Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Madonna, Cher… Whether you enjoy their artistry or not, it would be difficult to deny their diva status. But what makes a diva? Is it glamour, personality, or sheer talent? In my humble opinion, a diva would not be a diva if, by middle age, she hasn’t graced the world with wise lines that are equally playful and thought-provoking. You know, like when Joan Crawford said “Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.”.
If you like your divas to be smart, ahead of their time, politically involved, and irresistibly witty, you’ve come to the right place. Below, you’ll find our favourite wise lines from our favourite international divas, as well as a few linguistic tips to learn new words and phrases from them.
Lola Flores – Spanish
Lola Flores (Cádiz, Spain, 1923 –1995) was a singer, a bailaora (a dancer of popular Spanish music), and an actress. Though she occasionally sang cumbias and rancheras throughout her illustrious career, she was best known for her coplas, a type of poetic song which is musically influenced by flamenco that everyone who loves learning Spanish through art should check out!
Honest to a fault, Lola had a hypnotic personality and spoke her mind about issues such as divorce and gender equality when it was uncommon to do so.
She was also not afraid to speak about politics. Censored by the dictator Francisco Franco, who ironically cited her as his favourite singer, she once said:
“Dicen que soy la Lola de Franco, pero eso son pseudónimos que me pone la gente. Soy del pueblo y nunca he querido ser marquesa.”
“Some call me Franco’s Lola, but that’s a petty nickname. I belong only to the people, I never wanted any other honour.”
Lola was also a great support to other women. When Rocío Jurado paid tribute to her during an award ceremony, Lola gave her a standing ovation, hugged her, and said to the audience:
“He escuchado cantar a mucha gente. Pero ninguna me pone la carne de gallina como tú.”
“I’ve heard a lot of people sing. But none give me goosebumps like you.”
Language tip: Language tip: Notice that the form “soy” which means “am”, is not preceded by the pronoun “yo” (I) in the first quote. One of the reasons for this is that, in Spanish, every personal pronoun has its own conjugation, so there is no need to clarify who is the subject. Also, if you already know a little Spanish, you may have noticed the word “gallina” in the second quote, which means “chicken”. In Spanish, “carne de gallina” (chicken skin) is an expression people use to talk about goosebumps or chills.
Mina – Italian
Mina (born 25 March 1940 in Busto Arsizi, Italy) is an Italian singer famous for her pop music in Europe from the 1960s to the mid-1970s. She is known for the versatility of her three-octave soprano voice, her defiance of musical genre conventions, and her strange, sometimes futuristic looks.
Although she has sung some of the most beautiful love ballads in her language, she was largely seen as an emancipated woman, an artist who didn’t care about such frivolous things as traditional beauty or being forever young. During an interview in the 1980s, she said:
“Essere immortale non mi interessa. Mi piace invecchiare.”
“I’m not interested in immortality. I like getting old.”
In an industry in which so many celebrities undergo surgical interventions to look youthful before they’ve reached forty, I find Mina’s celebration of ageing very refreshing.
Like Lola Flores, Mina was not afraid to get involved in relevant social and political discussions. When she was asked whether she was ashamed of her gay fan base in the late 1970s, she replied:
“Sogno un mondo in cui l’omosessualità non sia equiparata a immoralità, indecenza, oscenità, o corruzione. Questa è una orrenda china che non ci porterà niente di buono.”
“I dream of a world in which homosexuality is not equated with immorality, indecency, or corruption. This is an unfair prejudice that won’t do us any good.”
Well said, Mina.
Language tip: English and Italian may belong to different language families, but both of them have been influenced by Latin at different points in time. This influence can be seen in the lexical similarities between these two languages: immortal – immortale; interest(ed) – interesa. Whenever you read a text in Italian (or wise lines from divas!), watch out for words that have clear equivalents in English and you will see why Italian is relatively easy to learn for English speakers!
Edith Piaf – French
Édith Piaf (Paris, 1915 – 1963) is the most cherished of France’s national chanteuses, and one of the most celebrated performers of the past century. Piaf’s songs, which include all-time classics such as “La vie en rose”, and “Non, je ne regrette rien“, were often based on events and relationships from her real life. As a woman, Edith Piaf was as passionate as her music. She was a hopeless romantic, but she was also able to come up with perfectly wise lines about almost any subject, particularly human emotions.
Piaf, who died at the age of 47 from liver cancer after years of alcohol and drug abuse, was never afraid of death, as shown in this beautiful quote:
“La mort c’est le commencement de quelque chose.”
“Death is just the beginning of something else.”
While it may be a bit difficult to be so casual about death, I think Piaf’s quote can also work on other levels. For example, if you’re going through a breakup or even a major change in your professional life, it serves as a reminder not to dwell in the past and make room for what the future holds.
Do you want to read more wise lines from our favourite chanteuse? Here goes a very special one:
“Il y a des silences qui en disent long comme il y a des paroles qui ne signifient rien.”
“There are silences that speak volumes as there are words that mean nothing.”
Isn’t she right? In the end, no matter how persuasive people can be, it’s not words but gestures that show true love.
Language tip: If you’re not fluent in French, the quotes above may be hard to say out loud due to the presence of the ‘R’ sound, one of the trickiest consonants in this beautiful language. To make this sound, apply the following technique: Keeping your jaw relaxed and your mouth in its loose position, try to growl and sigh at the same time. You can do this a few times until you get it right. Once you’ve practised the sound in isolation, try to use it in a word. Say “air” in English once, and then say it again but make sure you keep your tongue in its resting position, just below your lower teeth. If you did it well, you will have gotten the French word “air”. Which means you’re more than ready to move on to French tongue-twisters!
Which of the wise lines above is your favourite? Would you like to be able to express your deepest thoughts in your second language as articulately as the divas in the article?
At Language Trainers, we specialize in one-to-one courses that offer learners plenty of opportunities to improve their speaking skills. All you have to do is send us a message saying what language you want to learn and we’ll arrange a free trial lesson for you with no strings attached. Contact us now and get started tomorrow!