Imagine you’re driving down the road with the radio turned up, and you hear a song — but you can’t understand the words. No, it’s not like your parents saying, “I don’t understand what you kids listen to these days. Back in my day...” It’s something else. You genuinely can’t understand it because it’s in an entirely different language.
But why would a song in a foreign language be playing on the radio, “in America, of all places”? The answer is simple. As American society becomes more globalized, we are encountering different cultures more and more often.
The recent Super Bowl halftime show reinforced this notion with a performance from Colombia native Shakira and Puerto Rican pop star Jennifer Lopez. The halftime show was largely in Spanish, which is not what many Americans are used to. Songs like "Despacito," largely sung in Spanish, have risen in the charts. The recent success of South Korean boy band BTS is another indicator of globalization in American society.
A more globalized society does not mean that you have to listen to this music. However, there are many benefits for people to listen to this type of music. Considering that many college students will be working in a multicultural workplace in the future, what’s a better way to become acquainted with different cultures than by listening to music?
Music is interconnected with culture, whether it be through “the structure of music, its instrumentation, context of performance or meaning.” Music bridges the gap of communication between cultures.
Music by itself can enhance communication between countries, and foreign music provides people with a chance to improve their listening skills in other languages and in English. I am a Korean and Chinese language student, so I am often listening to music in these languages.
Wyatt Hall encourages students to set aside their negative feelings on subtitles before they miss out on foreign films like the Oscar winning picture "Parasite".
Since the United States is filled with so many English speakers, it is often hard to find a chance to practice your language skills outside of the classroom. By listening to foreign music, I have been able to improve my listening skills. Chinese has also helped me with distinguishing tones from one another.
Better yet, foreign music also gives you the chance to improve your own English listening skills. I cannot count the number of times I have been listening to a song in a foreign language and heard an English phrase intermixed into the song. Many of the people singing these songs are not English speakers, so they do have accents.
At first, it’s hard to distinguish the English parts from the non-English parts. If you are looking at the lyrics at the same time, it is definitely easier. However, after some time, you will find yourself hearing the English parts with ease. This prepares you to interact with people whose dialect is different from your own, which by the way, will probably be an almost daily encounter regardless of what career you choose.
Foreign music can prepare you for any career path you will have later on. It doesn’t matter if you’re learning a foreign language or not. The world is just becoming more and more globalized every day. Music is the path to mutual understanding between people in the face of globalization. Music brings people together in harmony. With so many conflicts nowadays, music is a beacon of hope in the distance to help reconnect people around the world.
Even if you cannot understand the words being said, you can come to understand that there are people out there with different cultures and values like your own. Isn't that the best type of understanding out there?
Savannah Glaves is a sophomore from Easton studying East Asian languages and cultures.