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How Music Transcends Language Barriers

crowd at a music festival
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The Eurovision Song Contest has been bringing nations together for over 60 years. Although this year’s edition has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, music is still being used as a tool to bring people together regardless of their location, culture and language in this difficult time.  

The One World Together at Home event organised by Lady Gaga in April 2020 saw artists including Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John and Stevie Wonder perform from their own homes, in an event broadcast across the globe. 

Live Aid is another example, with 1.9 billion people tuning in around the world, as English language songs were performed to 130 countries to raise money for those in need.  

However, music transcending language barriers isn’t just evident in times of need; music is a powerful platform that has long brought people together, regardless of the language they speak. 

Music Tourism: Money, Money, Money

Music tourism is a huge global industry; in the UK alone it accounts for billions of pounds every year; in the US, Elvis Presley’s former home Graceland is the second most-visited residential property in the country, attracting 500,000-750,000 tourists a year, behind only the White House. 

People from all over the world, who don’t necessarily speak the same first language – or know any other words of a language apart from the lyrics of the songs they are going to hear performed – will travel to gigs, festivals and musical theatre shows, such is the power of music for crossing barriers and bringing people together. 

All You Need is Love, L’Amour, Liebe

The Beatles deserve a great deal of credit for bringing the English language to parts of the world it had not reached before on such a scale. The slow, clear pronunciation of lyrics comprising simple vocabulary meant their fans could easily pick up a few words of English, regardless of their first language. 

Aware of their international reach, the Fab Four were accompanied by projections of the word ‘love’ in multiple languages during their performance of All You Need is Love on Our World, the first live global television link-up. 

Gimme, Gimme, Gimme Universal Song Lyrics

Another tactic that helps music to cross barriers is the use of universal lyrics, which ABBA’s catalogue of song titles is a brilliant example of; Ring RingVoulezVousMamma MiaSOSWaterlooGimmeGimmeGimme – these can all be understood by the speakers of a variety of European languages, making the band’s music accessible to many.  

Even when universal lyrics are not necessarily used, there are some extraordinary examples of fans picking up a language thanks to music. For instance, in South America in the 1980s, a tradition began that saw fans reciting the lyrics of Queen’s Love of My Life back to the band word-perfect, despite the venues where they were playing being full of Spanish and Portuguese speakers. The tradition continues to this day, wherever in the world the band are playing. 

Music has long been the way that people pick up a new language, and it continues to be so. Eurovision usually provides an opportunity for many to pick up snippets of French, German, Portuguese and even Arabic, with songs performed in a variety of different languages. 

At Language Connect, we’re here to help you make sure your business is singing from the same hymn sheet as your customers. Whatever language you speak, and wherever in the world you’re based, we can help to connect you with your customers through our translation and interpreting services, even amid this difficult time. 



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