I’m happy to announce the launch of a new Youtube series I created – “The Flow Breakdown.” In this series, I will release a weekly video examining the phonetics, musicality, culture and meaning of a song of mine (or your) choosing.
Most of the songs will probably be from one of the four second languages I speak (Spanish, French, Portuguese or Mandarin), but I will also try to collaborate with others to do videos for songs that I personally do not speak. I’ll also do some English flow breakdowns too for you non-native speakers.
In these videos, I break down:
- The syllables and rhythm of the lyrics (i.e. “the Flow)
- The Cultural background of the song.
- The significance of the lyrics
- Some musical/instrumental element of the song
Each video will be accompanied by a blog post with practice exercises for those of you interested in actually learning the song. I’m still experimenting with what to include in the video and what to include in the full blog post, so please comment either below or on the youtube video page with your suggestions. Also, please send in requests for songs that you would like to see broken down.
Today’s breakdown video is for the Pacific Afro-Colombian song “La Memoria de Justino” by Grupo Socavón. Read on to get the full Flow breakdown of the song.
For those of you unfamiliar with the “Flow-Training” process I use in my Flow Series Courses, I’ll summarize quickly.
The goal of Flow-Training is to reproduce a song lyric with a perfect accent. Each time you sing song lyrics in your target language with a perfect accent, you actively develop the hearing sensitivity and speech organ motor coordination to speak that language normally with the a perfect accent.
I reluctantly use the term “accent-training” because that’s what’s most intuitive to people unfamiliar with my program, but really our goal here is to hone our mastery of the target language’s sound patterns, or Flow, so that we may better mimic and communicate in the language fluently.
Since the sounds of a foreign language are initially too “strange” for our ears to appreciate and mouths to wrap around, we need to slow the lyrics down and break them down into their separate elements. That’s why there are four steps to Flow-Training:
We’ll go through each for the chorus of the song “La Memoria de Justino” by Grupo Socavón. Before you get started with the training, be sure to familiarize yourself with the song by listening to it at least once:
- Stressed syllables are replaced by a loud “DA”
- Unstressed syllables are replaced by a soft “di”
I break the chorus of “La Memoria de Justino” down into four line and include recordings of the rhythms for each line below. Listen closely to each recording and try to chant along with me out loud. Then once the recording ends, try to keep the rhythm going on your own. It helps to clap along with me as well.
Don’t move on to the next section until you’re comfortable chanting along with me for each line. The rhythm is always the most important element, as it acts as the foundation on which all the other sound variations in speech occur.
Many times, if you are struggling with a phrase in your target language, it’s because you can’t get the rhythm. So don’t ever take this section lightly.
Therefore, by practicing this one song, you are building a foundation for the entire language.
Since the Spanish writing system is different from the English writing system (and all other writing systems as well), I use my own version of the International Phonetic Alphabet to transcribe each of these lyrics.
In the set below, I articulate each unique syllable once (some syllables repeat in this line.)
- Listen to the recordings below and try your best to mimic each sound.
- Be sure to review sounds that you struggle with.
- If you’re unsure about a sound, leave a comment and I will see it privately.
The Flow of a language is not about the individual sounds themselves but the patterns in which these sounds occur.
In this step, you will combine the syllable and rhythms to re-construct the actual song lyrics without the melody (we just chant it).
- In each recording, I clap a slow beat and chant the lyrics for one measure, then break for one measure.
- Listen to me closely when I chant, then repeat after me during the measure when I am NOT chanting.
- Don’t worry if you mess up, just keep the beat going and try to fix what you did the next time around.
- Do not move on until you are comfortable chanting the line out loud to yourself without mistake.
Memorizing the lyrics is the most challenging part of Flow-training, but you can memorize anything as long as your patient and don’t try to memorize too much in one session.
In the recordings below, I loop the original lyrics at various speeds. Sing along with each recording and don’t move on to the next one until you can sing the lyrics out loud to yourself WITHOUT the aid of the recording.
This process can take anywhere from 20 – 60 minutes depending on your Spanish Flow aptitude and experience. You may download any of the tracks to practice on the go by clicking the “Download” button in the audio player.
Don’t get frustrated if you plateau at any point in this process- it’s completely natural. Learning the flow of a foreign language will ALWAYS be a mentally exerting process, but if you put in the work and allow yourself to rest, you WILL get through it.
Usually, all it takes is a good night’s sleep to lock in the Flow. Put in the work now, and when you wake up tomorrow you’ll notice significant improvements.
Mimicry & Meaning
Though it’s fun to sing songs, the goal of this training isn’t necessarily to turn you into the next Colombian Idol. The goal of Flow Training is to hone your mimicry skills.
Now that you are familiar with the syllable and rhythm of these song lyrics, you should be able to better mimic a native Spanish speaker reciting these words normally. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to wrangle up a native Spanish speaker, so we’ll just use my lovely voice in the meantime.
In the recording below, I recite each line of the chorus as if I were speaking it in a normal Spanish conversation (sorry no native speaker today!). I then recite each individual word. Listen closely and try to mimic my sounds exactly, paying special attention to the intonation patterns.
Finally, here’s your translation:
- Line 1: How he played
- Line 2: How it was heard
- Line 3: How it (jumped around musically)
- Line 4: This marimba!
Flow, Love and Share!
That’s it for Flow Breakdown #1. If you have any questions or song suggestions for future flow breakdowns, be sure to leave a comment below.
If you enjoy Flow training and would like to do more and get personal feedback on your accent from me, check out the courses in my Flow Series or subscribe to The Mimic Method Youtube Channel.