Non Native English Speakers: Can You Understand Song Lyrics?

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  • #1
lisab
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I'm a native English speaker and many songs, especially rock songs, sound like gibberish to me. I'm not particularly unusual this way, and I think we've had threads on that before. But I can't imagine how hard it must be for non-native speakers! Now that we have the innerwebs we can find song lyrics, thankfully.

So my question is for non-native speakers of English: Can you make out English song lyrics very well?
 

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  • #2
Curious3141
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I'm a native English speaker and many songs, especially rock songs, sound like gibberish to me. I'm not particularly unusual this way, and I think we've had threads on that before. But I can't imagine how hard it must be for non-native speakers! Now that we have the innerwebs we can find song lyrics, thankfully.

So my question is for non-native speakers of English: Can you make out English song lyrics very well?
I would consider myself a native speaker of English, and even then, I would say it depends on the song.

Something like "Vincent" by Don Mclean - no problem making out every single word.

http://youtu.be/dipFMJckZOM

Something like "Take On Me" by A-ha - a bit of a crapshoot. I can make out maybe 30%?

http://youtu.be/djV11Xbc914

Something like "Into the Infinity of Thoughts" by Emperor - haha, good luck. If you can make out even 10% of the words, you're already a certifiable genius. Or certifiably insane. :biggrin:

http://youtu.be/tccZs_veliA
 
  • #3
lisab
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I would consider myself a native speaker of English, and even then, I would say it depends on the song.

Something like "Vincent" by Don Mclean - no problem making out every single word.

http://youtu.be/dipFMJckZOM

Something like "Take On Me" by A-ha - a bit of a crapshoot. I can make out maybe 30%?

http://youtu.be/djV11Xbc914

Something like "Into the Infinity of Thoughts" by Emperor - haha, good luck. If you can make out even 10% of the words, you're already a certifiable genius. Or certifiably insane. :biggrin:

http://youtu.be/tccZs_veliA
Oh I get over 50% of "Take On Me"! But any screaming songs...just, nope.

One song with famously unintelligible lyrics is actually one of my favorite songs - this version, with one person's "interpretation", is hilarious:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLd22ha_-VU


"I don't know why they suntan nails" :rofl:
 
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  • #4
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I sometimes listen to death metal music and I can understand even the "death growl". I have quite good hearing though and English has been my 3rd language forever - sometimes I'm on the impression I know it better than Estonian or Russian ^^
 
  • #5
WannabeNewton
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speakers of English: Can you make out English song lyrics very well?
English is my 2nd language and I often do have a hard time understanding lyrics to songs. Between ages 13 and like 16 I had no idea what most of the lyrics to Zeppelin songs were even though I had listened to every single one a million times.

I have the same problem with most pop songs but surprisingly (or not) I don't have the problem with blues or Motown.

I would include death metal but I don't think anyone can understand that garbled nonsense.
 
  • #6
Curious3141
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I would include death metal but I don't think anyone can understand that garbled nonsense.
Depends on the death metal. Death grind (a very extreme form of death metal-grindcore fusion) is pretty much unintelligible, but something like Amon Amarth (Viking-themed melodic death metal) is often more intelligible than many modern pop songs.
 
  • #7
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I have actually mis-heard some lyrics here and there, for example
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCdOVThsWEg
Ozzy Osbourne - Paranoid, what I hear is "I tell you to end your life.." what he really says is "I tell you to enjoy life" XD
 
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SteamKing
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Jimi Hendrix: 'Scuse me, while I kiss this guy!"
 
  • #11
dlgoff
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English is my 2nd language and I often do have a hard time understanding lyrics to songs.
So is your 1st language Maths? :approve:

Between ages 13 and like 16 I had no idea what most of the lyrics to Zeppelin songs were even though I had listened to every single one a million times.
Had you been in college in the '60 and '70s you probably would have had something to help with that. :devil:
 
  • #12
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I thought Flowerchildren rose and fell with the Woodstock 68..then again that's like, when my mom was young, so I wasn't on the agenda even.

Anyway, a lyric-comprehension challenge:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGiMinmqKPo
My favourite death metal band, Nile.
Starts off as "the necromancers of Giza..." aand then you will kind of lose track if you're not used to hearing this :D
 
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  • #13
dlgoff
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I thought Flowerchildren rose and fell with the Woodstock 68..then again that's like, when my mom was young, so I wasn't on the agenda even.
[hijack thread]Once a hippie always a hippie.
160px-RussianRainbowGathering_4Aug2005.jpg
[/end hijack]
 
  • #14
Borek
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So my question is for non-native speakers of English: Can you make out English song lyrics very well?
No. Song lyrics played using drum language would be about as effective as sung in English. But then, I generally have a problem with spoken English - lack of training.

But it is the same in Polish - some singers are completely unintelligible.

Edit: ROFL, I have problems with understanding even this one:

 
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  • #16
ZapperZ
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I'm a native English speaker and many songs, especially rock songs, sound like gibberish to me. I'm not particularly unusual this way, and I think we've had threads on that before. But I can't imagine how hard it must be for non-native speakers! Now that we have the innerwebs we can find song lyrics, thankfully.

So my question is for non-native speakers of English: Can you make out English song lyrics very well?
Actually, even if one is a native English speaker, it still doesn't mean that one can understand English song lyrics. This is especially true if certain regional colloquialism is heavily used in the song lyrics. My example would be two of my most favorite tunes, Rickie Lee Jones' "Chuck E's In Love" and "Last Chance Texaco". Not knowing what "I-9" is, what the "Pantages" is, or even what "p.l.p" stands for certainly will make understanding the lyrics a little bit more difficult.

And even if you THINK you know, the full meaning and impact could also be missing. Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls" would have a lot more meaning if one knows the West End and East End neighborhoods of London.

Zz.
 
  • #17
jim hardy
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It's not just non-english speakers who have difficulty...

however i am constantly surprised at how much more intelligible lyrics are on today's sound equipment than what i had in the 1950's...


really like this one, which is on this subject...

 
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  • #18
Vanadium 50
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What's amazing about Rickie Lee Jones is that she is incomprehensible in the recordings - but clear as a bell live.
 
  • #19
jtbell
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incomprehensible in the recordings - but clear as a bell live.
That probably says something about the techniques used by her recording engineers and producers. :yuck:
 
  • #20
ZapperZ
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I will also say that no matter if you are an English speaker or not, no one can comprehend Jimmy Webb's "Macarthur's Park"! :)

Till this day, I have no idea what that song is about. Maybe I left my cake out in the rain for way too long.

Zz.
 
  • #21
drizzle
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Lyrics are of value to me. If I don't understand it, then I don't 'like' listening to it*. And yes there are many songs that I don't know what the hell they're about.

* Except those with hypnotizing effect I, which listen to anyway. :tongue2:
 
  • #22
Vanadium 50
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That probably says something about the techniques used by her recording engineers and producers. :yuck:
I dunno about that. Rickie Lee Jones was produced by 3-time Grammy winner Russ Titelman and Warner Bros. head Lenny Waronker. The Magazine was produced by Jones and legend James Newton Howard. These guys know their stuff.
 
  • #23
lisab
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I just figured Rickie Lee Jones was singing in that slurring way to be "stylized". She does the same style in "Easy Money", but that's easier (but still not easy) to understand.

When I was learning how to understand spoken French, I had a hard time hearing where one word stopped and the other began. In singing, that border is often blurred intentionally - it must just take a lot of listening for a non-native speaker to pick it up!
 
  • #24
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Curious3141;4679375 Something like "Take On Me" by A-ha - a bit of a crapshoot. I can make out maybe 30%? [url said:
http://youtu.be/djV11Xbc914[/url]


http://youtu.be/tccZs_veliA
Holy crap, I never knew where that synth line came from.

TIL
 
  • #25
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I'm a native English speaker who learned Spanish in the 1980s. During that time I only listened to Spanish language radio much of which was songs. With new songs I understood little but gradually after hearing the songs many times they began to make sense. However there was one song I simply could not understand, until I accidently heard it in English. It was Chameleon by the Culture Club. Until I heard it in English I had no idea it was an English song translated to Spanish.

 
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