Are Words expressed in Lyrics beyond a good translation.


A look at the lyrics of the new Depeche Mode Album

and wonder as to which of these songs

could be properly translated

Is it sometimes better not to translate songs

And just leave them as they are


The beatles sung a few of their songs

That had been translated.

This happened often in the 1960's

However nowadays do any new artists

record their music in other languages

And is it possible to do a decent translation


March 17, 2017


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The problem with translating lyrics is that they usually need to be singable, which limits how accurate the translations can be. Despite this companies like Disney still manage to translate their songs, so it's definitely possible to translate songs. Whether the translation can be as good as the original is another matter though...

March 17, 2017


Frozen was done in a Welsh marvelous version


March 17, 2017

Yeah, some of the dubbed versions of Disney songs I've heard are really fantastic, but some others aren't too great unfortunately...

March 17, 2017

If I recall correctly, She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand were the Beatles songs that were translated into (and sung by them in) German, but those songs were not particularly complex lyrically. Doing the same for Beatles songs like Come Together or I Am the Walrus would have been more challenging.

March 17, 2017

There's multiple approaches to song translation from transcreation to more literal options. As I'm currently reading a lot about this for my essay on the topic, I can recommend a few excellent sources:

Peter Low's "The Pentathlon Approach to Translating Songs" (published in Song and Significance: Virtues and Vices of Vocal Translation, edited by Dinda L. Gorlée, 2005)

Johan Franzon's "Choises in Song Translation" (published in The Translator, volume 14, issue 2, 2008)

March 17, 2017

Song lyrics are basically poems put to music and while they can be translated, the translation may not necessarily convey the sentiments of the poem/song.

March 17, 2017

I would say that the accuracy of the translation depends on the layers of metaphor in the original material. Many times (if not always) double-meanings and cultural references can't be translated because they are specific to the original language/culture. I tip my hat to translators. Their job is incredibly difficult, and they get very little recognition. It's downright amazing what they can do to bridge gaps in communication.

March 17, 2017
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