The Global Bridge: Overcoming Language Barriers in the Entertainment Industry 

The language barriers which once tied us to monolingual entertainment are starting to be overcome by a rising interest in international media and entertainment.

By: Julissa Castro-Ruiz / Matthew staff || Edited by Bronte Delmonico 

BTS made history by becoming the first South Korean Group to Sold Out Wembley Stadium in 2019 during their “Speak Yourself: Love Yourself” stadium tour. The two dates sold out 90 minutes after they went on sale. Photo By Arianna Zomparelli 

In the Summer of 2020, my grandmother and I will tune in every night from Monday to Friday to watch “Endless Love” also known as “Kara Sevda” in Turkish. Like my grandmother and I, hundreds across Latin America will also sit down weekly to watch the TV shows that have captured the hearts of many. While Turkish dramas had already been circulating in Latin America before Kara Sevda, this was the start of what will become a permanent presence of Turkish dramas being dubbed and streamed in Latin America by Spanish media giant Univision.   

“Amor Eterno” (Endless Love), the first Turkish show to win an International Emmy, broke audience records on Univision in 2020.”  

The market for Turkish dramas has grown both in Latin America and among Hispanic audiences in the United States, and Univision is now offering a new free channel called “Amor Turco” (Turkish Love) specifically dedicated to “dizi,” female-centric empowering shows.   

Growing up in Honduras, 99% of the entertainment media I consumed, whether it be music, movies, or TV shows, was mainly international. For me being exposed to other cultures wasn’t as rare as someone who lived in a country that had a strong entertainment industry. I grew up loving the stories and appreciating the different cultures featured in the media I watched and heard. For my family, movies from India, especially Bollywood, were house favorites. This is why we felt a certain pride to see them getting recognition at this year’s Oscars.   

“Naatu Naatu” the hit song from the Telugu-language film “RRR” made history at the 95th Academy Awards by becoming the first Indian film song to win the category of best original song. “Naatu Naatu” won against entertainment legends Lady Gaga and Rihanna. The song’s catchy tempo and intricate choreography reflect Indian production excellence, which has distinguished them around the world.   

Recently as I walked through Campo Di Fiore, I was surprised to stumble upon a BTS-themed café, Al Biscione Café. The cafe serves a drink in honor of one of the band’s members, Jimin. The café also organizes different events that celebrate the K-pop bands that are loved by Italian fans. The love for K-pop has become a global phenomenon. With BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan) being at the forefront of it. BTS is the World’s top artist, as stated by the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry). They are also the only artist in the IFPI top ten list that was a non-English act, surpassing artists like Taylor Swift and The Weekend. While their charisma, born talents, and work ethic propelled the South Korean band to global stardom, it is their fans’ translation Twitter accounts that have become a pillar for unity between the fandom and the band. Army, BTS fandom name, uses these fan-managed Twitter accounts to keep up with the content that doesn’t have a translation from Korean to other languages yet. When fans get a notification from Weverse Live, the platform on which the seven members have lives to talk with their fans, the Twitter translators Armys are quick to provide live translations so that no Army is left behind.   

Latin American entertainment, which I grew listening to, is also reaching a global scale, with artists from the region gaining No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and getting nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys. As stated by the Recording Industry Association of America, in the first half of 2022, Latin music recording reached $510 million in the US, setting a record, earning more than $1 billion at the end of 2022. Latin Artists experiment with different genres and add cultural elements to their records, which makes Latin music bring a fresh and unique voice to the Music industry.   

“I don’t think that pop culture really has borders or language barriers anymore,” said Jbeau Lewis of United Talent Agency, “I don’t know that a fan necessarily draws a distinction between BTS, Taylor Swift or Bad Bunny.”  

Mexican Telenovelas were also a boom that categorized Latin American pop culture. With a worldwide audience surpassing 2 billion, the dramatic, plot twist finals, and passionate romances are elements that made telenovelas popular worldwide. On different occasions, I have met with Italians that learned Spanish because of their love for Mexican telenovelas.   

It is safe to say that while, for many years, English was the predominant language, and still is, of the entertainment industry, the rise of international entertainment media was overdue.  

“When we turn on the tv or click play on our music and Netflix shows, we want something we can connect to, whether it be the character, storyline, or lyrics, there is this undeniable connection between the product and the consumer.”  

Streaming Services and social media are just some of the ways this globalized world is catering to the needs of the audience, creating global bridges. Media is one of the most useful soft power tools a country can use to launch itself in the international sphere, and with technology connecting us at a faster rate, the language barriers which once tied us to monolingual entertainment are starting to be overcome.