The most translated songs of all time are difficult to determine. Each group of people has their own choices, mostly dependent on the genre they enjoy, the performing artists and time. Some are fixated on certain periods, where they either dig the classics or they go with the times and are familiar with the current genre, be it rock, pop, ballad, country, top 40, love songs, alternative, punk or hip-hop.
Rather than go into a lengthy discussion of which songs have the most translations, let’s look at some of the songs that have enjoyed the distinction of being the most translated songs in the world.
1. Pop song
OK Go’s song “This Too Shall Pass” is the most translated among the pop songs. It’s from the third studio album of OK Go, a rock band from the United States. It was released in 2010 and was used in various shows, such as the TV series, “The Vampire Diaries” and ”My Generation.” It was also included in the soundtrack of the movie, “The Vow” that was released in 2012.
“This Too Shall Pass” was written to encourage people who are burdened with extra weight. The message is that they have to let the burden go because it will soon pass, instead of letting it become something that would prevent them from enjoying their life.
The phrase, ”this too shall pass” is an old Persian proverb that discusses the temporary nature of the human condition and that what’s a burdening you now will be gone in the near future.
You can listen to this song, which has been translated into 18 languages right here:
2. Christmas Carol
When it comes to Christmas carols, the most translated is without a doubt, Silent Night. It has been translated into over 100 languages. The original song’s lyrics were written by Joseph Mohr, an assistant pastor from Austria. The music was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, an organist and choir director. The original title of the carol was Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht.
The first time the carol was heard was on Christmas Eve 1818 during the Midnight Mass at the St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf.
It was not known why the song was written by Pastor Mohr. Franz Gruber recalled that the organ builder, Karl Mauracher, who was servicing the church organ, fell in love with the song and requested to have a copy, which he brought to his home in Zillertal, Tyrol. Traveling folk singers from two families, the Rainers and the Strassers added Silent Night in their repertoire. The Rainers started singing the song in 1819 and performed it in front of an audience that included Russia’s Alexander I and Austria’s Franz I. They also brought the song to the United States and held its first performance in 1839 in New York City. In the succeeding years, many royalties, including Prussia’s Frederick William IV and other people in different parts of Europe were enamored by the song. The melody of Silent Night has a slight change in the 19th century, but that was it.
Due to the song touching different cultures worldwide, it was declared as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.
Here’s the original version of Silent Night:
Many Christian songs and hymns have become popular in recent years, such as Who Am I by Casting Crowns. However, Amazing Grace is a hymn that broke down so many boundaries. The hymn was written in 1779 by John Newton, a poet and clergyman from England. According to Jonathan Aitken, a biographer, he estimates that about 10 million performances of Amazing Grace are done each year. Amazing Grace has been translated into more than 50 languages.
The hymn was based on the personal experience of Newton, who did not have any strong religious belief when he was younger. But fate dealt him a lesson in 1748. At that time he was active in the slave trade in the Atlantic. A violent storm severely tossed their ship, the Greyhound and brought them off the coast of Donegal, a county in Ireland. They were stranded on the ship for about two weeks. He called to God to save him, which started his religious conversion. He continued his slave trading for another six or seven years before he devoted his time to studying theology.
Newton was ordained in 1764 in the Church of England and started to write hymns together with William Cowper, a hymnodist (hymnist) and poet. Amazing Grace started as a New Year’s Day sermon in 1773. The congregation supposedly chanted it. The verses were eventually published in 1799 in the Olney Hymns of Newton and Cowper.
Most of the verses that Newton wrote were about faith and salvation, the love he had for Jesus, the wonder of the grace of God and the joy he felt when he finally found his faith.
Although the hymn was created in England, it became more popular in the United States, where it was extensively used in the Second Great Awakening.
Its message is simple: even if you committed grave sins, God will always forgive and redeem you because God is merciful.
This is a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace in English.
Here is Amazing Grace is other languages, including Inuit, French, Russian, Cherokee, German, Spanish and English.
4. Children’s Song
Songs used in Disney films are often created specifically for a particular film, which is why they are copyrighted for intellectual property protection. But there is one exception and it’s called, It’s a Small World (After All). The request that the song be free from copyright was made by UNICEF. It was delegated to be a gift to children worldwide. The Sherman Brothers wrote the song in 1963.
The working title of the Disney attraction for which the song was intended was “Children of the World.” Apparently Walt Disney was talking with his staff songwriters, the Sherman Brothers and expressing his need for a song that could be easily translated into different languages and could be played repeatedly. The Cuban Missile Crisis was just over at that time and the Sherman Brothers came up with the song, It’s a Small World (After All), which also became the name of the Disney attraction.
Initial recordings were done by a London church choir, TV performers from Mexico City, a chorus from a Roman school and children from California and Tokyo. It has been translated into 25 languages.
5. Birthday Song
In 1998 the Guinness Book of World Records said that the song, Happy Birthday to You is the most recognized song in English. A Louisville, Kentucky kindergarten principal, Patty Hill and her sister, Mildred based the melody on the song called Good Morning to All. They wrote the song in 1893 and it was first mentioned in 1901. In 1912, it saw its first printing. It received its copyright in 1935. Happy Birthday to You earns royalty worth $700 annually. The copyright expired in 2010 and while there were parties that claimed that they owned the copyright to the song, a federal judge ruled in 2015 that the copyright claim is invalid and the song is now in the public domain.
Happy Birthday to You has been translated into more than 30 languages.
6. Folk Song
Anak is a Filipino song written by folk singer Freddie Aguilar. It translates to either a daughter or son. In the inaugural Metropop Song Festival in Manila in 1977, Anak became a finalist. The Filipino family values are the focus of the song, which talks of a child who was carefully reared by the parents, only to lose his way when he got older. It is based on the life story of Freddie Aguilar, who composed the song with Elmer Estrera. After leaving home for several years and committing many mistakes in his adult life, he went back home and ask for their forgiveness, and the song was his way to express remorse to his parents and show regret for his earlier actions. As of 2015 it has been translated into 27 languages and released in 56 countries around the world. It was featured in the South Korean film, Gangnam Blues.
Here’s the original version of Anak:
Listen to the Malaysian version of Anak here:
When translating songs, translators have to sacrifice the authentic meaning of the lyrics so that the song could be sung in other languages. In some cases, parts of the lyrics have to be omitted.
You do not have to sweat it out to translate a song so you can understand or sing it. Let the expert translators of Day Translations, Inc. do the job for you. Our translators are all native speakers and they are located around the world to serve you night or day. It you have songs you wish to translate or other literary works in foreign languages that you wish to enjoy, call us. We are always open, so give us a call at your convenience at 1-800-969-6853. You can also send us an email at Contact us.