Music connects us to the languages we adore. Why not utilize it to advance your linguistic endeavors?
In this post, I’ll share the joys of song translation as well as how you might go about doing it.
While I like to think that foreign language is in and of itself intriguing, the study methods you choose largely affect your enjoyment of it, and subsequently, your motivation.
If you only ever learn by sitting in a classroom or plugging through workbooks, you might benefit from some variety in your routine.
The method I want to promote today is song translation. It’s a time-consuming and sometimes difficult activity, but it’s so worth it. Why?
It’s a motivator. If you’re desperate to understand the meaning of your favorite song, you’ll most likely put in as much effort as it takes to figure it out. In the rewarding process, you might just pick up new vocabulary and grammar.
Additionally, it’s different. Music is an opportunity to explore the poetic side of your target language. Through the work of artists, you’ll learn expressions that are hard to come across in daily conversations and ever harder to encounter in textbooks. The beautiful and nuanced lyrics of songs are a breath of fresh air from the world of practicality.
Find a fancy notebook Pick a song
I find that the emotional and introspective ones are the most fun to work with, but what’s important is that the song is meaningful to you and that you won’t get bored of it. I’m using Beast’s 12:30 as an example because it’s among the first Korean songs I listened to.
Step 2: Find the lyrics and print them out
Unless the song you’re working on is remarkably obscure, you should be able to find the lyrics somewhere.
It was most likely another fan who posted them, so keep in mind that their accuracy isn’t exactly guaranteed.
For an extra challenge, don’t look up the lyrics. Listen to the song and type them out yourself.
Step 3: Annotate the lyrics
This is the step that requires the most work.
First, go through the lyrics and highlight all the vocabulary and grammar you don’t know or are unsure of.
Second, find a dictionary. For learners of Japanese and Korean, I recommend
Finally, look up new grammar. This is considerably more difficult than finding vocabulary, and you’ll definitely be using several resources. For Korean learners, try checking the grammar section of Talk to Me in Korean’s site.
Step 4: Commence line-by-line translation
Now that you’ve identified and learned the meaning of everything you didn’t know, use your new knowledge to make sense of the lyrics. Don’t be discouraged if you’re still not too sure about a few lines or if you find struggle to come up with a coherent translation. You’re learning.
Step 5: Pat yourself on the back
Well done, friend. You’ve completed a task that requires quite a bit of patience.
I hope this post has been helpful to you, and please let me know what you think of this method!