Lyrics in English: CD's only

Lyrics in Dutch: CD's and LP's

I am the fortunate Dutch-to-English translator commissioned by Folkcorn to translate the lyrics of all their songs into English. Quite a job. Not just because there are so many songs to go at but also because the language (archaic Dutch) can be deceptively difficult. Spelling can be a problem: old versions of Dutch go in for quite fantastically rich forms of spelling, sometimes making it necessary for me to attempt to speak the word out loud - which generally works. But not when you come up against an obsolete term! Folkcorn presented me with a wonderful (and expensive!) Middle-Dutch dictionary and I know that the band members will be ready to assist if I really come unstuck.

There are a couple of problems associated with a job of this kind. For instance: poetry or prose translation? I've opted for prose, since the songs do not have to be sung in English, the translations being mainly intended for listeners wanting to make sense of lyrics or for students of (Middle) Dutch. In any case, as a musician myself I dislike translations of songs for the purposes of singing: they rarely come up to scratch. Second question: 21st-century English or archaic? This mainly affects personal pronouns (is "you" to be translated as "thou", "thee" or "ye"?) and the verb forms ("thou dost" instead of "you do", "thou canst" instead of "you can", "he singeth" or "he doth sing" instead of "he sings", "thou singest" or "thou dost sing" instead of "you sing"? - to give a few examples). But then two problems arise: first, consistency in the language (my natural tongue is 20th/21st-century English) and, second, what is easier for the non-native English speaker. After some discussion between Laurens and myself it was decided to keep things as simple as possible: the archaic Dutch would be translated into modern English.

I used the word "problems" at the beginning of the previous paragraph. I think I meant "challenges", pleasant challenges. One of the rewards of working as a translator is that you are obliged to read the text super-extra-carefully, very deeply, attempting to get into the mind of the writer or composer. Which gives you a far greater understanding of the written word than you get simply by reading. And, of course, its great fun working on the lyrics of the songs researched and recorded by one of my favourite bands.

Visitors to this site are welcome to contact me with questions about the translations. My e-mail address is:

Michael Collins