Prisencolinensinainciusol: What Does English Sound Like to “Foreigners”?

I am one of those people who listen to radio stations in languages that I don’t speak – to me, it offers an opportunity to explore different sounds, figure out a few words, and hum to some good music.

While I have taught ESL in the past, I had not come across this brilliant video.  It starts with a skit:

The student asks the Professor why he wrote a song “that has strange words that don’t mean anything.” This version does not show the entire skit, but the Professor does go on to say that people aren’t communicating enough so he wrote this song and the title is meant to mean “Universal Love.”

This song, Prisencolinensinainciusol, was written by Adriano Celentano from Italy in the early 1970s.   He wrote it using gibberish that was meant to sound like English, giving us an idea of what it might feel like to not actually understand English.

This first video clip is the partial skit and song.  When you play this first clip, what English words do you think you hear? How do you react to not knowing what is being said?

This next version is a “translation” of the “sort of English” into English. How did you feel about these “lyrics”?  Did they reflect any words you thought you heard?

At the end of the day, I found this to be a really fun exercise and actually found this tune to be rather catchy. It is a bit of early rap/funk and I think it will be playing in my head for days!

I’m looking forward to hearing your experiences with Prisencolinensinainciusol!