Its name means “slowly”; however, the rise of “Despacito” has been anything but.
The Spanish hit by Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi, featuring Justin Bieber, has been dubbed “the song of the summer,” holding on to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard for nearly three months straight.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called music “the universal language of mankind,” and it’s easy to see why. “Despacito” represents the first time a mostly Spanish-language song has had this much popularity in America since the Macarena over 20 years ago.
Whether you can’t get enough of it or you can’t stand to hear it for the tenth time today, you certainly can’t ignore it.
So why not embrace it? Here’s why we’re happy when a Spanish-language song like “Despacito” has made its way into popular culture.
It Sparks Interest in Learning Another Language
People who may not remember much from Spanish class will take the time to teach themselves the lyrics to a catchy song like “Despacito.”
Language education apps like Duolingo and Babbel have been growing in popularity; each had over 100,000 downloads as of July 2017. While it’s impossible to know for certain, it’s possible some of them were people inspired to learn basic phrases or take a refresher course after hearing the song.
It Shows Us the Importance of Human Interpretation
Any popular song brings about a flurry of spin-offs and spoof videos. “Despacito” brought us a three-minute video that summed up the importance of human interpretation.
In the video, a robotic voice translates in English, “Step by step. Gentle soft. We are stuck a little bit by bit.”
While most of the translation is accurate in terms of relaying the literal meaning of each word, Google Translate misses some of the intended meaning. This is a common issue with using machine interpreting. It only translates individual words, while a professional interpreter takes into account the overall meaning of what someone communicates, as well as the speaker or writer’s intention. Professional interpreters are also more cognizant of cultural nuances and comprehension compared to a translation or interpretation app.
It Reminds Us of Our Country’s Diverse Demographics
The fact that a Spanish song surged to the top of the charts in America shouldn’t surprise anyone. In many ways, it’s a reflection of the changing face of America. The Hispanic population accounted for more than half of all population growth in the United States between 2000 and 2014, according to Pew Research.
This shift and other population trends have led to an increased need for language services. Consider that 40 million U.S. residents said they spoke Spanish at home in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 40 percent of that group said they spoke English “less than well.” As a language services provider, we see this as a tremendous opportunity to facilitate greater understanding through communication.
As our country’s population becomes more diverse, we can expect to see a greater need for language interpreting and translation services. And we can expect to hear more songs like “Despacito” to make their way onto our radio stations—and into our heads.