Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Linguaphile - Lover of language

This is a rather impromptu post, however I said something in an early conversation today that I wanted to discuss here.

"In becoming a linguaphile I have become a lover of language."

This statement seems redundant I'm sure.  However let me explain what I mean.  One of the things that I am striving for in my journey of learning languages is to be able to have musical moments in which I find myself transcending language and music and finding a deeper connection.  I had this occur on Christmas eve while singing "Oh Holy Night" in the original French text.  While everyone thinks that the song is beautiful in English, it was only through my knowledge of French that I found the true beauty of the song hidden in the real text of the song.  My French is at a level where I no longer need to translate what I am reading or saying, I just intuitively know what I am saying or reading.  This enables one to experience the culture of thinking in the language you are using.  I have found it to be true that people who speak different languages see the world differently.  Let us take a look at the text of Oh Holy Night to see what I mean.  The order will be French (original), then a literal translation and then the sung English version.

Minuit, chretiens, c'est l'heure solenelle, ou l'Homme-Dieu descendit jusqu'a nous.
Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour, where the God-Man descends among us.
Oh holy night, the star is brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior's birth.

Pour effacer la tache originelle, et de son Pere arreter le courroux.
To erase the original stain, and to stop the wrath of his Father.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

Le monde entier tresaille d'esperance, a cette nuit qui lui donne un Sauveur.
The whole world trembles in hope, on this night which he gives a Savior.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Peuple a genoux, attends ta delivrance, Noel, Noel voici le Redempteur.
People on your knees, await  your deliverance, Noel, Noel, here is the Redemptor.
Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices, oh night divine, oh night when Christ is born, oh holy night.

For me, in performing the French version of this song I finally felt the true emotion of the piece and was free to perform it with the integrity it deserves.  I found the real text to be considerably more moving and inspiring and that was channeled through me as I was singing.  This is the real reason I learn languages, so that my performances may be truly genuine.  Because I know French at an intimate level, I was able to connect to the music.  My love of language grew tenfold that night, because I learned experientially that speaking a different language really does give one a new way of thinking about a topic.  Only through a thorough knowledge of the language one sings in can one truly give an informed and accurate performance.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

End of the Year Update and Next Year's Plans

LANGUAGE:  Well, the year is coming to an end and I think I can successfully say that I have accomplished my goal for French.  In my two reading test at the end of this year I have averaged a 97% comprehension rate.  I do have one more test planned for next week so I can have a three score average to more accurately rate my ability.  Additionally, I feel pretty comfortable in conversation in French and feel as though I can express myself pretty well.  I am very pleased with the last eight months of work in French.  Admittedly, I was not always as consistent in my work as I would have liked to be, but it provides me with goals for the coming year.

2012 brings in an entire year devoted to German for me.  My system will be similar to what I did for French, since it seems to have been the most effective for me.  This includes working through Michel Thomas, Assimil and LingQ on a daily basis during the work week, taking the weekends off from studying to allow things to work themselves out subconsciously.  In addition I will again be consulting my friend Ernest for conversational practice beginning early on in the process.  My goal for the coming year is to be more consistent in my studying - making sure that I get in all three phases of my work, five days a week.  Based on the results I saw with French after only eight months, I am hoping to be even farther along in German by this time next year with the extra four months of work.

MUSIC:  This has been an enlightening year for me musically.  I have grown much as a singer and artist, however I also encountered some setbacks that varied from minor annoyances to things that made me step back and think about what it is I am undertaking.  Overall I am better for all of my experiences as they have led me to discover new interests and paths in which I can explore my own artistry.

The most difficult part of this year was the culminating recital, my first as a tenor in nearly ten years.  I had some successes and some failures throughout the performance which I meant to talk about here but never got around to it until now.  The positives from the recital were that I made it through all of my repertoire without feeling fatigued at the end or ever really feeling in danger of cracking.  The negatives were that I never really loosened up during the entire performance and thus my singing came out pressed and my artistic performance suffered for it.  I blame these issues mostly on nerves from not singing that high in public in many years.  I remember as a baritone that I had similar issues for a number of years until I had enough performances and faith in my voice through performing that I no longer suffered from the fright. 

The other challenge this year has been that I do not feel I have progressed as much as I should have this year.  I take the sole blame for this and have already begun to plan how to address this issue in the coming year.

After my recital, I began to contemplate if this was really the field for me to focus on and began taking choral conducting lessons with the plan of going to grad school for choral conducting.  Much to my delight, I have found that I really enjoy the study of choral conducting and have found myself doing what I do when I become truly interested in something:  researching and absorbing as much information as I can about the subject.  Ultimately this has not pulled away from my desire to perform and performing is still my primary goal, but I am still considering a MM in choral conducting, since an MM in vocal performance is not necessary for my goals.


For the coming year I really need to focus on more directed, intensive practice.  Difficulties abound due to my schedule, namely that I work overnights, however I have to figure out ways to be more productive and push myself if I want to make my dreams realities.  It is a challenge only being able to have lessons once every couple of months, but I cannot let that be an excuse for my not progressing.  This year I truly have to take my fate in my own hands and constantly remind myself that achieving my goals is a responsibility that rests solely on my shoulders and nobody else.


I am looking forward to 2012!  I can already tell that it will be a year of great growth for me as a person and artist.  Highlights of the coming year include planning a recital for the fall and my wedding, as well as figuring out where I will be relocating to in 2013.  Have a happy holiday season and I will be back in January!