– How are poetry and song lyrics translated from their original language to other languages without losing the rhyme scheme and meter?


– How are poetry and song lyrics translated from their original language to other languages without losing the rhyme scheme and meter?

In: 4

If the song starts in English, it’s actually pretty easy.

Many other languages have conjugations that are more regular, and thus easier to rhyme.

Translate something from English to Spanish for instance, move the verb to the end of the sentence, and a lot of things suddenly rhyme.

In English, we respect things that have at least 2 rhyming syllables at the end. It’s a bit of “literary license” to imagine that the words “chomping” and “saying” rhyme, for instance, even tho they both end in -ing. We have countless vowel sounds – short, long, diphthongs, and triphthongs that can precede the -ing, so we CANNOT say that as a rule, all gerund verbs rhyme. Not even close.

In Spanish, almost ALL gerund verbs will end in either -Ando or -Endo. 2 forms, that’s it. All of a sudden, “loving” rhymes with “talking” and “dancing” and “singing”.

When I want to rhyme things that “you” do, well most 2nd-person singular verbs end in -As or -Es. So “you” can do many things which I the author can make rhyme in Spanish that wouldn’t rhyme in English.

My Spanish class taught us pop-culture translation via Boyz II Men, who famously recorded many of their hits in both English and Spanish.

“Nada es igual /
Si no estás aquí /
Porque no puedo /
Vivir sin tí.”

– El Final del Camino

When you translate a poem or song you want to keep the meaning (literal and figurative) and artistic traits (word play, rhyme, meter) as close as possible to the original poem or song. Doing this perfectly is nearly impossible most of the time because of all the differences each language has.

A direct translation that is as close as possible to the original poem won’t have the same meter and rhymes. It can also make it confusing because puns and double meanings don’t make sense.

Translators have the hard work of trying to figure out how to make the translation have the same meaning and have the same “flow” of the original text. Translators might have to change the direct translation so that the trans. text flows more like, and has the same vibe (emotions, mechanical qualities), as the original text.

So, the other two comments have made a proper analysis, but I would actually like to draw a major difference:

A ***translation***, is when you take something from Language A, essentially make sure that the works in Language B mean the same thing as close as possible, without regard with compatibility. “A tie” in English does not, and will not ever take the same space as “une cravate” in French, and that’s just the way it is. This is not what you are referring to, though.

What you want to discuss, is a ***localisation***, where relevant linguistic experts will take the line from Language A, get the meaning in its essence, and try to find a line in Language B that conveys the same meaning, even if it doesn’t at all translate from one to the other.

This is how, for instance, Girlfriend by Robyn has very different lyrics in English than its French localization, yet the crux of the evoked image is the same.

In English:

> Call your Girlfriend,
> It’s time you had the talk,
> Give your reasons,
> Say it’s not her fault.
> But you,
> Just met somebody new.

In French (named “Sans Cri Ni Haine”, by Marie Mai, and translated, to show the meaning switch):

> Without Cry nor Hate,
> Tell her to be strong,
> Life is taking you,
> It is not her fault,
> It’s us,
> We have gone crazy.

It doesn’t fit. Words are not 1:1, and mean different, but the imagery are the same, in the essence that it’s telling the singer’s lover to dump their girlfriend/boyfriend. That’s what happens. “How could I evoke the same image, with different, maching words.

To add onto the other responses, sometimes they aren’t. A good example of this is Dante’s Divine Comedy, which was originally written in Italian. The cantos that make up the book are written in a rhyming scheme known as terza rima, where every third line rhymes. Obviously in translation most people prioritize exact content over creative approaches to preserving style, so for English at least reading the divine comedy can seem jarring in most translations. One translator by the name of John Ciardi adapted the text into the terza rima scheme, which I find funny because while to me it embodies the tone and style of the text, it actually had to sacrifice its direct ties to the original language. All in all translation does not come without sacrifice, because content and style vary so much from language to language.