Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Lure of Music

In the far-off days when I was teaching English as a Second Language to French Canadians at the National Film Board in Montreal, I made a powerful discovery. It was really nothing new, but it was new to me; because in that era the fashion in North American TESOL was for boring, repetitious pattern drills. It was that the work which met with most success with my students was learning to sing current popular songs. I used My Fair Lady in the impeccable Received Pronunciation of Rex Harrison. Not only did the students, all sophisticated adults, enthusiastically absorb colloquial English by heart, but it gave them that all-important ingredient: motivation. Everybody has fun singing along. However, due to the colloquial register of the words and the phonetic deformations caused by fitting them to the music, non-natives often have great difficulty hearing and understanding them. Therefore they get a kick out of finally knowing what they are listening to.

I was reminded of this by the following report (with my emphasis).
“I am a 27 year-old with the double nationality French-Spanish. I have been translating professionally since 2011, but the first time I translated something was when I was a kid. My family from France came to Spain and needed an interpreter to follow them around. [This was, of course, language brokering.]

“Then I studied translation at the University of Murcia and I have my Master’s degree from the UAB [at Barcelona] on Audiovisual Translation.

“How did you decide to be a translator? What makes you so passionate about languages?

When I was 13 I heard a Bon Jovi song I loved very much, and I decided to translate it. I spoke no English whatsoever, but with the help of a dictionary I managed to ‘translate’ it, more or less. I liked it and started to do so with all his albums, the musical Grease, and many other songs. By the time I had to choose a career, I realized the career had already chosen me.”
Bon Jovi? A far cry from Rex Harrison. But it’s music.

Jovana. This career has chosen me – interview with translator Iris Permuy. Lingoio, 6 May, 2014. Click here or go to N.B. This link has been corrected.

There’s plenty of Bon Jovi on YouTube. Plenty of Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady too.

Iris Permuy. Source:

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