Language, music, and me, by Elisa Bonora

Keyboard with musical noteDo you listen to music while you’re working? I’d love to be able to, but sadly I can’t – my brain just doesn’t work that way. When I’m reading or writing – even just a simple email – the music distracts me and I just can’t focus. I know that  lots of people do manage to enjoy music as they work, and even find that it boosts their productivity and/or creativity. Elisa Bonora, an Italian translator, is one of them. She’s very kindly written a guest post on the subject. Here it is.

Language, music, and me, by Elisa Bonora

Some things have always been with you, as simple as that. I was born with a curiosity for words and their hues of meaning, in my native language and in foreign ones. And I was born with a deep love of music, a language in itself.

Music, for me, is a universal but also very personal language. It resonates deeply with me, putting me in the right frame of mind to tune into my creativity and enhancing my productivity, or my mood.

I’ve been studying music since I was a child and it’s part of my everyday life and routine. When it comes to my job as a linguist, it helps me unplug from the world and focus on words. The way I see it, translating is an art: it’s very much about finding the right feel between two worlds and languages, and music can be my key to connect with them, almost by magic.

Which music for which work?

There are no set rules as to which music I listen to for each different type or stage of work; sometimes it just depends on the mood I’m in. However, I tend to choose something quiet and calming when I’m working long hours on a big project and I need to be focused and relaxed, with no distractions. Upbeat music gives me extra energy and a boost when I feel I need it – it might unlock the right idea for creative challenges. It also works well with less demanding tasks, or for the first draft.

In any case, it has to be something that really speaks to me: I need to feel a connection with what I’m listening to.

Of course silence is an option too, for example when I’m working on a very complex task with many issues requiring attention. For re-reading and final polishing, when I need to make sure that the text reads flawlessly, I usually prefer peaceful tunes or no music at all.

A personal playlist

Here is a very short playlist of some of my favourite music for work. It is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a general idea of my tastes. A couple of notes (a play on words! Oops, another one! 😉 ): although I am a huge Beatles fan, I find I can’t listen to them while translating because they inevitably trigger a “sing along” reaction in me, and however good at multitasking I may be, that would be a bit too much – I don’t think any of my clients would want to have the lyrics of Ticket to Ride incorporated in their text. I also enjoy classical music, but I prefer to listen to it when I’m in a meditative mood and doing absolutely nothing else. And if you’re wondering what I’m listening to while writing this post… just the rain on my office window 🙂

About Elisa

Elisa Bonora of Millefolia TranslationsElisa Bonora, owner of Millefolia Translations, is a translator and editor working from English and Spanish into Italian.

Elisa has been involved with classical and modern music all her life. With a strong background in natural sciences, wildlife and the environment, she is committed to a green lifestyle and believes that “communication makes all the difference in the world”.

She also believes in providing “Italian translation, editing, and language consulting with a smile”.

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

Join the conversation


  1. Hi Marian and Elisa, I love music and wish I could listen to music while working but I can’t; I either get distracted from my work or I focus on the work and end up completely tuning out the music …

    1. Thanks Marie. It’s annoying, isn’t it – it would be lovely to keep up with new tracks and listen to old favourites while working. It would so enrich the working day.

  2. Marian, I’m just like you. I prefer silence when I work, as I find music distracting.

    Elisa, thank you for the playlist. I can’t wait to listen to the suggested songs and get to know you better this way.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Alina. It’s nice to have a new playlist to explore, isn’t it – and as you say, it’s a lovely way to get to know someone better and also to widen your music horizons.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Marie and Alina! Fascinating subject, isn’t it? We’re all touched by music in a way or another, it’s just that it speaks to us in different ways.
    As for my playlist, I’m glad you’re curious about it! I always keep exploring new music to find inspiration… I may consider tweeting my new favourite tracks regularly to keep you updated! 😉

Leave a comment

Have your say!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.