When it comes to learning languages, we can use many tools and resources – we are told to read, to speak and to listen. From my point of view, listening is not restricted to movies, news reports or other types of videos – music is a great resource to get in touch with a foreign language, its accent, its vocabulary and its poetry.
However, I think it is a pity that nowadays so many artists choose to express themselves in English rather than in their mother tongue. The musical landscape now badly lacks linguistic diversity and personality. Nonetheless, for the curious ones, here is a small geographical overview (mainly European) of artists singing in their mother tongue. Even if one does not study the language in question, it is an excellent way to discover how a language that one could see as “obscure” or “unknown” sounds. Is it possible to get in touch with several languages while staying rock’n’roll? Yes, it is!
Let’s start with France. It is common knowledge among French-speaking musicians that French is a terrible language to sing in. The way it sounds just does not match musical tonalities, and if you write anything other than beautiful love songs the language can easily sound ridiculous. Therefore just a few French bands have taken the risk to sing in their own language (well, there is also another reason – they do not stand a chance to be known abroad if they sing in French…). As always, there are still a few exceptions – the famous hard rock band Trust, whose strong lyrics could not have been conveyed in English, Triste Sire or Aqme, whose lyrics use French in a poetic way, or Ultra Vomit, who use the language in a comical way.
In France, many people keep telling me that German is not very pleasant for the ears, however I find that its rhythm perfectly matches so-called “aggressive” musical sonorities. Here is the proof with Rammstein, Oomph!, or Die Apokalyptischen Reiter – a good way to extend one’s German vocabulary!
When it comes to “rarer” languages, music allowed me to get in touch with the Finnish language, which is incredibly beautiful and musical. I got an overview of this marvelous language thanks to Nightwish, a very famous band in Finland, though they sadly sing in English most of the time. For the most courageous ear wise, I have the example of Korpiklaani, who play a cheerful folk metal.
They might be of Finnish nationality, but the band Finntroll writes its lyrics in Swedish. A good way to discover this language that we are not so used to hearing in Western Europe!
Russian is a language I am not really familiar with. If you are in the same position, check out Arkona, whose lyrics are in Russian!
For people curious to know what the Serbian language sounds like, here is an exhaustive list of bands who express themselves in this language – Alogia, Van Gogh, Antologija, Atlantida, Riblja Corba. Apparently many Serbian bands sing in their own language!
Japanese is, without any doubt, one the most fascinating language to listen to when sung because of its gentle and yet violent character. Maybe it is also due to the performances of Japanese singers, whose voices can cover whispers as well as superhuman screams and express many different emotions. Two Japanese rock bands that are representative of this are Kagerou and Dir En Grey.
Listening to music in a foreign language is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with its accent and vocabulary!