Of the many songs that have been written and sung, here are three of the most translated and cherished. We also value them for their positive message and enduring ability to uplift the human spirit.
It’s a Small World
In 1963, the Sherman Brothers wrote a song for the 1964 “Children of the World” pavilion that was assigned to Walt Disney. This eventually became the “It’s a Small World” attraction at Disneyland.” Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, Walt Disney’s staff songwriters at that time rose to the challenge given by Walt himself who wanted something that could be played as a round song and easily translated into many languages as well. The sibling duo came up with “It’s a Small World (After All)” at the wake of the Cuban missile crisis which tested the Kennedy administration’s resolve and almost brought the world at the brink of nuclear war. The song’s message was reportedly influenced by these events.
“It’s a Small World” is the only creation owned by Disney that was never copyrighted at the request of UNICEF. It remains “a gift to the children of the world.” It’s an undeniably catchy song with a repetitive vibe that is somehow never tiresome, at least for those who enjoy uppity tunes.
“Amazing Grace,” is a song of worship and has a long and significant Christian history. But it has another distinction for being one of the most translated songs in the world. The song is mainly about how God’s grace sustains the faithful. It has been translated to around 60 different languages including Zulu, Mandarin, Farsi, Filipino, and Arabic. The song’s universal message of salvation and forgiveness through God’s everlasting mercy has made both its lyrics and tune one of the most recognizable hymns. It is reportedly performed around 10 million times in a year and has been recorded several times.
The song was first published in 1779 but composed in 1773 by an English clergyman and poet John Newton to accompany a sermon for New Year’s Day. Newton was involved in the slave trade and only became a convert after surviving a storm at sea. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1764 and started writing hymns soon after. “Amazing Grace” was confined to books of hymns in England, but across the Atlantic in the United States, it was extensively used in the early 19th century. “Amazing Grace” eventually became a popular African American spiritual.
The most popular Christmas carol in many different cultures is also one of the most translated songs in the world. “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” has since been translated into 100 languages and is known to English speakers as “Silent Night.” The words were written in 1816 by Joseph Mohr, a priest from Austria while the music was laid down by Franz Xaver Gruber, an organist. The song was originally written to be played by a guitar.
The English translation was done by John Freeman Young who used to translate Christian hymns from Europe as a hobby while he was affiliated with Trinity Church in New York City. Two years ago, this Christmas carol was declared by UNESCO as an “intangible cultural heritage.”