Any melomaniac (same for music lover) in the house? If yes, are you of those who enjoys music in virtually every language, or more of those who wants to understand the lyrics you hear?
Either way, you would be surprised to learn that many English-language hit songs were composed and written in Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, or other languages. Hard to believe? Just have a look at these two examples:
“Macarena” by Los Del Rio (a Spanish Latin pop and dance duo) came out in 1996, and the song became extraordinarily popular. The version that made it to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, however, was specifically “Macarena (Bayside Boys Remix),” which replaced the Spanish verses with English ones. You’re likely to hear both interchangeably today, but the English-language version was initially more popular among English speakers.
Another example is the very popular “It’s Now or Never”, a song recorded by Elvis Presley and released as a single in 1960. The song is one of the best-selling singles by Presley (20 million copies). However, originally, the song was written for the Neapolitan language, which is a language closely related to Italian and spoken in Naples, Italy, and the title is “‘O Sole Mio” by Giovanni Capurro and Eduardo di Capua (originally written in 1898). This song inspired “There’s No Tomorrow,” which was recorded by Tony Martin in 1949. This song then went on to inspire Elvis Presley, who had songwriters rewrite a version for him that ended up being “It’s Now or Never.”
How hard is it to translate a song?
Contrary to popular believe, translating songs isn’t always a quick and easy task. Yes, lyrics often consist of short sentences and phrases, but the guidelines, rules, and regulations governing the process make it a little more complicated than one would imagine. But what else do translators take into account?
Rhythm Professionals don’t juts translate a song… the lyrics must be in accordance with the rhythm of it! Besides, have you ever thought that that many languages use more words than English to express the same idea? Therefore, a word-for-word translated song, especially if it’s intended to be sung, wouldn’t work.
References Many songs are written about events, except that these references are not always known by the audience for which they are translated. Difficult task, right? The translator has to find a way to convey the original meaning of the song’s lyrics.
Style Some song lyrics have a very particular style, with puns or alliterations, for example. This style is difficult to transcribe in a translation because of the number of words imposed by the rhythm. However, if this style is not respected, the song loses all its charm!