Category Archives: music

Wake me up – I mean really Wake me up. Or how, deep in the Anglobubble, language learning can be surprisingly motivating

Today I want to focus on a youtube sensation I have stumbled across that says a lot about how to motivate English-speaking teenagers to learn another language. I’ve quickly become addicted to the clips in question (taster clip below) and find them not only entertaining but intriguing and inspiring.

So here’s the back story:

Deep in the Anglobubble, kids whose first language is English have to learn a language till completion of secondary school. It’s a struggle. Many don’t like it – they don’t see the relevance and teaching methods tend to focus on the written form, rather than on interactive use of the language. Outcomes are poor, despite the apparent effort, and educators wring their hands at what to do (sound familiar?). At least languages education in this part of the Anglobubble is compulsory …..

A residential summer language school that needs to keep high school students busy and interested when it’s too wet outside to do anything in the breaks decides to do something different. The lightbulb idea is to translate the lyrics of famous pop songs in English into the language the kids are learning, and then get the kids to sing the songs, record them and put them online – to share with everyone around the world. They start with Thriller in 2010 and over time build up an expanding repertoire – all available on Youtube. Their video clips are clever – sometimes they ‘revoice’ existing clips of famous singers/bands in the new language, other times they make their own clips with the kids front and centre. By 2013 they’ve hit the big time – a number of their translated music clips go viral: people are sharing them around the world, the media get interested and more tellingly the pop megastars in question express their delight at being ‘reworked’ in a language you’d be hard pressed to pick and you’ve likely never heard.

Amongst the biggest viral successes is Wake me Up – in translation (3.5 million hits and rising). Have a listen. It’s hard not to be intrigued – you recognize the music, you know the song but you have no idea what they are singing. You just want to know more.


The kids’ enthusiasm is infectious – and you really can hear their voices (the lead singer in this case is a teacher). It’s inspiring stuff, curiously addictive – and people around the world (in a range of languages) are interested. It’s all over the social media and has quickly made its way into the blogosphere, traditional press and media – including TV performances.

The original English version is the creation of the bilingual Swede DJ Avicii and was a smash hit around the world in the northern summer of 2013 –  including no.1 throughout the Anglobubble (including Australia). Here’s the first line of the chorus the song title is from:

So wake me up when it’s all over

It seems much more interesting in the target language and in the free translation:

So Lig mé saor ón suan ‘tá orm (lit. So free me from this slumber of mine)

Have you worked out what language the clip is in and what country I am talking about?

English monolingualism is strongly rooted here. I’ll leave you thinking and guessing for the moment.

As is clearly evident in the clip, significant physical/mental/emotional participation in the process of learning the song/language, making the clip, dancing and singing has clearly helped to motivate the students. Listen to the enthusiastic cheering at the end – that’s real!

Language teachers everywhere could easily do the same with their students: translate well-known pop songs into the target language, use children’s existing musical skills (if possible) as well as physical movement (e.g. simple choreography or free dance). You could easily create an end of term dance party if you had a repertoire. Even better, record the students and post on youtube, and on social media. Teenagers appear to enjoy a bit of online limelight.

What a great classroom/school project!

And more on other clips from this particular connection soon 🙂

Worked out the language and country yet? I might just leave you thinking a little longer.

I’ll come back in another post and do the big reveal. I still have a lot to say about this summer school/college and its fantastic work.

Boggie – who’s Boggie? On visual (un)reality as seen from abroad…. And why (English-speaking) google and wikipedia sometimes fail us….

One of the objectives of this blog is to bring to the attention of Anglobubble residents things that are happening around them – that start off somewhere else before eventually making their way somehow (or maybe not) into English-speaking consciousness.

And it is always interesting when we discover that the great all knowing English-speaking gods, Google and Wiki, are not so all knowing  and powerful after all.

Today I want to talk about Boggie. Who’s Boggie? If you do a word search in google (basically made for English-speakers), it can’t help itself: it wants to take you to ‘boogie’, in particular to the film ‘Boogie Nights’ (oh dear…. Someone is paying for that redirect). But a bit of persistent googling on my part, and all knowing Google has quickly adjusted with personalised searching algorithm….. You try googling ‘boggie’ in another window and see what happens.

Boggie’s a Hungarian singer who sings mainly in Hungarian and French. LIttle known outside of Hungary until her release in December 2013 of a song and associated clip – in seemingly parallel French and Hungarian versions. The clips for Parfüm and Nouveau Parfum respectively have gone viral and garnered a lot of media/blog interest – and not just for the beautifully haunting voice. So why the interest? The video shows Boggie being transformed in just over 3 minutes through ‘real time’ visual manipulation via Photoshop – to make her more attractive. 

Here’s the version in French:


The clip was quickly picked up around the web until finally the media took interest. So first we have franco-indignation (note the ‘denonce’):

And then the Anglo-media-indignation and interest quickly kicked in, as seen in the title of this article:

Others are a little more sanguine:

Of course it’s not in real time but that’s not the point – it takes a lot of work even with Photoshop.

And it’s not to say clever people in the Anglobubble aren’t onto the wonders/perils of visual manipulation. Jesse Rosten has a killer ‘ad’ here:

But back to Boggie and her song. The clip is certainly a parody of the beauty industry and everything that goes with it – and that’s what the lyrics in French clearly allude to here:

Soit Prada, Hugo Boss, Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Cartier, Azarro, Sisley, Escada, Gucci Naf Naf, Nina Ricci, Lancôme, Kenzo et encore en plus/encore, encore

Soit Bruno Banani, La Bastidane, Estée Lauder, Guerlain, Burberry et Thierry Mugler, Bourjois, Chloé, Jean-Paul Gautier, Valentino et je n’en sais plus

Lequel je choisis? (Which one do I choose?)
Pourquoi je choisis? (Why do I choose?)
Qui veut que je choisisse? (Who wants me to choose?)
Je ne suis pas leur produit (I am not their product)

De beauté, d’préciosité (Of beauty, of preciousness)
Ils ne peuvent pas me changer (They cannot change me)
Sans pareille, nonpareille, (Without equal, unequalled)
Le nouveau parfum, c’est moi-même, nouveau parfum (The new perfume is me, new perfume)

Soit Roberto Cavalli, Bulgari, Givengi, Dolce & Gabana, Paco rabana, soit Lacoste Tommy Hilfiger, Yves Saint Laurent et je n’en sais plus

(then repeat choruses and fade out)

(the brand names are as she lists them – some are mispelt…)

The ultimate irony (and parody) of course – and missed by everyone in the media in all of this – is that Hungarian lyrics are entirely different in tenor and tone…. Have a listen – translation in English is underneath.

Perfume (Hungarian version)


Hundreds of perfumes, dreams of flowers Sweetish, tart, mellifluous forgetting Rose and lavender in slender little bottles, oh it is drugging/dazzling me
Myrrh and almond locked in little places, lilacs, violets in secret little vials I am trying them individually drop by drop or atomized, it is drugging/dazzling me
Now I throw them all out, I throw away my distorted mirror, I am opening up my coat Breathe freely
The wind is letting me fly, the Sun is warming me Sometimes you weep from wounded clouds If the autumn is ablaze – you are weaving a new dream In my heart the fragrance of life is flying in a sweet, smoky, dizzy way

The magic of perfumes, the world of petals, the glow of desires, the gliding of silk, the spice of the East, the tale of senses, it is drugging/dazzling me Refrain: Now I am throw them all out, I throw away my distorted mirror, I am opening up my coat Breathe freely
The wind is letting me fly, the Sun is warming me Sometimes you weep from wounded clouds If the autumn is ablaze – you are weaving a new dream In my heart the fragrance of life is flying in a sweet, smoky, dizzy way

So who is Boggie? Wikipedia still has no idea. So go here instead to read all about her in French:

But I am sure the great god Wikipedia will catch up eventually, just as the great god Google, with its personalized search algorithm, appears to have done.

And good on Boggie for getting everyone’s interest…. Now that’s what I call manipulation  – I mean great marketing.

Update:  Wikipedia has now caught up, with a wiki page dedicated to Boggie up by February 7 but you read it here (and a hundred other places) first. The song in Hungarian has in the meantime hit number 1 in Hungary……..