The king’s speech (not to mention the queen and the presidents’)

It’s been quite a month for historic speeches in the UK and Ireland, with the speeches by Queen Elizabeth, President McAleese and President Obama during the Queen’s State Visit to Ireland and President Obama’s to Ireland and the UK.

And it’s been the year of The King’s Speech (the film, that is), featuring Lionel Logue and his role as speech therapist to the Duke of York (later King George VI).

This British Pathé newsreel film shows King George VI opening the Empire Exhibition at Ibrox Park, Glasgow, Scotland. It’s painful to watch: the King’s speech is “somewhat laboured and he has problems getting some of his words out”. But he does manage to complete the speech — which must have taken a great deal of courage.

Ben Zimmer wrote about the film and about Lionel Logue’s role in his The King’s Tongue Twisters article in the New York Times’ now sadly defunct On Language column. He said that the speech therapist’s “focus on vocal mechanics in treating King George was most likely just a means to an end, enforcing a bond of trust with his royal patient”. Colin Firth, who played King George, said that “It’s actually friendship and intimacy that galvanizes him, not diaphragm work.”

What’s the message here for translators, writers or editors? It’s that you need to put your clients (and their readers or listeners) in first place and provide them with added value. By giving King George the added value of sympathy and friendship, Lionel Logue made himself indispensable to the King. He  became a “go-to” support.

For me this has been a speech-flavoured working week — I’ve been asked to translate two speeches, both of them urgent and with practically no notice. I took on these jobs because they were for very good clients who had themselves been been put in an urgent spot. They were also a great opportunity for me to provide them with that added value.

I’ll be writing more about this in my next post but in the meantime here are some of those landmark speeches and some information on Lionel Logue.

Remarks by President McAleese at a State Dinner in honour of Queen Elizabeth II, Dublin Castle, 18th May 2011

The Queen’s speech at the Irish State Dinner, 18 May 2011

Remarks by President Obama and Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom in Dinner Toasts, Buckingham Palace, London, United Kingdom

Remarks by the President to Parliament Westminster Hall, London, United Kingdom

Lionel Logue: Pioneer speech therapist (1880-1953). By Caroline Bowne (2002)

By Marian Dougan

2 responses

  1. Nice post and strikes a chord as I have to make a very important speech in French this week – liaisons, rises & falls – How will I manage? I’m sure there will be post coming out of that one too! Have a wonderful Sunday!


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