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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Writing in a translation #3 - Old and new technology (008)

Here we have the third article in a series on writing a translation into our score. If you missed the first two articles, you can find the first one here, and the second one here.

This article deals with the last two tools on our list: a language dictionary and a laptop.



Even if you have the most literal, precise, word-for-word translation on hand, you're still going to want a language dictionary nearby. These often have the title "German-English Dictionary" or similar, and for every German (or other language) word, they will provide English options, and vice versa. These can be really handy when using a line-by-line translation, so that you can match up a word on one side to its partner on the other side. The main advantage that a dictionary has over just a translation is that they usually give multiple ways to translate a single word.

Language is not math, and there is almost never a pure "this equals that" relationship between a word and its meaning. As you work with your starting translation, challenge it, and really seek to understand each word. I still use the paperback dictionaries that I got while in college. Admittedly, I should probably get some more up-to-date ones, since language is continually evolving, but I still keep going back and flipping through it when writing in a translation.
Sidebar: Something else that language dictionaries have: charts. These will be for those irregular verbs, pronouns, and indefinite and definite articles. If you can't translate something, it's probably in a chart.

You can, of course, use a laptop with Google Translate (translate.google.com) or Bing translate (bing.com/translator) open. Beware! Do not rely one these translators alone! Don't do this! Don't be a lazy singer who just types everything into a translator and takes what that system spits out, and write that into your score. Start with a starting translation like we talked about in the previous article, and use these tools to refine it. The best use for these online translators (this goes for smartphone apps, too) is the same as the language dictionary, to get alternatives. When you put in the foreign language text, you can put your mouse over a word and get different ways to translate that word. It's really cool, but only if you use it properly!
Sidebar: For a fun time, try typing a paragraph of text into a translator. Copy the result, reload the translator, and paste it into the translator to translate it back. Copy that result, reload the translator, and paste that one in. Repeat. Enjoy!

Now that we've assembled all our tools, it's time to start writing! Personally, I tend to write small and carefully, and I do it about ¼ to ¾ of an inch above the vocal staff. That leaves enough room for me to put in other markings, like breath marks, closer to the staff. Below the staff, where the original text is, there usually isn't enough room for hand-written text, and even if there is, I reserve that space for marking pronunciation reminders.

For an opera, you're going to have to do this for more than just your own voice part. Do this for every voice part, any time that you are on-stage. You have to know what other people are saying to be able to react appropriately. Going through and writing in the translation will expose those moments, for example, when your scene partner is having an aside (when she is talking to herself or in secret to a confidant), meaning, that's not the best time to be staring at her.

With the translation finished, we now have a score we can bring to a rehearsal or a lesson! If you're doing art song, give a copy of this score to your accompanist (assuming the pencil markings are legible when copied), so that she knows what you are saying, too.


That's pretty much it! I'm sure some of you out there have anecdotes that you'd like to share as well, so chime in and leave some comments! Got a disaster story of a translation that went very wrong? Share that too! And thanks for reading.


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