Projet Brassens lyrics and translations Dr. Ted Neather's notes on his approach to translating Brassens

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Dr. Ted Neather created the English translations of Georges Brassens' chansons on this website. He offers the following introduction.

"My aim is to convey meaning and not attempt poetry or song.

"Translating poetry is one of the most interesting, most challenging, most rewarding and most hopeless activities known to the linguist. All translation is an impossible act, managing only to approximate to the original language. And the greater the skill, the more transcendent the genius of the original writer, the more despairing must the translator feel. When that genius is concentrated into the marvellous mystery of the poem, where sound and rhyme and rhythm all conjoin to form an indissoluble unity, the translator knows he can only offer the slightest, the vaguest approximation.

"How impossible then to translate Brassens, who is not only a poet of incomparable richness but a writer who adds music to his verse, and so gives the translator a further dimension of difficulty. Despite all these reservations and the hopelessness of worthy achievement, there are translators who achieve marvels with their renderings of poetry and there are even fine translations of Brassens. I salute these toilers in the field of translation and I know I shall never aspire to more than a pedestrian rendering of meaning.

"And so the purpose of these poor efforts is not to imagine that they could ever convey a fraction of the power and meaning, the wit and wisdom of Brassens, but that for English-speaking listeners who love the songs, and who like listening to the French, these English versions might help to clarify some problems of meaning."

Dr. Ted Neather, October 2000 


Lake Paladru, Charavines

About Dr. Ted Neather
Dr. Neather is a founder member of Projet Brassens. After teaching French and German in schools, he became Adviser for Modern Languages to the Somerset Local Education Authority and then Director of Summer Schools at the Open University, before moving to Exeter where, until retirement, he was Senior Lecturer in Education.

During the Summer Semester 1992 he was Visiting Professor of Education at the University of Dresden.

He has lectured and written extensively on French, German and English education as well as on aspects of literature and language-teaching methodology. He was Chief Examiner for French and German with the Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate until 2000 and then Principal Examiner and an international trainer for Cambridge International Examinations.

He has served on numerous Government bodies concerned with the teaching and testing of foreign languages, has been Principal Scrutineer for German with QCA and is series editor for the CILT Advanced Pathfinder publications. He has worked as a BBC TV and radio consultant and presenter of foreign language teaching programmes.

Dr. Neather is a great admirer of Georges Brassens' work, which he recommends within French language teaching textbooks he has published with colleagues