We have listened to music since we were babies. Lullabies and rhymes are our first approaches to music and language and contain characteristics from both: lyrics, rhythm, and melodies. Plus, both work the same parts of the brain and give you cognitive skills. That’s why music is the perfect tool to learn a new language.
Even if you still don’t know anything about the language you want to learn, you can start listening to some songs. It’s the same as when you learned your native language. Maybe you still didn’t know how to speak, but you listened to nursery rhymes, or even to your mom’s voice. This trains your ear to have a good pronunciation later.
Music will also give you vocabulary, expressions, intonation, and spelling skills in your target language. An extra benefit? Cultural sensitivity! You’ll step outside your comfort zone, and learn about other cultures.
Do you want a tip? The best way to learn another language through music is by listening to some covers in your native and target language. That way you already know what they’re about, and can compare them.
There are many popular songs that have been sung in many different languages. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of some multilingual songs.
Tips to Learning Another Language with Songs
Here are a few things that you could do to learn better when listening to our list of suggested songs.
- Listen to the songs even if you’re still not fluent. You can put the songs in the background while you’re playing with your kids, cleaning, cooking, or doing any chores. Even if you don’t notice it, little things like this will help you with language acquisition and comprehension.
- Look up the words that you don’t know, but don’t exaggerate. If you’re hearing one word or phrase over and over again, look it up. But you can try to understand others by the context of the song. You might even hear one word in many different songs; that will help you truly understand its meaning and uses.
- If there’s a music video, watch it. Visual tools are always a great resource to learn and understand what’s going on.
- Once you’ve listened to the song a couple of times, try to sing it. You can start by saying a couple of words that stand out for you. Listen carefully to the song. After you’ve mastered a couple of words, look up the lyrics, and try to sing while reading them. This will help you with speaking, pronunciation, reading, and spelling. If you’re nervous about not going as fast as the song, try to read the lyrics first without singing them. Anyway, the rhythms of the songs we like tend to stick in our heads, so that will help you out.
- A great part of learning a new language is learning about a new culture. Search the origin of the song: is it an Italian song? French? American, maybe? You can also investigate a little bit about the singer.
Songs with Multilingual Covers
1. La Vie en rose – Édith Piaf
You’ve probably heard this song before. It’s a popular French song. Édith Piaf wrote the lyrics and sang them. Many artists have covered it with great success, but Piaf’s version has never been forgotten. In 1998, “La Vie en rose” received a GRAMMY Hall of Fame Award.
Édith Piaf also sang it in English. Some other artists that popularized the English version are Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby, who also has a French version. There’s also a more rhythmic version of the song by Grace Jones.
Italian singer, Milva, released the Italian version of the song, “La Vita E’ Rosa”.
You can compare the French, Italian, and English versions, and learn from all. Plus, there are a lot more covers out there. Singers like Lady Gaga, Michael Bublé, and French singer Zaz have also sung it. So you can even choose your favorite singer.
Enjoy the music video of Edith Piaf’s version:
2. Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley
The song appeared in Elvis’ movie “Jailhouse Rock” in 1957. It was an instant hit. In 2017 it was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.
Though Elvis is the original singer and the biggest representative of this song, other artists have sung it. Popular bands like Queen and ZZ Top have their own versions.
If you’re trying to learn Spanish, this is a fun and catchy song to listen to. Because there’s a Spanish version titled “El rock de la cárcel”. It is sung by Los Teen Tops, a Spanish rock & roll Mexican band.
Enjoy Elvis Presley’s music video:
3. Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
This is a widely popular song; written by Jim Steinman, and originally sung by Bonnie Tyler. It has been part of many movies and series. The first version of the song is longer than six minutes. Later came the “Radio Version”, about around five minutes; and a shorter one, around four minutes.
This song has been covered in many different languages.
There’s a French version, “Si demain…(Turn Around)”, also sung by Bonnie Tyler with Kareen Antonn; it has some verses in English. There’s another French version, “Cette nuit restera éternelle”, from the musical “Le Bal des Vampires” (Dance of the Vampires).
The Italian version is “Eclissi del cuore”, sang by L’Aura.
In Spanish, you’ll find it with two different names. The first one is “Eclipse Total del Amor”; the second one is “Eclipse Total del Corazón”. Many different artists from different Spanish-speaking countries have sung one of these versions. Among those singers are Lissette Álvarez and Yuridia. So it’s the perfect song to practice the Spanish language and listen to different accents.
In Portuguese, it’s called “Total eclipse do amor”, sung by Wilson e Soraia.
There’s also a German version, “Totale Finsternis”. It’s part of the acclaimed musical “Tanz der Vampire” (Dance of the Vampires). This musical theater version has been, at the same time, translated into many other languages, including Russian, Finnish, Japanese, Polish, French, and more! You can check this video with parts from all the languages it’s been sung in here.
If you want to be – or already are – polyglot, this is a great song to improve in many languages.
Enjoy the original music video:
4. Blame It on the Boogie – The Jacksons
This song was sung first by Mick Jackson. But “The Jacksons” released their version almost immediately. Both songs were successful and well-received. It was such a curious story that there was a documentary about the song: “The Other Michael Jackson: Battle of the Boogie”.
There’s a Czech cover by Marie Rottrová titled “Muž číslo 1” (Man No.1), with a music video.
Luis Miguel, a famous Mexican singer, released the Spanish version of “Blame it on the Boogie”. It is called “Será que no me amas”.
Enjoy the music video by The Jacksons:
5. Garota de Ipanema – Stan Getz, Tom Jobim, and João Gilberto
This is a classic Brazilian song, well-known around the world. Though Tom Jobim’s “Garota de Ipanema” is very famous, many other artists have sung it as well.
There’s an English version called “The Girl from Ipanema”. Many artists have done covers of it. One of the most popular covers is the one by Frank Sinatra. A popular English version by a Brazilian singer is the one by Astrud Gilberto. Artists like Nat King Cole, Cher, and even Amy Winehouse, have their own recordings. There’s also a version called “The boy from Ipanema”.
There’s an English and Portuguese version with Tom Jobim and Frank Sinatra.
The Spanish version is “La Chica de Ipanema”. It’s been sung by many different artists, including Jarabe de Palo, Eugenia León, and Gloria Lasso.
The Italian version is “La Ragazza di Ipanema”, sung by Bruno Martino.
The French version is “La Fille d’Ipanema” by Jacqueline François. There are covers by other artists too.
Enjoy the song:
6. Hey – Julio Iglesias
The great thing about “Hey” – or even many other Julio Iglesias’ songs – is that he is the one to sing them in different languages. That’s right, he’s a polyglot! Apart from being one of his most popular songs, “Hey” is also the name of one of his many albums.
This song is in Spanish, Julio Iglesias’ native language. But he also sang it in French, Italian, Portuguese, English, and German.
And this is just one of his many multilingual songs. So, if you want to improve in more than one language, listening to Julio Iglesias is a great exercise. He even has full albums in other languages!
Enjoy the music video:
7. Bésame Mucho – Consuelo Velázquez
Consuelo Velázquez wrote the song, which is one of the most famous songs in Spanish. Many artists have sung it, including Consuelo Velázquez. The renowned Pedro Infante made his own version. As well as Lucía Méndez, Emilio Tuero (the first to record it), Luis Miguel, Andrea Bocelli, and more. Singers from all around the world have sung it in Spanish.
There’s an English version by Nat King Cole. It has also been sung by other famous artists, like The Beatles and Elvis Presley. And there’s a Spanish/English bilingual cover by Michael Bublé and Thalía.
There’s also a French version sung by Dálida.
The Portuguese version, “Beija-Me Muito”, has been sung by Jairo Aguiar, and Trio Irakitan.
Enjoy Emilio Tuero’s version:
8. Tutta La Vita – Lucio Dalla
It was written and sung originally in Italian by Lucio Dalla, a renowned Italian singer. This song was published in 1984.
There were two Spanish versions of the song. One by Emmanuel, a famous Mexican singer. And one by Cuban singer, Franco. Both achieved great success around Latin America and the U.S. And both had music videos.
There’s also an English version by Cos Natola. He kept the Italian title, but the rest of the lyrics are in English.
Enjoy Lucio Dalla’s song:
9. Si Tú No Vuelves – Miguel Bosé
This romantic ballad was first released in Spanish. There are many versions; the original is just sung by Bosé. He later sang it with Spanish singer, Ana Torroja. Then, he did a duet with Shakira, a Colombian singer. Years after that, he released another version with the Mexican pop group, Ha-Ash.
There’s an English version, “They’re only words”. There’s also a French one, “Ne reviens pas”. And an Italian one, “Se tu non torni”, which has a music video. All performed by Bosé.
Enjoy the Spanish music video:
10. Hijo de la Luna – Mecano
Last, but not least! In fact, this is one of the most important songs to learn many languages since it has been translated many times. The Spanish song was a great success. Though the original is by Mecano, artists from other Spanish-speaking countries released their own. For example, you could listen to Argentinian singer Gerónimo Rauch and Mexican singer Carlos Rivera’s version. Or listen to British singer, Sarah Brightman’s, Spanish cover.
Mecano also released an Italian cover, “Figlio della Luna”; and a French one, “Dis moi lune d’argent”.
Korean singer, Sumi Jo, sang a Spanish version. But she also performed a Korean/English bilingual version. The Korean quartet, Forestella, made a Korean version.
There’s a Finnish version too, “Kuunpoika”, sung by Katria. And “Kuutamon poika” by Jarkko Ahola.
There’s even a Serbian cover titled “Znam To I Osećam” by Ivana Jordan.
Kriemhild Siegel has two versions: one in Spanish and one in German, titled “Sohn des Mondes”.
Enjoy the Spanish lyric video:
Did you notice that some of these artists sing in different languages? That just proves even more that music helps with language acquisition. Sure, they’re professional musicians, and having that kind of knowledge makes it easier for your brain to learn more languages. But even if you’re not a professional, you still can learn through songs.
As you’ve seen, you have many options to practice one song in many languages. All you have to do is pick your favorite one and put it on repeat. Or, you could prepare a multicultural party with your international – or language class – friends. You can have karaoke with the above list. If you make mistakes, you’ll be among friends, so you’ll feel less embarrassed. Learning and improving should also be fun.
If you still want to keep improving in other cool ways, take our online classes. We offer many different languages with native teachers. So you’ll actually learn useful things, and gain fluency in an effective way. Try one of our teachers and save 20% off your first month of classes with code TF20!