to and enjoy Chinese music in China.

Of course there are also situations in non tonal languages where a native speaker can misinterpret the spoken lyrics to the point of ambiguity.  For example, in English, there are “commonly misheard lyrics” in many songs.  But despite misinterpreting the lyrics of a song a person can still enjoy it. 

Many people listen to songs, but without realising it they segregate songs through the language of the lyrics.  I think it would be good for more people to be willing to enjoy songs regardless of lyrics.

written by Eric Lundberg

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