Examples of French Quebec songs adapted in English
Below are five famous Quebec songs in French that I have adapted to English, showing a faithful translation, and the final singable adaptation with rhymes.
Recorded in both French and English versions
Below are links to some songs I have written in collaboration with Jay Sewall , and which were recorded by the latter. Jay is a bluesman based in Quebec City, Canada.
Translation vs adaptation
Song lyrics are a form of poetry, and poetry doesn’t translate easily. It is simple enough to translate the literal meaning, but then it is no longer poetry. To be a poetic translation, it must convey something of the feeling of the original, its beauty, the sounds of the words, the rhythm, the style — intagible elements that require more art than science.
Translating a song involves all the difficulties of translating poetry, but in adddition it must be “singable”. It needs to fit to the melody of the song, a constraint on the length and rhythm of each line. In addition to “singability”, a song generally includes a rhyming scheme. These constraints can be seen either as an obstacle to maintain the original meaning, or else as a spur to creativity. It forces you to invent new ideas, in order to adapt the song to another language. The result is an adaptation, rather than a translation. The general direction of the song’s story should remain, but many details of the story can change.
I thus make a distinction betwee a “faithful” translation, which is poetic, but fairly literal in order to understand the meaning of the song, and an adaptation, which addresses issues of singability and rhyme.
You have a song in your native language and you think the same song could be a hit in English, giving you access to the international market? It takes creativity, but we can find a way to adapt the song to be sung in English, using the same music and the same ideas.
Or perhaps you have written a song in “English”, as well as you can. But English is not your native language. Before recording it, let me correct any errors and look for ways to express the same ideas with stronger language and images. Is the “hook” really catchy in English? Is the chorus memorable in English? These are questions that need an opinion from a native English speaker and songwriter.
Even if you have only the music, and a rough idea of the lyrics, I can help you complete the song, adding verses as necessary.
Need an English translation to be read to understand the meaning rather than to be sung? For example, you may want an English version as notes to accompany a CD. Even so, you want a translation that preserves the feeling of the original, a version that reads like a poem in English, and not a word-for-word translation.
Send me what you have, a recording, a set of lyrics, or sheet music and I will let you know what I can do with it. I am fluent in French and Spanish. I am familiar with German and Italian. We can always find a way to deal with other languages. Send the material to email@example.com.