The 5 Best Holiday Songs From Around the World To Learn Languages
One of the most enriching ways of learning a language is to delve into the cultural aspects of a country: Its history, its customs, its people, and of course… its music. Holiday songs are cheerful, family-friendly, and they provide lots of learning opportunities for students of all languages. While singing to their catchy tunes, you get to practice your pronunciation and you incorporate lots of vocabulary about love, spirituality, and hope. That is why, today, we are bringing you the best holiday songs from around the world!
1. French: Petit Papa Noel
Petit Papa Noel (“Little Father Christmas”) is one of the most cherished holiday songs in France. It’s a heartwarming story told from the perspective of a young girl who begs Santa Claus not to forget her toys on Christmas Eve. This is a fantastic song for advanced learners of French because it has lots of different grammatical structures. This verse, for example, is great for revising past and future tenses.
Le marchand de sable est passé
The Sandman has passed by,
Les enfants vont faire dodo
the children are going to sleep,
Et tu vas pouvoir commencer
and you will be able to start,
Avec ta hotte sur le dos
with your basket on your back,
Au son des cloches des églises
to the sound of the church bells,
Ta distribution de surprises
your distribution of surprises.
This one is also helpful if you want to see how imperative sentences are formed in French, as the impatient child uses lots of these to beg Santa to say one last prayer, and not to forget her little shoe. Play the whole video and see how to make both positive and negative imperatives!
2. Italian: Tu scendi dalla stelle
Written in the early 1700s, this is probably one of the oldest holiday songs ever written. Tu scendi dalla stelle means “You come down from the stars”, and it refers to the arrival of baby Jesus from a sky full of stars into our wintry but beautiful Earth. This deeply religious piece is wonderful for learning how interrogative sentences are structured in Italian. Just by comparing the original and translated lyrics below you can see that there are some differences in the way each language uses pronouns in questions.
Dolce amore del mio core,
Sweet love of my heart,
dove amore Ti trasportò?
Where did love carry You?
Notice how Italians place the pronoun before the verb, while English speakers do it at the end of the question. Isn’t it interesting to see how languages are so different and so alike at the same time? Listen to the full song to find out how Italians form other kinds of questions.
3. German: O du fröhliche
The title of this song means “O, you joyful,” and is about the birth of baby Jesus and the purpose of Christmas. The man who composed it, Johann Daniel Falk, had lost four of his seven children to typhoid fever, but instead of giving up on life, he founded a home for orphaned children and dedicated this heartfelt song to them.
O du fröhliche presents an interesting structure that seems devised for language learners. With four verses in which only the third line changes every time, its repetitiveness makes it a wonderful resource to practice pronunciation. Besides, it has a very slow tempo that is ideal for singing along.
O du fröhliche, o du selige,
O, you merry, O you blessed,
gnaden bringende Weihnachtszeit!
Bringing grace at Christmastime!
Welt ging verloren, Christ ist geboren:
Although its Christian themes might not appeal to all learners, this is a definitely great tune for beginner learners who want to practice diction.
4. Spanish: Abriendo puertas
Gloria Estefan is one of the best-known Cuban singers in the world. Her holiday song Abriendo puertas (“Opening Doors”) has become a classic in Latin America thanks to its simple but lively tune about reinventing yourself and making the most of new opportunities. Besides, Its energetic rhythm and optimistic message are the perfect matches for this holiday season. For Spanish learners, this song provides an exciting way to learn more about the use of gerunds, as the song is positively full of them. Take a look at the chorus:
Y vamos abriendo puertas
So we’re opening doors
Y vamos cerrando heridas
And we’re healing wounds
Porque en el año que llega
Because in this New Year
Vamos a vivir la vida
We’re going to live our lives.
Did you notice that the English “-ing” termination is “-ando” or “-endo” in Spanish? Listen to the complete lyrics and see how many of these you can find while soaking up its festive mood!
5. English and Spanish: Feliz Navidad
A bilingual holiday classic sung by Michael Bublé and Thalia sounds like a jackpot for both language and music lovers. Whether you are a Spanish speaker learning English or an English speaker learning Spanish, Feliz Navidad is one to add to your list. It’s catchy, it’s joyous, and it provides lots of room for learning.
I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas (Celebremos juntos la vida)
I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas (Y que viva la alegría)
I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas
From the bottom of my heart
In this song, Spanish learners will find lots of vocabulary related to feelings and celebration, like “alegría” and “celebremos”, while English learners can practice contractions such as “wanna” and idioms like “from the bottom of my heart”.
Needless to say, the songs listed above are just a few examples of how you can use music to learn the language of your choosing while getting into the Christmas spirit. With these holiday songs from around the world, you can practice grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation in a meaningful and entertaining way. Celebrate life and family while you sing along to these beautiful songs!
What Christmas carols do you sing in your country? Share them with us below! And if you want to see how much your language skills have improved after all that singing, you can take a free language level test on our website.