Translation Toons

Music makes a day

of toil go smoother with or

without strong coffee


In my quiet periods recently, apart from installing and acquainting myself with another CAT tool (OmegaT) and other important daily translation stuff, I’ve been putting together some playlists on my tablet based on what I have in my vast and eclectic collection (while adding some more) which got me thinking ‘hmm which tunes here would be good for translators?’  And so a playlist was born.

Should you play music while you translate? It depends, I suppose, on how intense the work is and what it is and other factors.   You can always hold the music until your coffee/lunch time or for when you submit the work but I don’t think it’s too distracting to have something on in the background at a certain volume while you work. And it’s probably healthier than too much coffee.  Listening to these songs actually makes you get up and exercise too.

I have worked in silence a lot of the time with only the keyboard clicks working as a soundtrack and that’s fine too – it depends as I said – but you might as well just listen to something you like.  We have that advantage over people who work in offices or wherever (imagine if it is allowed but then you’re stuck listening to awful radio choices that you can’t bear – be it music or talk radio) so we should enjoy it.  Of course, we all try to be totally focused on the job at hand but sometimes other thoughts interfere with our train of thought.  It’s only natural. So why not allow uplifting music, sometimes with witty lyrics, into your day if you’ve the freedom to do so?

Instead of listing all of the tunes on my ever-growing playlist at once (too many of them), I’ll just list some of them for now, from various genres of music encompassing rock, pop, folk, classic, etc.  I’m also a big fan of certain film composers/film scores.

I’ll add more at a later date but for now:

Supergrass – Album: In it for the money – In it for the money

As most translators know with their feast and famine periods it’s not always about doing it for the money.   So, most of us are not in it for the money and that’s not meant to sound ‘noble’.

Panic! at the Disco – Pretty.Odd – We’re so starving

On the same note, starving translators and all that.  Nah, joking. We’re not starving I’m sure.

The Pixies – Doolittle – Here comes your man

Just a lively song and one of my favourites by The Pixies.

REM –Stand and We Walk – two of my REM favourites.

Johnny Cash – Best of Johnny Cash – Orange Blossom Special

Chosen more for the harmonica tune, which is really nice, than the lyrics about travelling on the holidays on a particular train, but anyway who doesn’t love a holiday?

Blind Boys of Alabama – Stand by Me and Higher Ground

Just really lovely songs. You have to remind yourself to take the higher ground when dealing with rude people at work or in life or dealing with people who may not stand by you (and are rude about it!). It’s no different in the translation world.  Note Stand by Me is not a version of Ben E. King’s Stand by Me (and used in the film score for Stand by Me) but another song entirely.

Chuck Berry – Pulp Fiction soundtrack – You never can tell

Because you can never tell what will happen next as a freelancer. It can be unpredictable.  Like life itself.

Royskopp – Melody AM – A Higher Place

Alexander Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel soundtrack (excellent film too):

  • Mr Moustafa
  • No Safe House
    and more …
    (lovely Mittel-European music)

Yann Tiersen – Amélie Soundtrack (another enjoyable film):

  • Les Deux Pianos
  • Evening Party (Soir de Fête)
  • Comptine d’un autre été : la démarche

(There’s a separate version of ‘Comptine …’ on this soundtrack too- Comptine d’un autre été: L’après-midi – but I prefer this one)

Ennio Morricone with various artists– various soundtracks, two of my top picks are:

  • Ad ogni costo – titoli
  • Cinema Paradiso – From American Sex Appeal to the First Fellini
    and more …

Simon Jeffes – Music for a Found Harmonium –  the performance by Kevin Burke et al from the Celtic Fiddle Festival is my favourite though most other versions of it are very good too.

Some classical pieces:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 222 in E flat, K.482:3. Allegro – Andante Cantabile – Tempo I

Franz Schubert – 4 Impromptus, Op.90, D.899: No. 4 in A Flat Major: Allegretto

Gustav Holst – The Planets, Op. 32/H.125: Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollities (Allegro giouoso)

Any piece with the word jollities in the title has got to be uplifting right?  (Allegro giouoso is joyful allegro I’m guessing from my limited Italian so we’re covered with the optimism) – such a great title.

Sergei Prokofiev – Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64/Act 1: Dance of the Knights

This last one is very dramatic and the most pulsating I guess. It might make you feel like you’re defying a challenging translation.

If you plan to check out these songs or pieces of classical music – if you don’ t already know them that is – I hope you enjoy them as much as I do … and that they don’t distract you too much of course.