View Full Version : Pondering Japanese Lyrics

05-16-2007, 04:04 PM
I'm not an expert translator or anything, and my Japanese has far to go, but I have to be honest and think aloud, when I read the translations of the Japanese lyrics, which must no doubt be parshly or totally correct, I find it very difficult to understand Japanese lyrics (that is, in reading their translations.) As beautiful as they are, I find them so difficult to relate to one another. Each verse seems to be an independent thought on it's own entirely, related to a completely diffrent emotion than the lines after or before it!

And since I'm American, when I compare it to most general American songs, excluding rap, American songs, or English songs rather, seem so much simpler. In another sense, that makes Japanese songs seem so personal, they are difficult to understand.

Does anyone else feel this way?

05-17-2007, 01:44 PM
Translations are often necessarily much more awkward than the original. The hardest part of translating a song is not understanding what it means in the source language but trying to express it properly and nicely in the target language. Various people tend to have various success rates at this :P But we try. As your Japanese improves you'll be able to relate to the song more in the original than in the translation, and it will probably make more sense to you.

05-17-2007, 02:04 PM
And many times the translator, will translate a song too literally. Which can sometimes make songs sound odd. But for me, at least, that just means I need to continue my learning so I don't have to really on translations as much

05-18-2007, 06:49 AM
Of course you have to remember that most of us translators are just amateur. Aside from knowing Japanese, we have no other training on how to translate. I, myself, have never taken any course on how to translate or anything like that. When translating, I just play it by ear.

The hard thing for me about translating Japanese songs is you never really know for sure who the singer is talking about. Songs rarely use pronouns ("i", "we", "you"), and are usually just composed of nouns, verbs, and adjectives put beside each other. Is the singer talking about himself? Or about another person? That's always a hard question to answer.
Also, in the Japanese language, wording can be arranged and rearranged in so many ways, whereas English isn't as flexible with word order. These kinds of small details robs the song from being justly translated.

Compared to English songs, I'd say Japanese songs are much more descriptive. I rarely see English songs with as much adjectives as a normal Japanese song has. Japanese songs also use much more figurative language rather than just directly saying what they mean---maybe this is the reason you find one verse completely different from another. Maybe the person was translating it too literally.

When I translate, I aim more for the "feel" of the song rather than the literal translation. Before I actually start translating, I read the whole song first and ask myself "what's the main theme of this song?", and "what's the mood of this song?", and work my translation from there.

But of course, not matter how much time we spend trying to perfect our translation, nothing can compare to the original.^^