For many, music is a completely untranslatable project. We fall in love so many times with songs we don’t know the language of that we are fine with not understanding the lyrics. Translating songs is a difficult sport. One needs to take into consideration a number of variables for a successful translation like singability, rhyme, rhythm, naturalness, and fidelity to the sense of the original text. Even for the best translation agencies USA, translating songs is a challenge.
A literal translation of songs is very rare and in most cases impossible. That is the reason that translating songs needs years of experience. One must be able to know the culture of the language they are translating to produce a successful translation. Some of the most successful song translations are the following :
Hotel California by The Eagles is performed by Gipsy Kings in Spanish
Somebody to Love by Queen, performed in Spanish by Ednita Nazario
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin is performed in Spanish by Rodrigo y Gabriela
Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones that is performed in Italian by Caterina Caselli (Tutto Nero)
Life on Mars by David Bowie, performed in Portuguese by Seu Jorge
Stand by Me by E King, in Italian by Adriano Celentano
Baby Love by The Supremes, performed in French by Annie Philippe
Keep the Identity Intact
Another challenge the translator will face is keeping the song’s identity intact. The identity consists of the song’s meaning besides the lyrics, staying true to the rhythm and the artistic intention, all the while keeping the original context of the song. By checking out 7 Foreign Artist That Made Huge Difference in Music on Their Language, you can gain inspiration and ideas if you want to try and translate a song of theirs!
Match the Lyrics With the Music
Matching the lyrics with the music is no1 priority for the translator and one of the most difficult parts. That is the reason that besides having the skills of a translator, one must have an extensive music instinct and knowledge to pull through such a project.
When one refers to the term “Singability” they are referring to the phonetic suitability after the translation. Original song and translation, while they are not the same, must be similar in how they are sung to send the original message across. A common mistake translators make is when they focus too much on matching the melody that they forget to translate the lyrics correctly, and the message is often lost.
Different Means to an End
There are a lot of ways to translate a song. The first option is to avoid translating the lyrics because the song was intended to be listened to in the original language — this option depends on where the song is used. The second option is to first translate the lyrics and then adapt them to the melody. The third option is to keep the melody and write a new set of lyrics with the same context — many translators prefer this way over the others. And last but not least, the fourth option is to adapt the melody to the translated song — which completely changes the original song.
Overall, translating songs requires a very specific set of skills. One must always be aware of the purpose of the translated song — when and where it’s going to be used and why it’s translated, all the while keeping the main components of the original song intact.
Merissa Moore is a content writer and music lover. She has been writing for the last 10 years on topics like music, business and communication. During her free time, she enjoys extreme sports and ceramics.
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