I've been enjoying K-pop for 3 years and going. When I stumbled upon a good song I'd always look for translation of its lyric as part of my appreciation for the song.
My friend from high school (now a musician himself) thought otherwise. He stated once that music are meant to be enjoyed as it is because music is a universal language. Quoting from a Facebook reply on my timeline dated Dec 12, 2012:
If people needed to have English to understand music, then music has failed to communicate as they require the fall-back on lyrics to give the song meaning. good music doesn't need lyrics, emotions are after all conveyed through sound. K-pop consistently proves that, considering not everyone will know the lyrics but the dance moves and promises of good times in the videos pretty much compensate for that and to great effect, the same way a well-placed guitar pattern moves one to tears.I beg to differ with him.
What makes up a song? I'm satisfied if you can tell that a song has melody (the succession of sound pitch) and lyric (words). In the context of "music as a universal language", I am putting forth the argument that universality mostly applies to melody to convey emotions and ideas.
When it comes to K-pop, I enjoy my favourite artists' singing but I don't understand what are they singing because I don't know Korean. But I know roughly the mood of the song. Idol singers has so much more to do because they cannot neglect the importance of visuals. Consider the chorus of miss A's Goodbye Baby written in original Korean
Good bye, baby good byeTo make things better I used transliteration (changing the script it's written in), I can see the beauty of vowels and consonants but still don't understand what the song meant...
뒤돌아서 그대로 앞으로 가면 돼
아무런 말도 하지 말고 이대로 사라져 주는 거야
Baby good bye, good bye
Good bye baby, good byeFinally I understand what the girls of miss A meant after I got hold of the translated lyric in either English or Mandarin:
dwi doraseo geudaero apeuro gamyeon dwae
amureon maldo, haji malgo, idaero sarajyeo juneun geoya
Baby good bye, good bye
Good bye, baby good bye, turn around and go on
Just don’t say a word, disappear as it is, baby good bye, good bye
Or I happens to be watching Girl's Day's Female President MV. What are they really talking about in their song? The sexy dance moves might provide a clue but not until I got the song translated:
Girl's Day never fail in their communication through their piece Female President but at the receiving end, I don't get what they say without a copy of translation. If not for the translation, I am wondering why someone would name a song Female President out of the blue? Nope, they're not glorifying the current President of South Korea (who is a woman also).
If you happen to read/hear a language you don't know and understand (I must say this x1000), you still gotta acknowledge that information is still there. Just that you can't make sense of the info and in need of an aid. That's why subtitles are there whenever a foreign language line pops up, whenever you are in the movies.
I have not mentioned to you about the origin of lyrics right? Simply, lyrics have their roots in poetry.
So, listening to songs I don't understand equate to reading a poem I can make no sense of. No translation = the poetic beauty of a song is just simply inaccessible. Once you have the translation, instantly you can see literary devices and social commentary. The conversion of information works like magic.
Without translation I don't even know A Pink is expressing their care for me during my hard times in their newest piece NoNoNo. So can you say translation makes no difference for me to enjoy K-pop or not? Love has no meaning if I don't understand it :(
A song may sound nice in its original language but I won't know it fully until I understand the actual meaning of the song, in a large part is conveyed through lyrics. So if you don't speak the language, I'd encourage you to make the effort and look up for translation.
That leads to full appreciation. Otherwise a large part is held back.