And no, I don't mean Pitbull saying "Uno, dos, tre, quattro".

I'm wondering if there have been any instances of songwriters writing most or all of the lyrics to an original song in a language or dialect they aren't fluent in, perhaps even an extinct one. They don't necessarily have to be the singer, though.

Aside from Pitbull, I don't need any suggestions for non-Black rappers using AAVE. Sorry, Vanilla Ice fans.

Ideally, there should be at least 50 words in the foreign language per song.

Any suggestions from the music fans?

  • 1
    An interesting question, but it is difficult to imagine a songwriter composing in a language they are not fluent in (for a reasonable definition of fluency).
    – user3955
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 6:50
  • 2
    The closest that I can offer is Sanskrit: it's improper to call it a dead language, but it's not really spoken in the sense of two people having a conversation (except in a unique village in India), but it's the language of many shlokas that are chanted even today in many households. So, if a musician composes in Sanskrit then that might fit your criteria, but I don't know if it's what you're looking for.
    – user3955
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 10:40
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    @Brahadeesh Sanskrit is a cool language, but do you have any examples of musicians composing in Sanskrit if they aren't from the one village that speaks it? Commented May 21, 2020 at 13:10
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    Yes, I can list many Indian classical music composers, even contemporary ones (and not from that village), with compositions in Sanskrit. Let me know if you'd like me to make an answer along those lines :)
    – user3955
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 14:19
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    @Brahadeesh Please feel free! Also, in response to your first comment, in Grade 9 I had to write a short song/poem in French and I could hardly have been called fluent. Commented May 21, 2020 at 14:21

7 Answers 7


The Police: Hungry for You (J'aurais Toujours Faim De Toi). Written mostly in French, apparently with the help of Trudie Styler, with whom Sting was having an affair at the time.

Reference: https://www.songfacts.com/facts/the-police/hungry-for-you-jaurais-toujours-faim-de-toi

  • 1
    Yes! The Police are great! Any idea why he wrote it in French? Was it simply because it's a "romantic language"? Doesn't seem to say in the link. Commented May 21, 2020 at 18:49
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    Sorry. Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe he just thought it was cool and sexy? I immediately thought of this song when I read your question but I thought maybe Sting spoke French (although his French doesn't sound very French to me). The linked post indicated otherwise, so I posted my answer.
    – jrw32982
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 23:37

Expanding my comment above into an answer as requested by the OP.

This is an interesting question! The closest that I can offer is: Sanskrit. It's not really spoken any more in the sense of people carrying conversations in it (except in a unique village in India). It is, however, the language of many shlokas that are chanted even today in many households, so it's improper to call it a dead language. Though it doesn't fit the letter of your question, I believe it does fit the spirit.

There are many composers in the tradition of Indian classical music with compositions in Sanskrit. A tiny list of them follows:

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    That is really amazing! It's hard to imagine composing 400 songs in English, let alone other languages. Thanks for sharing! Commented May 22, 2020 at 11:08

Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones of course) - (Si Si) Je Suis un Rock Star (1981) - Has various parts in French, and looking at the quality of those parts it's very hard to believe Mr Wyman is fluent!

Je suis un rock star
Je avais un residence
Je habiter la
A la south of France

Voulez vous
Partir with me?
And come and rester la
With me in France

In fact earlier in the song, he has a bash at Portuguese as well! Making this perhaps the only song written in TWO languages the author does not speak!

We danced to the music
At the Mardi-Gras
Then jumped on the Concorde
You're so lah-di-dah
Si, si
Si, si
Si, si

"Lah-di-dah" by the way is pure Cockney, so counts as three?! ;)

During research I found out he wrote it for Ian Dury - which makes perfect sense listening to it! He claims to have reluctantly recorded himself in "Cockney French" - Source

PS. Bonus points for "California Über Alles"? Just how many words does there have to be in this game?

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    Not quite what I had in mind, but that's hilarious. As to how many words there should be, I'd say at least 50 words in the foreign language. Commented May 22, 2020 at 2:51

As requested by the OP and with due respect to @Brahadeesh for making me think of it....

In the 1990's, British band Kula Shaker had a number of hits that were written with a substantial part of the lyrics in Sanskrit. Apparently, frontman Crispian Mills was somewhat obsessed with Indian culture.

Two of their 1996 Top 10 hits were called "Tattva" and "Govinder", which, for any non-English-speakers, are NOT English words!

Their album, "K" went to number 1 in the UK.


A number of Swedish songwriters have made it big writing English-language pop songs, despite it not being their native language --sometimes with odd results.

One of my favorite groups, Roxette, became international stars on the back of a song that songwriter Per Gessle later admitted was made up of nonsense English phrases made up to fit the rhythm.

A few years later, their countrymen Ace of Base made it big with the decidedly non-idiomatic, but indelible lyric "all that she wants is another baby."


German guitarist Farin Urlaub has recorded the song "Saudade" which is written completely in Portugese which is not his mother tongue.

Maybe a pretty exotic example: German punk singer Jens Rachut released a EP with his band Dackelblut where they have translated four of their songs to Japanese. So while he is singing in Japanese it probably cannot be completely understood by Japanese people as he does not really speak this language.


Sigur Rós has a song on their debut album that's written in a made-up language. Since I couldn't tell it apart from Icelandic, I don't know (and the source where I read that didn't say) which song it was.

  • Hopelandic (or Vonlenska). Was thinking about this as well as the question popped up (because of your answer), but since Jónsi made it up, it can be argued that if there is anyone fluent in it, it is him :)
    – Joachim
    Commented Mar 18 at 21:08

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