Off topic: Knowing the words of your own national anthem
Thread poster: Cilian O'Tuama

Cilian O'Tuama  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:56
German to English
+ ...
Aug 30, 2016

I'd guess that we Irish take top spot when it comes to neither knowing nor understanding the words of our own national anthem.

We all know the tune and can sing along for a bit, move our lips and pretend...

But our anthem is in a language only a small minority speaks. Probably a minority similar in size to that which speaks Latin.

Does any other nation have a similar dilemma?

Just wonderingicon_smile.gif


Chie. I  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:56
Member (2013)
English to Japanese
+ ...
ancient language Aug 31, 2016

we all speak the same language, but the anthem is written in ancient Japanese and not much people realize what it meant.


Andrea Diaz
Local time: 12:56
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mexico. Aug 31, 2016

I don't think we have the same problem in Mexico. The words are loud and clear, and even though some are difficult to understand, we learn what they mean during school. Part of my PE course in junior high was memorizing 14 stanzas of the Mexican anthem, knowing what it means, and reciting them back to the teacher.


Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:56
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
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Idiotic language Aug 31, 2016

That is exactly what our (Dutch) national anthem is. We are of German blood (the Nazi's loved that part), we honour the king of Spain (????) and it goes on like that in a total incomprehensive language for an odd 20 or 25 verses in a historical context the most of us don't understand anymore. It hardly says anything about the Netherlands.

Furthermore is the tune (not the words!) in Germany considered as a Nazi song (ask Heino, who recorded it a couple of years ago). Our national anthem! Time for a new one.

[Edited at 2016-08-31 21:44 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-09-01 08:39 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-09-01 08:40 GMT]


Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:56
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
God Save the Queen Sep 1, 2016

I'd guess that most Britons know the words of the FIRST verse of the British national anthem:

"God save our gracious Queen, etc.
.... Send her victorious, happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save our Queen".

But how many know the words of the somewhat un-PC second verse, now replaced by a seldom sung and much more OK (and duller) one?

"Oh, our Lord God, arise,
Scatter her enemies and let them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks.
On thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all".

[Edited at 2016-09-01 09:15 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-09-01 09:15 GMT]


Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:26
English to Hindi
+ ...
The Indian national anthem Sep 1, 2016

The Indian national anthem is in Bengali, a language which many Indians don't understand. But the national anthem itself is widely understood as it is in a Sanskritised version of Bengali. Sanskrit has a nation-wide presence in India and all Indian languages draw heavily from it. For example, about 75% of the vocabulary of Hindi is of Sanskrit origin. In the case of Bengali, it is probably higher. So there are many common words between Indian languages, which helps people get the gist of things, even when they don't speak a particular Indian language.

Another reason why the Indian national anthem is well understood across India is that it was also an anti-colonial statement which was used extensively in India's freedom struggle to rally people against the imperialists. So it has history behind it. Furthermore, it is written by Rabindranath Tagore, who is himself a cult-figure in India, somewhat like Shakespeare in England. This grand old man, who also won the Nobel prize for his poetry, was a one-man institution coming from a very illustrious family. At one time it was a fad in India to learn Bengali, just to be able to read Tagore's works in the original.

Since the British first gained a toe-hold in India in Bengal and made Calcutta (now Kolkata) their first imperial capital (which was later shifted to the traditional imperial capital, Delhi at the fag end of the British empire), Western influence flowed into the rest of India through the Bengali language. Many Western literary generes first appeared in Bengali, and then through Bengali spread to other Indian languages. In the early years of the last century, Bengal was a centre of a nation-wide renaissance which produced such great minds as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Ramkrishna Paramhans, Vivekananda, etc., who all had nation-wide following. This made Bengali a very popular language in India. At the time of Independence, there was even talk of making Bengali the national language of India, but the more extensive spread of Hindi, finally won.

Another interesting factoid about the Indian national anthem is that it is written by the same author who has written the national anthem of another country, viz., Bangladesh, whose national language is also Bengali. Perhaps Rabindranath Tagore is the only person in the world who has written the national anthems of two separate nations. But then, Bangladesh and India are no ordinary separate nations; they were but one, until colonial and imperial mechanisations separated them, as was the practice of retreating imperialists in many parts of the world - such as in Germany, Ireland, Vietnam, Korea, and many parts of the middle-east, all of which turned into strife-torn areas after the retreat of the colonials.

[Edited at 2016-09-01 08:23 GMT]


Cilian O'Tuama  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:56
German to English
+ ...
Most Irish don't even know the chorus! Sep 1, 2016

Hi Jenny,

I'm not talking about some obscure verse but the chorus, i.e. the part sung at sporting events.icon_smile.gif


Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:56
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Soldier boys Sep 3, 2016

Cilian O'Tuama wrote:

Hi Jenny,

I'm not talking about some obscure verse but the chorus, i.e. the part sung at sporting events.icon_smile.gif

"Soldier boys are we..."

Eh....that's it. Long live Ireland.


Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 19:56
English to Russian
+ ...
Russian/Soviet anthem Sep 3, 2016

The current national anthem of Russia is now in its fourth incarnation with the same music:
1. A version mentioning Stalin, used from 1944 until 1956.
2. No words at all, used from 1956 until 1977, when a new constitution was adopted and an anthem was to be mentioned in it.
3. A version about the upcoming victory of communism, used from 1977 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
4. A version used since 2000, when Putin & Co. pushed for restoration of the old Soviet anthem.
The funny part of it is that all the three versions of the words have been written by the same author, Sergey Mikhalkov, which earned him a reputation of a sycophant par excellence, and did not exactly instill respect for the anthem in the country's citizens.


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