Song Translation

Music might be the most powerful form of art and cultural manifestation around the world; it is another kind of language. Songs tell stories and since ancient times they have been used for expressing history harmonically. They are poetry with a moving melody. From religious prayers, to hymns sung during pensive times and celebratory odes of happy days, they transcend time and place. All over the world, we cannot deny the spread of songs and music, which are being translated across the world in different languages. By far, the most translated song ever is “Happy Birthday to You” written by Patty Hill in 1912, a kindergarten principal in Louisville, Kentucky, using the song “Good Morning to All” as the melodic basis.  It was protected by copyright until 2015, at which time it became public domain, meaning that anyone can sing or play the song without fear of a lawsuit. The rhythm and meaning/lyrics of the song are almost the same around the world. Some words might be different but they still fit the actual rhythm of the song. Are song translations more fun to do than a plain-text translation?

Well, not always. Since songs are intended to be translated preserving the meaning and also ensuring that words match the rhythm of the song, sometimes word extensions in other languages may differ and that can cause a lot of trouble for the translator. For example, Spanish is twice the extension than English, and in addition, syllables have to match! This is when the translator will not use literal translation, but rather try to keep the overall thought of the original message. Synonyms, your best pals!

Song translations are intended to reach out many markets, and people who love the original song might also love it in their own language. Therefore, the translator has to be careful not to alter the original meaning. It must be impeccable. Do you remember, Psy, the Korean superstar? For over a couple of years he performed the song “Dear American.” Although it was in Korean, its literal translation was said to be derogatory and extremely offensive for Americans. It talked about Americans as killers and how bad the American military is. There were a lot more words that were deemed very inappropriate. However, according to Psy’s supporters, the song may have been mistranslated. Hashtag Translation MISTAKES!

Furthermore, a song not only has to be translated, but also it has to turn into a hit! Several singer songwriters have proven that they can make their songs popular all around the world and be performed successfully in various languages. As long as there is careful attention to details, such as the use of appropriate words without losing the rhythm of the song, the results will be successful.

We have created our own playlist, which comprises songs in different languages; we hope you like it!
Listen the playlist

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