Sing!

Pardon the interruption to your regularly-scheduled programming, but it’s spring! And I must have spring fever, because all I want to do is go around singing.

In all seriousness, I wanted to share with you my absolute best getting-the-interpreting-juices going trick, something that I’ve never heard anyone else recommend. Something you probably do all the time, but never thought to use as a warm-up. Allow me to, as usual, introduce my friends the Muppets (or, in this case, some human residents of Sesame Street).

Sing! – Sesame Street 1971

Now that we’re back in 2012 (that episode dates from 1971; I believe it may be the first time the song was ever performed on Sesame Street, and how nice that it’s in a bilingual version!), I am actually being 100% serious when I tell you that you should sing along with the radio or a CD to warm up for interpreting.

Specifically, find an artist whose songs tell clear, coherent stories without a lot of repetitions, using a lot of high-falutin’ language and word play. Folk, country, and soft rock are good for this (sorry, reggaeton fans). In Spanish, I like Ricardo Arjona, José Luis Perales, and Silvio Rodríguez. In English, Billy Joel, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, and the Barenaked Ladies (if you haven’t heard of them, they’re an all-male Canadian pop group known for fast, clever lyrics). Obviously my Spanish repertoire could stand to improve!

In any case, if your voice is like mine, I recommend singing in the car on your way to an assignment … with the windows closed. (If you can actually carry a tune, feel free to open them.) Really belt it out (not enough to damage your throat, of course!). My totally unscientific, anecdotal evidence suggests that singing along with such music (especially in your B language) offers many advantages:

  • It gets you thinking in the language you’re singing in.
  • It brings complex language and grammatical structures to the tip of your brain, to be pulled out when you need them under pressure.
  • It physically warms up your mouth and vocal apparatus.
  • Following along with a pleasing rhythm will make the pacing of your speech more pleasant for your listener.
  • And most important, especially if you’re an introvert, singing along enthusiastically will get you over your stage fright.

So, try it out next time you need to get in the right frame of mind for a complex assignment. It’s more fun than shadowing or going back over the same interpreting exercises you’ve memorized by now. (Neither of which you should ever, ever, ever do in the car.)

What artists do you think would be good to sing along with in your working languages? Who should I add to my warm-up lists?

No Comments
  • Jennifer De La Cruz
    Posted at 02:05h, 12 May Reply

    What a fun piece! I tried singing on the way to work today and was surprised as to how raspy my voice was in the morning hours.

    I do always try to avoid straining my voice when I’m going to be doing a lot of long hearings or trials, so there’s definitely a lot to be said for how we get our voices warmed up.

    A colleague of mine strained her voice over the weekend and was miserable in court for the first few days of the week. Laryngitis is not easy to get over, that much I know. 🙂

  • Gio
    Posted at 09:51h, 12 May Reply

    I am having issues with GERD (acid reflux). It is affecting my ability to speak for long periods of time, even my breathing is compromised. I have noticed that the longer a go without speaking, the harder it is when I do start speaking.

    I love the idea of singing as a warm up, specially if no one else will be listening.

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