Singing in a Foreign Language - dummies

By Pamelia S. Phillips

Singing a song in another language doesn’t let you off the hook with your responsibilities as an actor. You want to know exactly what’s happening in each phrase so you can deliver each word with conviction.

  • Create a word-for-word translation. The first step is to look up each word so you know exactly what you’re saying. It’s tough to find the operative word in the line if you aren’t sure what half of the words mean.

    When you find the definition for each word, create a paraphrased version of the text in English. If the word-for-word translation turns out to be, “To you with love I only,” you can paraphrase to “I love only you,” which makes perfect sense.

  • Compare the word-for-word translation with a paraphrased version of the text. You may find the paraphrased version on the copy of your song underneath the foreign-language text. Remember that you can’t really commit to the paraphrase until you know which word means what in the original language.

    Sometimes the poetic translation underneath the original text has little to do with the original meaning of the poem. Always do your own translation as well, just to check.

  • Practice speaking the word-for-word translation in English, the paraphrase in English, and the text in the foreign language. After you do all your homework, you want to work the text as a monologue, both in English and in the foreign language.

    The operative words in the English language may not be in the same order as in the foreign language. Strive to be a great actor and singer, regardless of the language or style of music.

Some of the newer books being published for classical songs or songs from operas, called arias, include word-for-word translations and paraphrases of the text. If you want to sink your teeth into the language, get a good dictionary with a pronunciation guide as well as the definitions of the words.

If you buy the dictionary with the pronunciation guide, you save yourself so much time looking up the diction rules. You can also consult numerous websites for translating text.