If we are open to it, speaking a foreign language can give us a window into another side of ourselves that we can't normally access.
I know this to be the case as a native English-speaker, living long-term in Spain, and, certainly, it seemed to be the case last night when I attended a 'Tango and Chanson' concert at our local cultural centre.
Despite being from Argentina, the singer’s renditions of the tango numbers failed to move me.
Yet when he sang in French, he immersed himself totally in the music and conveyed much greater depth of feeling.
He seemed to get lost in the beauty of the French lyrics, dropped his over-flamboyant, music-hall personality in favour of something more soulful and genuine.
However, this ability to transcend himself, and become one with the music, was lost again when the singer tackled more well known French numbers such as the La Vie En Rose and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.
Was it that he felt overshadowed by all of the great versions of this song that had been sung before this night?
In his awe did he lose his ability to connect with the soul of the music?
Even geniuses can feel overshadowed
This is not something that happens only to minor artists.
I noticed the same phenomena watching "Goya en Burdeos" (Goya in Bordeaux), a film written and directed by one of my all–time favourite directors, Carlos Saura.
Expecting Saura's usual masterful camerwork - which composes and lights every frame of his films as carefully and magnetically as if each one were a single still - and his masterful direction of each and every member of the cast, I found myself sadly disappointed with this film.
Saura, Goya, Rabal and Verdú. One too many Spanish geniuses?
It was as if Saura – himself one of the cinematic greats of the 20th century – found himself overawed.
He had to deal with so much greatness as he wrestled two icons of Spanish cinema – Franciso Rabal and Maribel Verdú – into a portrayal of the realationship between Spain's greatest artist, Francisco de Goya and his Duchess lover, into living tableax of Goya's work.
Franciso Rabal is tremendous as Goya. Verdú is bewitching as the flirtatious and haughty Duchess of Alba. The tableaux of Goya's paintings are clever, and some of the lighting is stunning. Yet Saura's compositional genius is missing, and I found myself wanting to switch off the film half way through.
Saura's attempt to capture Goya has a lot in common with our friend from the Tango and Chanson; the shadow of too much greatness in the room at once can be overwhelming for any artist.
We need a little space to breathe our own air and find our own direct connection with the source.
Otherwise we are in danger of trading substance for soul.
Has your creative work ever suffered from too much contact with other people’s greatness?