12 bilingual songs and their translations

September 19, 2014 by Cassie Whitt

12 bilingual songs and their translations

Have you ever listened to a song, paused and thought, “Wait. What did they just say?” only to realize it wasn’t a buildup in your ears or an unclear vocal delivery that threw you off, but use of an unexpected language? It’s always a pleasant surprise when an artist steps beyond the boundaries of their primary spoken language to convey their message, add an exciting element or communicate with a new audience.

And who needs Rosetta Stone when you have bands to teach you, am I right?

Tell us your favorite multilingual songs in the comments.

[Ed. Note: Some of these translations have been Google-ified and thus might not be completely precise. We encourage the linguists among you to give us better translations if they exist!]

AFI - “The Leaving Song Part II”
Languages: English, Spanish

A short survey of my peers concluded that most people, though familiar with this song, aren’t aware that those lines Davey Havok mutters before the chorus are en español, but it makes total sense when you think about it. The chorus starts with “to” with no lead-up if you ignore the mumbles.

Example: “Yo he estado aquí/muchas veces antes/y regreso/To break down/And cease all feeling…”
Translation: “I’ve been here many times before/and I return/To break down…”

 

The Architects - “In The Snow”
Languages: English, Spanish
Kansas City-based the Architects are in the middle of their five-part concept comic/album series Border Wars, and the wildly catchy Spanglish tune “In The Snow” from Part II chronicles the journey of Rosmaria, the love interest of the song’s narrator. She just happens to also be a drug-dealer.

Example: “Esta chica Rosemaria es mi amor, es mi corazón/Twice a week to Tijuana peligroso so your friends can all get stoned”
Translation: “This girl Rosemaria is my love, is my heart/Twice a week to Tijuana (dangerous) so your friends can all get stoned”

 

Ben Folds Five - “Song For The Dumped”
Languages: English, Japanese

Managing editor Scott Heisel, who ranks this among his top revenge songs, tipped me off to this track, which became so successful internationally that it was translated to Japanese. This music video features the first verse in English and the second in Japanese and subtitled in English.

 

Blur - “To The End” (La Comédie)
​Languages: 
French, English

This sadly romantic Blur song got a little more romantic when it was re-released as a duet between Damon Albarn and French vocalist Françoise Hardy.

Example: “We've been drinking far too much (Si peu d'amour)/And neither of us mean what we say (Et tant de haine)”
Translation: “We’ve been drinking far too much (so little love)/And neither of us mean what we say (And so much hatred)”

 

The Clash - “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”
Languages: 
English, Spanish

Starting with the second verse of this punk-rock classic through the last line of the song, every lyric gets shouted in the background in its Spanish translation.

Example: “This indecision’s bugging me/(Esta indecision me molesta!)”
Translation: “This indecision’s bugging me/(This indecision bothers me!)”

 

The Mars Volta - “Viscera Eyes”
Languages: English, Spanish

This epic of a song clocks in at almost nine-and-a-half minutes and features verses that alternate between English and Spanish.

Example: “A noche te vi caminando sin la alma de tu cuerpo/En los brasos sin luz”
Translation: “At night I saw you walking without the soul of your body/In embers without light.”

 

Minus The Bear - “South Side Life”
Languages: English, Spanish

Of course a band who titled one of their albums the Spanish translation of their name would have a song or two with multilingual lyrics. Guest vocalist Ely Guerra’s Spanish refrain in this B-side could double as a description for the way this song sounds.

Example: “En tranquila oscuridad/Deseo callada…”
Translation: “In quiet darkness/I wish silently …”

 

Morrissey - “Don’t Make Fun Of Daddy’s Voice”
Languages: English, Spanish

Morrissey really, really doesn’t want you to make fun of someone’s voice, to the point that he just breaks down and implores you not do so repeatedly in Spanish at the close of this song.

Example: “No te divertes con papi”
Translation: “Don’t make fun of Daddy”

 

Muse - “I Belong To You”
Languages: English, French

Muse’s passionate “I Belong To You (Mon Cœur S'ouvre à Ta Voix)” from The Resistance quiets for a sweet and soft French intermission at the halfway mark of the song.

Example: “Réponds, réponds à ma tendresse”
Translation: “Respond, respond to my tenderness”

 

My Chemical Romance - “Party Poison”
Languages: 
English, Japanese

Airi Isoda, the voice of “NewsAGoGo”—one of the radio commentators in the desert Zones created for MCR’s Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys—opens, interjects and sends “Party Poison” to its screeching end.

Example: “みんな!車満タンだし、スーツケースには爆弾がつめている  人生は短くて、行く道は危険が多い  だから、踊ろう!”
Translation (rough): “Everyone! We filled up the car with gas and the suitcase with bombs. Life is short and we have a dangerous way ahead, so let’s dance!”

 

Say Anything - “Hebrews”
Languages: English, Hebrew/Yiddish

Say Anything team up with Brian Sella of the Front Bottoms as Max Bemis does what he does best—self deprecates. Only this time, the pair end up insulting themselves in Yiddish, which somehow makes it sound even more disparaging.

Example: “I am a waste of a bar mitzvah/And all my חיים I've been sad/Oh, a schlemiel, a schlemazel”
Translation (rough): “I am a waste of a bar mitzvah/And all my life I’ve been sad/Oh, a fool and a failure” 

 

Senses Fail - “Mi Amor”
Languages: Spanish, English

Only Senses Fail could make a love song sound this tough. Who knew shouting “my love!” in Spanish could sound like a battle cry? Todos partes de esta canción are in Spanish except the chorus. 

Example: “Yo no soy nada!/Yo no soy nada sin ti!”
Translation: “I am nothing!/I am nothing without you!”

Tags

my chemical romance say anything senses fail afi morrissey muse minus the bear the mars volta the architects ben folds five

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