Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Let It Go" in Japanese: The translation of the "Frozen" song is anything but stiff




I got addicted to this cover of the Japanese version of "Let It Go" before I had even heard the English version. When I finally did take a listen, I realized that, as you might expect, the differences in the translation are pretty fascinating. Let's take a look! (By the way, I still haven't seen "Frozen.")

Notes:

The back-translation (of the Japanese into English, by me) is in bold.
The actual English lyrics are next to that in regular.
Places where the Japanese translator rhymed with English are in blue.
"Let it go" and its corresponding Japanese are in green. (You'll see why.)
Commentary is in italics.

降り始めた雪は 足跡消して
真っ白な世界に ひとりのわたし
風が心にささやくの
このままじゃ ダメなんだと

Furihajimeta yuki wa ashiato keshite
Masshiro na sekai ni hitori no watashi
Kaze ga kokoro ni sasayaku no
Kono mama ja dame na n da to

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight / Not a footprint to be seen -- The snow has begun to fall, erasing footprints  
A kingdom of isolation / and it looks like I'm the queen -- I'm all alone in a pure white world
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside -- The wind whispers to my heart
Couldn't keep it in, heaven knows I tried -- "You can't go on like this."

Basically the translation is even freer than it appears at first. When you look closely, the image of the kingdom is gone and the idea that there is a storm instead her is lost, with the wind outside giving her advice instead. 

とまどい 傷つき
誰にも 打ち明けずに 悩んでた
それももう やめよう

Tomadoi kizutsuki
Dare ni mo uchiakezu ni nayande ta
Sore mo mou yameyou

Don't let them in, don't let them see -- Confusion, pain
Be the good girl you always had to be -- I was worrying
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know -- without opening up to anyone
Well, now they know -- I gotta quit doing that

Lol, really though, when I started this post I had these ideas about where I would be like, "Huh, this part is translated quite freely," but when you look at it, it's all different. Oddly I don't feel that makes it a bad translation per se; it's fun to sing. I especially like all the blue here. When I noticed those spots that matched the English vowels I was really impressed.

ありのままの 姿見せるのよ
ありのままの 自分になるの
何も怖くない 風よ吹け
少しも寒くないわ

Ari no mama no sugata miseru no yo
Ari no mama no jibun ni naru no
Nanimo kowakunai Kaze yo fuke
Sukoshi mo samukunai wa

Let it go, let it go -- I'll show you
Can't hold it back anymore -- my true self
Let it go, let it go -- I'll be me 
Turn away and slam the door -- my true self
I don't care what they're going to say -- I'm not scared of anything
Let the storm rage on -- O, wind, blow
The cold never bothered me anyway -- I'm not cold at all

So the back-translation for ありのまま. I'm sure there are a zillion ways to do it, but I tried to make it something that could be repeated, like "Let it go." ありのまま means "as [x] is" so in this case, kind of like "as I am." So a literal (or even sense-literal…if that is a word) translation of "Let it go" it is not, but it captures the overall meaning of the song, I think. And it sounds great!!!! I wonder if a closer rendering of "Turn away and slam the door" would have seemed to random in Japanese? By the way, this is the only time "Let the storm rage on" gets translated as such.

悩んでたことが うそみたいね
だってもう自由よ なんでもできる
どこまでやれるか
自分を試したいの
そうよ変わるのよ わたし

Nayande ta koto ga uso mitai ne
Datte mou jiyuu yo Nande mo dekiru
Doko made yareru ka
Jibun wo tameshitai no
Sou yo Kawaru no yo watashi

It's funny how some distance -- All the stuff I was worrying about 
Makes everything seem small -- seems it was like lie, huh
And the fears that once controlled me -- I'm already free! 
Can't get to me at all -- I can do anything.
It's time to see what I can do -- How far can I go?
To test the limits and break through -- I want to test myself
No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I'm free! -- Yes, I will change!

In Japanese she's so confident she doesn't even think about the fears at this point! One thing you notice immediately about translated song lyrics is that the Japanese has to be less elaborate. Japanese may have the advantage space-wise when it comes to writing, because of kanji that contain a whole word per character or two, but in terms of syllables, English wins. There are nooooot a lot of one-syllable Japanese words. 

ありのままで 空へ風に乗って
ありのままで 飛び出してみるの
二度と 涙は流さないわ

Ari no mama de sora e kaze ni notte
Ari no mama de tobidashite miru no
Nido to namida wa nagasanai wa

Let it go, let it go -- As myself
I am one with the wind and sky -- I'll ride the wind in the sky
Let it go, let it go -- As myself
You'll never see me cry -- I'll try leaping out into the world
Here I stand -- I'll 
And here I'll stay -- never 
Let the storm rage on -- cry again

Sorry, the back-translation for 飛び出してみるの is kind of wonky, but what else would it be? Maybe "I'm stepping out" would be better. "Coming out" brings up the wrong connotations. 

But yeah, here I guess she just wanted to emphasize the not crying and needed to devote some syllables to it. Syllable piggy bank is lowww.

冷たく大地を包み込み
高く舞い上がる 想い描いて
花咲く氷の結晶のように
輝いていたい もう決めたの

Tsumetaku daichi wo tsutsumikomi
Takaku maiagaru omoi egaite
Hanasaku koori no kesshou no you ni
Kagayaite itai mou kimeta no

My power flurries through the air and into the ground -- My imagination wraps the world in cold
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around -- Soaring high above
And one thought crystalizes like an icy blast -- Like a blossoming crystal of ice
I'm never going back -- I've made my decision
The past is in the past -- I want to shine!

The back-translation for this part was kind of hard, but I imagine it was also hard to try to capture the English imagery in Japanese, so we're even, lol. It's interesting how the Japanese is affirming the future whereas the English is sloughing off the past. 

これでいいの 自分を好きになって
これでいいの 自分信じて
光あびながら 歩きだそう
少しも寒くないわ

Kore de ii no jibun no suki ni natte
Kore de ii no jibun shinjite
Hikari abinagara arukidasou
Sukoshi mo samukunai wa

Let it go, let it go -- This is fine
And I'll rise like the break of dawn -- I'll love myself
Let it go, let it go -- This is fine
That perfect girl is gone -- I'll believe in myself
Here I stand in the light -- Bathed in light
Let the storm rage on -- I'll be on my way
The cold never bothered me anyway -- I'm not cold at all

これでいいの is probably the closest meaning-wise to "Let it go" of all the syllables that stand in for it in the Japanese song. 自分信じて could probably have been something like 完璧じゃなくていい but what do I know? 

By the way, someone did a detailed comparison like this in Japanese.

Here's an interview with the translator, Chikae Takahashi.

She says she preps a lot to find out what movie itself is trying to say and then listens to the song repeatedly to translate, focusing on key words first (i.e. in this case, "Let it go").

She said matching the lip movements was really hard. "The part that is 'ari no mama no' in Japanese is 'let it go, let it go' in English. If you put importance on preserving the melody, only six Japanese sounds will fit. Plus her mouth is facing up, so the third and sixth sounds are limited to 'o.'"

Apparently she went through a lot of back and forth with the director to get the message right.

Her advice to people who want to translate lyrics:

"More than translating lyrics, you need to be able to write lyrics. Of course, knowledge of English (or your source language) is important, but expressing it in Japanese [your native language] is the real battle, so work to cultivate a rich vocabulary in Japanese through reading etc."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

ミュージック - サカナクション

Mmm, this song seems straightforward at first, but I'm not really sure I got it. It's definitely not an overly direct translation, so there is that at least (well, maybe in some spots it's a little too faithful...). But yeah, there are definitely some parts I am not sure on. See what you think



Music - Sakanaction

Passing by, passing by
Do birds get nostalgic for far off rocks?
They flew high across the sky

No one knows
Looking down over a village no one knows, what do birds think?
Lonely like me, I wonder?

Separated
Does a bird miss its friends from the flock?
It called in a high-pitched voice

A secret town
listened quietly to that.
Weak like me, I wonder?

Pain and hurt and lies, we're used to them, and our words
bob down the river's tired surface
in the town where you live

It's gone
It's gone
(The river flows)

It's gone
(I haven't been able to see it yet, I haven't been able to see it yet)

It's gone
It's gone
(The river flows)

It's gone
(I can't see it yet, I can't see it yet)

I want to sleep with wet hair
The clothes we stripped off and tossed
still as they were yesterday

A secret room
where the wall, you were leaning against it
as if watching me in my weakness

Pain and hurt and lies, I'm used to them, and I talk to myself
Tired nights and winds that blow
To your cheeks

Felt it
Felt it
(The night flows)

Felt it
(I'm not crying, I'm not crying)

Felt it
Felt it
(The night flows)

You
(Were crying, were crying, so)

The season we reflected on begins
Hating not being able to remember
Even the birds passing by
I bet they were crying in town
I bet they were crying

Waiting for a season that has already passed
Hating not being able to remember
Being separated and taking off
I bet the birds were crying too
I bet they were crying

We'll wait, no matter how long
Even tired pain and hurt
Even nights left as they are
continue singing
continue

We'll wait, no matter how long
We can't see it yet but we're just waiting
Even I, frail and weak
continue to sing
continue

Sunday, February 3, 2013

太陽はどこ - OKAMOTO'S

This is my favorite song off the new self-titled album by my current favorite extant Japanese band :D Really good harmonies. Give it a listen if you get a chance!



Where's the Sun? - Okamoto's

No, I don't have a reason [1]
I was walking down the street
No, I don't have a reason
Towards your house

Look, you can see it now—that nostalgic scenery
the crescent moon suspended in the night [2]

Where's the sun, where's the sun
that we used to be able to see back then
Where's the sun, where's the sun
that set for good over there [3]

"Whatever's fine"
Even though I want to think that
No matter what I do
Nothing ever works out for me and

I'll never ever get used
to being cold in the dark, to you not being there

Where's the sun, where's the sun?
that was smiling down on us back then
Where's the sun, where's the sun?
If you were here now I could probably show you the kindness you deserve [4]


Where's the sun, where's the sun?
that we used to be able to see back then
Where's the sun, where's the sun?
that set for good over there


Where's the sun, where's the sun?
that was smiling down on us back then
Has the world stopped turning?
Where's the sun?

 Notes:

[1] I angsted about how to best express the なんて here. Alternatives included "No particular reason" (which felt too glib) and "There's no point" (which felt too different).

[2] I didn't really get the image here. In English the moon would not "sway" I don't think. I considered going with "floating" cuz that seems poetically natural, but I dunno, I like suspended. "in the night" I added because it needed somewhere to be suspended.

[3] This "over there" is pretty wishy-washy, but it's what they said and I kept it mainly because it parallels the "back then." Some vague "other" time and place. I think that seems valid. My alt would have been "on that horizon."

[4] This line I basically rewrote based on how I read it. The literal translation is something like, "If it were now, [subject omitted] should be able to do it kindly [or "make it kind/nice/friendly"]. So yeah, I read this as him feeling guilty for their break-up, and that if it were the him of today (who is more mature), he could have done it right [by being nicer to her].

Thursday, January 31, 2013

アーモンドのチョコレート ー ゆらゆら帝国

Is this the first request post I have done? I guess I might have done this song eventually, since it's so good. It was harder than it seemed like it would be at first. Japanese lyrics here, notes at the end.



Chocolate-Covered Almonds - Yura Yura Teikoku

I got by munching nothing but chocolate-covered almonds
I got by munching nothing but chocolate-covered almonds

One when I can't sleep, one when I can't move
One when I can't get up the courage, one when I'm bored

She's not coming back today either, I'm ok if I have a few friends
She's not coming back today either, If I have my friends, that's fine

I got by munching nothing but chocolate-covered almonds
I got by munching nothing but chocolate-covered almonds

Alright guys, let's go—hop in the back of my car.
Alright guys, let's go—hop in the back of my car.

One to kick, two to go
Three is the axel crashing into the frame
Four is the curve, five is you crashing
six, seven, eight, nine is four of us crashing

She's never coming back again. I'm ok if I have a few friends.
She's never coming back again. If I have my friends, that's fine.
Alright guys, let's go
Alright guys, let's go

Notes:

First, I am translating アーモンドのチョコレート as a generic reference to candy like this, which is really popular in Japan, to the point of beating out Pocky in a recent poll. I get that he's not saying アーモンドチョコ but he's not saying アーモンド入りチョコレート either, so I feel justified. Also the [x] 一つ [y] 一つ makes me think of him popping them in his mouth, and you don't really pop candy bars.

The bridge (?) was the hardest part, for sure. I feel like there are a lot of ways to interpret the katakana words. Did a bunch of research on what Japanese people thought of the lines. バーン could most quickly turn into "bang," but you can't apply that to people in English without turning this drive into an orgy. Then I saw some comments that seemed to imply that people read it as the car crashing. This led me to select that verb and specify that the axel is crashing "into the frame." That is info that does not appear in the original song, but from what I read that that is what is going on when the axel is making a banging noise, so it's natural and sort of even has a nice rhythm in English.

So if we are interpreting everything right (seems like Japanese people don't always really get it either, or think it is kind of goofy), the song gets really dark then, right? Like you can read it that he commits suicide with his friends and as long as they die with him he's ok. BTW, バーン is also (like English "bang") is used as a gun sound, too.

fhsfhfdah, hope this helps you understand the song!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

News: I'm a translator :)

I don't know how many people actually read this blog like a blog, especially given how erratically it is updated, but for anyone who is interested in what I am up to In Life, I can say that I'm actually following my dreams like I meant to when I quit my job over a year ago. Tuesday is my last day at Waseda University's intensive Japanese program and on Thursday I'm starting a part-time gig translating in the children's books department at Kodansha. I don't think it has even sunk all the way in what a crazy opportunity this is, to be in-house at one of the biggest Japanese publishers working with a partner to create the best English text we can; I'm so excited.

I'm definitely going to keep practicing here with song lyrics (I know I'm behind on Kyary), and yes, keep in mind that it really is practice. I have a long way to go still, but I'm actually on my way, which is an awesome and inspiring feeling. Lately I've been getting pretty intimidated, but (and I tweeted this yesterday) in 10 years, I'll have 10 years experience! That's how this works. Also, I think it's ok to feel intimidated. If you're intimidated it means you will try your best and that you think what you are doing is actually worthwhile.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Marshmallow Day - Mr. Children

I hear this every morning at least a couple time because they loop it in the study pit (aka the family restaurant where I do lots of homework). They have also been playing it in the street in Shibuya. I could never really catch the words, though, so I decided to investigate....

Beware, lol:



Marshmallow Day - Mr. Children


Like a race car engine,
my heart is rumbling
This feeling well up towards my center
You're beautiful
It's marshmallow day

Just like a 3D movie
A smile straight out of Hollywood
I lose myself
as I'm gradually captivated

Don't go disappearing
like the taste of chewing gum
We're blowing sweet memory bubbles
Carefully, then crazily
I want to savor your texture
Everything is a taste of you

Even though I know there are other things I really should be doing
I can't concentrate
Like bells ringing on high
You're beautiful
Echoing

Although we've been getting along just fine lately
wanting for nothing
I imagine of a world without you
and I'm terrified

Even if I can't get enough sleep
If I can see you, I'll come with bells on
I'm longing for that moment
I'll match your key
Let's hum the same song
Everyday I sing for you

My heart soars
when I touch the gentle warmth of your body
Ah, I'm so happy
I could die
Buried in your sighs
and this sweet mood

Don't go disappearing
like the taste of chewing gum
We're still blowing sweet memory bubbles
Carefully, then affectionately
I want to savor your texture
Everything is a taste of you

I'm gonna match your key
Let's sing a happy song
Everyday I sing for…
Everything is a taste of…
Everyday, marshmallow day

WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Proooobably nothing, but ok, pretty catchy. You listened twice, didn't you! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

エミリー - 井上陽水

If you think this is narcissistic,  talk to my friend who recommended the song to me.

PS - This was actually quite difficult and you can read why in the notes and also why it might be partially incorrect (or just a wonky interpretation, let's say).

PPS - Here is a cover of the song:



Emily - Yousui Inoue

Emily
I can't forget the way
your eyes looked that evening
The sky was fading into twilight
As if it were whispering to the night

Emily
First love
is what summer is for [1]
The stars in the sky, too
Seem like they're wandering through the night

On rainy days, and farewell days
dreaming of summer sun
being loved, being swept away
I'll disappear on [2]
a star's revolving journey [3]

Emily
The important thing
is to be happy
But don't say anything
more than that, ok? [4]

On rainy days, and farewell days
dreaming of summer sun
being loved, being swept away
I'll disappear on
a star's revolving journey

Notes:

[1] I feel nervous about this because it hangs あこがれ out to dry, but I stand by it in terms of meaning and attitude.

[2] The subject is incredibly not literally in the song. At first I actually kept this as a gerund "disappearing" and I think you could do that, but then I realized he's not dreaming about that too. Someone is actually doing it. Either her, him, or both. I decided it can't be her because it's present/future tense. And dude wouldn't be singing this song if they were together, I don't think; seems pretty lonely. So I think he goes off alone.

[3] Then there's the other thing that throws a little chaos on the fire. I read たび as 旅 since the stars had already been kind of personified as wandering through the sky I figured it referred to that journey. Right? I think that is the correct interpretation but I realized that it MIGHT also be possible to read the whole two lines as, "When (度) the star goes around you vanish," or something hopefully less wonky than that. And it would have to be "you," cuz it's wouldn't be the singer or them together. SO. I don't really like that version and I don't think it's right (she doesn't seem like that kind of girl :P), but I do wonder if a Japanese person would read it like that way or not. I might just be overthinking it due to the hiragana.

[4] This strikes me as weird even in the original Japanese so for that reason I'm a little hesitant on the translation. If you think about it, it's really depressing, though, so maybe it's right...

Is this really that sad of a song or am I on crack? ( ノД`)シクシク…