The Language of Song

There is something about hearing a song you are very familiar with, sung in a language in which you are not.

The first time I heard “Amazing Grace” sung in Cherokee/Tsalagi, it brought me back to my childhood. My maternal grandfather knew every song in the Baptist hymnal, and would proudly and loudly sing them at will, whether those around wanted to hear them or not (he believed being in tune was optional).

Grandpa was also Eastern Cherokee. He was, through no fault of his own, not raised in the culture, but he never shied away from that nor any other part of his heritage.

He taught me to never be ashamed of where I come from and to love music as if both could be stripped away at any given moment… and that God hears songs as they come out of our hearts rather than from our lips.

Over the years this version of “Amazing Grace” has gone from being unfamiliar to comforting. It’s the first song that comes to mind on the rare, precious occasions when I get to sing a little one to sleep. If God chooses to bless me with my own children someday, I hope that they grow up knowing this as a familiar way to sing “Amazing Grace”… and that they know God loves and hears their song in every language.

The Cherokee-English translation of the lyrics is different from the traditional “Amazing Grace”:

God’s son
paid for us.
Now to Heaven He went
after paying for us.
Then He spoke
when He rose.
I’ll come a second time
He said when He spoke.
All the world will end
when He returns
We will all see Him
here the world over.
The righteous who live
He will come after
In heaven now always
in peace they will live.

**My pronunciation is not consistent with all Cherokee dialects, nor may it even be completely accurate. This is in no way meant to be disrespectful. This is simply how I learned to sing the song. Click here to listen to my recording of “Amazing Grace” in Tsalagi.

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