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Cultural and Language differences

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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
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Writing is certainly influenced by cultural norms, mores, your upbringing, beliefs, etc.

With that in mind, I'd like to ask a couple of questions to those of you who speak English as a second language.

Do you think that your writing in English adequately translates those concepts and influences mentioned above?

Do you ever feel that you can't translate an underlying feeling from one to the other?

Do you ever think that some thought you are trying to put on paper just won't be understood because of cultural differences?

When you think of lyrics for an English language song, do you think in English or translate in your head?

thanks...


   
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(@jonsi)
Estimable Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 128
 

Writing is certainly influenced by cultural norms, mores, your upbringing, beliefs, etc.

English is my second language, but I still consider it MY language. I'm not raised on a cultural island where everyone speaks swedish all the time. Nearly all music I listen to have english lyrics, the movies are in english, a lot of literature I read is in english and so forth. Therefore is english a part of my upbringing too.

As a matter of fact I deal with english more than swedish some days. I'm not sure I like it.

I write in swedish sometimes, but it's harder. I don't know why. It's sad, I wish I allways wrote swedish lyrics, because I handle the swedish language really well. But this far I've only finnished one swedish lyric, in a couple of years. And sure, it's a lot better than my english ones - at least if you just care for how well I use the words - but still, they don't come easy.

Every time I sit down and write a lyric I want to write a happy one in swedish, but nearly everytime I write a sad one in english instead, because all the singing voices I hear in my head is in english.
Do you think that your writing in English adequately translates those concepts and influences mentioned above?

Yes, with some exceptions - It's not easy to use place names and holidays like midsommar.
Do you ever feel that you can't translate an underlying feeling from one to the other?

I strongly believe 'pain' feels the same as 'smärta'. But at the same time, some words are more hard to use - like love. "To love" is "att älska" in swedish. But it's not exactly the same. "Att älska" is a little bit stronger in swedish, for instance I've never told anyone "Jag älskar dig" ("I love you") and right now I can't think of any swedish lyric that use that sentence.
Do you ever think that some thought you are trying to put on paper just won't be understood because of cultural differences?

Yes, and therefore I often give up and hope I'll be able to use it in a swedish lyric in the future.
When you think of lyrics for an English language song, do you think in English or translate in your head?

I don't translate it. If the lyrics would have come to me in swedish I would have written them in swedish.

A lot of swedish artists only write lyrics in english, because it's a language which influences our life. In earlier days a lot of swedes wrote in german and frensh. Swedish is as expressive as english, frensh or german, but it seems to be a part of the swedish culture to write in other languages.

It's a struggle, I don't know why we do it, but we do it. We might sound stupid and write strange lines, but we still do it. We might pronounce words strange, like our fellow scandinavian Björk, but frankly I don't care.

Since you who speak english have invaded our cultural territory it's your responsibility to guide us in our struggle with your stupid language. =)


   
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(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5349
 

Do you think that your writing in English adequately translates those concepts and influences mentioned above?

I think that, regardless of how much one masters the second language, you'll always keep 'phrasing' sentences as if it is your own language. And when translated this 'motherlanguage' part of the text is lost on native english listeners, which could cause misunderstandings.
Do you ever feel that you can't translate an underlying feeling from one to the other?

Yes. I can name all emotions in English, but finding ways to describe it are far less powerfull in the second language. Besides, it is more hollow to a certain extent. "I love you." means far less to me then the Dutch "Ik hou van je.". [edit: as Jonsi also says above] There's always this tiny barrier bewteen your mind and the second language.
Do you ever think that some thought you are trying to put on paper just won't be understood because of cultural differences?

Most people here are from the western world, where cultural differences aren't as big. I'm not too afraid for this here on GN.
When you think of lyrics for an English language song, do you think in English or translate in your head?

Usually the idea of rough story is in Dutch, then I hum, mumble, talk and sing over some melody I've came up with in English. But it is *not* truly without any influence of Dutch. Often when I really read my lyrics over I see that I've used common Dutch sentences directly translated to English.


   
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(@jonsi)
Estimable Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 128
 

Most people here are from the western world, where cultural differences aren't as big. I'm not too afraid for this here on GN.

It's more the symbols that differs, like names on the shops, brands and stuff. And sometimes they don't work i an english lyric.

By the way, I use this forum as way to discover mistakes I do due to the language barrier - it's not an ideal use. My dream is to somehow cooperate with someone that speak english as a native tounge. I just don't know what I can offer in return. Is there someone who struggles with swedish lyrics? Not? Well, I thought so...


   
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