Monday, November 29, 2010

Let It Be Me

In class today, my students each made a Coat of Arms that described themselves. I made the point to my international students, from China, Korea, and Vietnam, that they may use their native tongue as long as they translated into English so all of us can understand. Often I good naturedly accuse them of writing something like "Coach Hawley is a jerk" on these pieces of art for my wall- they always laughingly deny it. Sometimes things get lost in translation as we will see in this entry from November 15, 2007.

It's been stuck in my mind for days now. Do you ever have songs you find yourself singing all the time? My current play list consists of one tune. Let It Be Me was a big hit twice in the 1960's. The Everly Brothers, Phil and Don, took it into the top ten on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1960. Four years later, the duet of Jerry Butler and Betty Everett landed their version at number one on the Billboard R + B charts. I've seen the clips of Jerry Butler-Betty Everett on the TIME-LIFE Soul Music infomercial and that must have started the mental loop for me. It is such a haunting and simple love song, combining beautiful harmonies and lyrics. Last night, I Googled the song out of curiosity. As usual with the Internet, I found more than I expected. Let It Be Me was originally written in French in 1955, a collaboration between Gilbert Becaud, Mann Curtis and Pierre Delanoe, and was entitled Je T'Appartiens. Curious to what it looked like in the original language, I found a website posting the French lyrics. There was a toolbar inscribed Translate This Page so I did. What I discovered from the website was that the original bears zero resemblance to the song that proved so popular in the US. Compare the two:

Let It Be Me (verse 1)
I bless the day I found you
I want to stay around you
And so I beg you
Let it be me

Je T'Appartiens (verse 1)
Often I think
May your immense
Palace of silence
You have to be well

Admittedly, I'm not bilingual so I could never translate anything from one language to another. That being said, I can't find one line in Je T'Appartiens that remotely resembles Let It Be Me. When we memorize A Mighty Fortress Is Our God in my 8th grade classes, I make the point that this well-known hymn was written in German by Martin Luther and translated into English. We sing A Mighty Fortress in our Chinese worship services and I would wager that it was translated from English and not the original German. How close to the original do you think the Mandarin Fortress is? It would take someone who is fluent in both German and Chinese to determine and I know no one who fits that description. Even in the same language, things get changed in the telling, don't they? Innocent stuff loses its innocence. Words are misrepresented, either intentionally or unintentionally. The byproducts are anger, confusion, revenge......the works of Satan. James speaks of praise and cursing coming from the same mouth in his epistle. He should have been a school teacher! We witness the tears that flow from words that have been repeated... or reinterpreted....or revised. In Psalm 56:5, David agonizes as he accuses his enemies of twisting his words. They meant to harm Israel's king by spinning his thoughts to their own advantage. They spoke the same language but not the same truth. We don't have to be bilingual to mess up a translation. We just have to be careless, or heartless....or both.

Applicable quote of the day:
"It as impossible to translate poetry as it is to translate music."

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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