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Thread: Foreign Languages

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    Junior Member TennysonsHarp's Avatar
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    Default Foreign Languages

    I figured that this would be relevant to the Vocal Music section, since to be a classical singer you have to know at least two or three extra languages.

    To all the vocalists out there: how many languages do you all speak? I took four years of French in high school, and I taught myself some German, some Italian, some Spanish, and I'm working on Japanese right now. How different is a sung language from a spoken one? I've noticed some things that French singers do that don't appear in everyday spoken French. For example, a lot of French singers roll their Rs and pronounce every ending syllable instead of eliding them.

    What do you think?

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    I agree that having a good command of languages is essential, there is nothing so jarring as a singer who mispronounces words, or even makes amusing grammatical errors. I know English, Spanish and German well, & can understand Italian, Portuguese & French, although my pronunciation is not great in the last 3. I regret that I never attempted any Sibelius Lieder (Finnish or Swedish) when I used to sing, although he did write a few songs with German text.

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    Besides English I have a degree in French and German, basic conversational Italian and Maltese, and a little bit of emergency Dutch. I sing in a choir and find that pronunciation of English words can be affected (there's sometimes a need to make it clearer) by the exigencies of performing, so it's perhaps not surprising that the same would be true of other languages.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Animal the Drummer View Post
    Besides English I have a degree in French and German, basic conversational Italian and Maltese, and a little bit of emergency Dutch. I sing in a choir and find that pronunciation of English words can be affected (there's sometimes a need to make it clearer) by the exigencies of performing, so it's perhaps not surprising that the same would be true of other languages.
    Made me smile, sorry.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I would class all my language skills as 'emergency'. Even my English is poor but I am a Mancunian. Could you imagine any opera sang in Mancunian?
    Last edited by Merl; May-09-2017 at 18:45.

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    As a Scouser I'd rather not, if you don't mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Animal the Drummer View Post
    Besides English I have a degree in French and German, basic conversational Italian and Maltese, and a little bit of emergency Dutch. I sing in a choir and find that pronunciation of English words can be affected (there's sometimes a need to make it clearer) by the exigencies of performing, so it's perhaps not surprising that the same would be true of other languages.
    Alstublieft / dank u wel / Waar is het toilet?
    That kind of things?
    Please / thanks , where's the loo.

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    Senior Member Star's Avatar
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    One thing amazes me about the scale of opera singers is their ability in languages.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pugg View Post
    Alstublieft / dank u wel / Waar is het toilet?
    That kind of things?
    Please / thanks , where's the loo.
    Exactly, mijnheer.

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    Senior Member Bix's Avatar
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    As a singer I have sang in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, old church slavonic with a Russian bent, old church slavonic with a Czech bent, Latin pronounced from an English perspective / an Italian perspective and a German perspective.

    Beyond these I can speak small amounts of Dutch, Portuguese, Croatian, Farsi, Arabic, Hindi, Gujarati, Swedish, Irish Gaelic, Scots Gaelic and Welsh.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Star View Post
    One thing amazes me about the scale of opera singers is their ability in languages.
    Some of them singing phonetic.
    ( art an sigh)

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    I was brought up bilingual in Welsh and English, which made it fairly easy for me to pick up other languages; the Welsh/English combo certainly gave me an arsenal of phonemes that can be deployed in most linguistic situations

    I certainly enjoy languages. I studied French at school, and I taught myself German by singing/listening to Lieder and German opera, as well as (latterly) watching German documentaries on YouTube and subscribing to German newspaper apps on my phone. My German friends, incidentally, refuse to believe that I never had a formal German lesson in my life - but I really haven't!

    Apart from that, my spoken Italian is patchy, but I understand spoken/written Italian reasonably well, and my sung Italian is good. I've rote-learned one or two Russian arias in the past, with a Russian teacher friend helping me with my diction. Outside those arias, I can neither read nor understand Russian, but I've been told I make a convincing sound

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    So, I have always had a good ear for music and languages, which I believe in the case of many musicians / singers is the same set of wires. (And maths, too, but that's a different discussion.) I studied four years of Spanish and never forgot it (that good ear thing again -- it also helps to be an excellent speller, as you begin to recognize cognates in other languages). Then I took intensive Russian in college and began singing with the Yale Russian Chorus (which I do to this day). When I changed majors from math to music I took two years of French. In my career (I quit trying to "make it" as a professional singer around age 35, with only moderate success) I picked up some Portuguese, and I learned Italian pretty well for a long trip last summer (although I sang much Italian opera for many years and obviously learned a lot, I had never just *spoken* Italian before). Singing Latin, either High Church or Vulgate, is easy after all those Romance languages. I've sung a bit of Czech and Welsh and speak bare essentials in those. As far as *speaking* languages, I would say I have varying degrees of fluency in Spanish, Italian, French, German, Russian, and Portuguese besides my native tongue of English. I don't think this is at all extraordinary among people who have sung opera or been around it for much of their lives.



    Kind regards,

    George

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    Senior Member Il_Penseroso's Avatar
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    Is there any thread on TC so we could help each other in translating Librettos, Lieder, Poems set into the music in different languages?

    I got a poem written in Nynorsk and need an immediate help in literal translation...
    Tutto nel mondo è burla

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    The thread's a good idea (why don't you start one?) but you might also want to try the Liedernet site for the poem you mention. Good luck.

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