Photo by Megan Williams
From English to Spanish to Italian to French to Arabic — switching between five languages might be tough for some, but for first-year Leilani Frailich, these languages inspire creativity.
Frailich is a Political Science and Psychology double major on the pre-law track, who grew up speaking both Spanish and English. Her multicultural household, consisting of Mexican, Jewish and Arabic backgrounds, shaped her upbringing. Frailich’s wish to learn her family’s languages transformed into the desire to incorporate those languages into her musical performances.
“I try to intertwine music within my language and culture,” Frailich said. “And that’s pretty much what really encouraged me to pursue singing in multiple languages.”
Frailich, who speaks Spanish fluently and French as a second language, began performing mainly in English. She started out performing in front of friends and family and now sings at Pepperdine’s Coffeehouse.
One pivotal moment where Frailich began to diversify her performances was when she decided to sing the song “La Vie En Rose” in French, rather than in English, for her high school teacher who had cancer.
“It was an inspiring moment,” Frailich said. “So, I was like, ‘Oh, I’d love to recreate this with a happy memory and bring a whole new life to it.’”
The incorporation of different languages into Frailich’s performances created new opportunities for her as a singer-songwriter.
“I started out in Spanish, English and Italian, and little by little, I was like, ‘Oh, what if I were to add a French song to my resume or add something else that’s a little bit more diverse, like in Arabic,’” Frailich said. “I was thinking, ‘If I could sing in all of these, then maybe, I could start writing my own music in some of these languages too’ — and that’s what I started doing.”
When Frailich is writing music, she uses the pronunciation and phonetics of different languages to create the meaning and sound she is looking for.
“If I find something that rhymes in French and it sounds good together — it actually does — it just sounds more fluid than it would in English,” Frailich said. “I’ll typically put that down first and then I’ll add some English after or just something that would go with that. But I mainly prioritize writing French, and then seeing anything else that would work alongside that.”
When she first started singing in French, Frailich said she didn’t truly understand the words in the songs. Taking three years of French classes helped her appreciate the songs’ meanings.
“Understanding, now, after those years of studying it in class, I’m like, ‘Now I understand the meaning,’” Frailich said. “‘Now I can add emotion and now I could actually put the pieces together.’”
Frailich finds value in being multilingual and understanding other cultures.
“It’s really nice when you travel and you’re able to connect with those cultures and communicate,” Frailich said. “Even here in LA, a lot of the population speaks Spanish. It’s really nice to be able to understand different people’s points of view and what they’re trying to say.”
Email Jessica Wang: firstname.lastname@example.org