Song Translations

Quick Thoughts on Song Translation

Song translation = translating music and songs that help you become a better translator.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site that one of the best ways to become a better translator is to translate everything.

This includes not only texts you normally translate, but others you might not often translate. If you are a business translator, for example, pick up a short story, a poem, or a popular song and give it a whirl.

Translating Music

Not all translators are business, law, or scientific translators.

There are those that translate literary works such as poems or songs. These literary translators have the same goal as those who translate business reports or legal proceedings, which is to remaining true to the source text.

Song translations, however, do have unique characteristics and constraints that make them different than other types of translations.

Songs (as well as poems) have certain rhythms, beats, and cadences that must remain the same in both languages. With these constraints, the target language has to be flexible. This flexibility comes through changes in word order, synonym substitutions, and using words with slight meaning differences.

Using such idiomatic devices in other types of translation is not looked upon very positively because meaning can change. However, it is necessary in literary translations like song translations.

Song translation can help you become a better translator

Literary works are often very open to personal interpretation. Ambiguities are a function of all types of language and manifest themselves in literary works as well.

This goes for literary translation as well.

Translators must be open to various interpretations while then ultimately choosing the direction they want to take the translation. Without interviewing the author of the poem or song, it is almost impossible to figure this out perfectly.

How can this help you?

Well, a translation can ultimately be shaped by the translator.

Whether you’re translating a business proposal or legal form, you as a translator have to understand the various ambiguities and interpretations available and then make the best choice you can on how to translate.

Doing song translation can help you understand ways that a text can be altered (on purpose or by accident). Then you can know how to avoid those when translating texts that cannot be as freely translated as songs.


P.S. Want more tips and techniques on being a successful freelance professional translator, be sure to read my book.

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