Apretado! Apretado!
July 5, 2012 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Spanish-translation-filter. As part of this month's Mefi music challenge, I'm doing a cover of Radiohead's Subterranean Homesick Alien in Spanish, and need translation help.

Here's the English, and there's already a Spanish translation online here, but it's more wordy than I can deal with given the tempo of the song.

1. Is this a good translation?
2. Can the wording be more economical and still get the meaning across? I can speak rapidamente, pero es muy dificil for long stretches of lyrics. It would great if someone could try and make it as terse as possible, but still communicate the semantics.
3. I'd like to give the translation a Mexican feel if at all possible.
4. You'll get to hear me butcher this into carnitas when I post my song this month. :)
posted by hanoixan to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There are lots of things you can do to make it shorter, like 'I keep forgetting' could just be 'estoy olivadando' - 'I am forgetting' You could drop the 'por completo' from one of the lines, etc, it's fairly literal.

I'm just learning Spanish though, so I'm not even close to being able to translate.
posted by empath at 9:56 AM on July 5, 2012

I think there's a typo dolor -> olor near the beginning... If you mean the translation is intended to be sung, then I'm afraid to tinker much with it since I have zero knowledge about the original tune. There are things that strike me odd, that being said. For instance country lane, not sure in Mexico, but here would be camino vecinal, nothing like a town sidewalk. The apretado also baffled me, but checking on reference dictionaries I see that it IS a mexican use for what I would have chosen instead, estirado (still, I'd think it's rather ser apretado than estar apretado, this last one would mean be tight or in a confined space). Other things I'd do different, but then again the mexican localisms may mean I'm just missing the point: perforan huecos -> se hacen agujeros, watch your feet -> miras dónde caminas, can't smell a thing -> no puedes oler nada.
posted by Iosephus at 11:35 AM on July 5, 2012

Best answer: I saw your post just as I was looking for an exercise to do with my Spanish tutor. So here you go. It's the joint effort of me and my (native Mexican) tutor. We cut a few words out to try to keep the syllable count down. The translation you linked to is kind of literal and has some grammatical issues.

El aliento de la mañana
Lo sigo olvidando
El olor del aire caluroso del verano

Vivo en un pueblo
Donde no puedes oler nada
Miras tus pies
Por grietas en la acera

Allá arriba
Los extraterrestres
Grabando películas caseras
Para los que se quedaron

De todas estas criaturas raras
Que ponen sus almas bajo llave
Taladran huecos en si mismos
Y viven en sus secretos

Están todos tensos
Tensos, tensos
Tensos, tensos.

Que desciendan en un camino
En la noche mientras conduzco
Que me suban a su bella nave
Que me muestren el mundo como yo quiero verlo

Se lo diría a todos mis amigos pero nunca me creerían
Pensarían que por fin enloquecí
Les mostraría las estrellas y lo que significa la vida
Me encerrarían
Pero estaría bien, bien
Estaría bien
Estoy bien.

Solo estoy tenso, tenso
posted by ceiba at 4:52 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your notes. Ceiba, that's totally what I was looking for! Thank you so much, and thank your tutor! I'll let you know when I'm finished laying down the vocals for this song and it's on Mefi Music.
posted by hanoixan at 10:22 PM on July 5, 2012

I love this song, remember enough Spanish to be dangerous, and know how to bend Wiktionary to my will -- as witness this back-translation of a translated Disney song or an English take on Portal 2 credits -- so I'll give it a go.

When translating songs, it's much more important to go for the rhythm and rhyme of the original than the literal meaning -- better to have a pleasing paraphrase than a clunky verbatim. Ceiba's example is probably much more linguistically precise than I can manage, but it would be tough to wrangle those phrases into the song.

So here's my attempt, after a lot of tinkering last night and this morning, with the meaning of the translation on the right. It's reworded slightly, there are probably grammatical issues later on with all the nested subjunctive tenses, and I had to bend a few rules here and there (mostly dropping the occasional article). But it gets the point of the song across while still adhering closely to the original scansion -- and even rhymes (mostly)!
"Alienígeno Subterráneo y Nostalgico" de Radiohead Radiocabeza

Suspiro del alba (Sigh of the dawn)
Yo recordaba (I used to remember)
El olor del sol estival (The smell of the summer sunshine)

Vivo en un val (I live in a vale)
Donde no hueles ya (where you don't smell anymore)
Miras tu paso (you watch your way)
Por fallas del piso (for flaws in the floor)

Arriba, allá (Above, over there)
E.T.s flotando (E.T.'s are floating)
Diaristas grabando (Diarists recording)
Por su gente atrás (For their people behind)

De todos las bestias (About all these beasts)
Que guardan sus almas, (Who put away their souls,)
Taladran sus yos, (Drill into their selves,)
Viven de secretos (Live by secrets)

Todos... tenso! Tenso! (Everybody... uptight! Uptight!)
Tenso! Tenso! (Uptight! Uptight!)
Tenso! Tenso... (Uptight! Uptight...)

Ojalá que bajen (I wish they'd descend)
En calle rural (On a rural road)
Cuando voy manejando (When I go driving)

Me inviten a... (They'd invite me to...)
Su nave bella... (Their beautiful ship...)
Me muestren el mundo como (Show me the world like)
Yo deseo... (I desire...)

Cuente mis amigos, (I'd tell my friends,)
No puedan creerme (They couldn't believe me)
Supongan me volva (They'd think that I've gone)
loco totalmente (Totally crazy)

Les muestre astros (I'd show them stars)
Y sentido de "ser" (And the meaning of "to be")
Me canden allá... (They'd lock me away)
Y sea muy bien (And I'd be all right)

Muy bien... (All right...)
Soy muy bien... (I'm all right...)
Muy bien... (All right...)
Sólo... tenso! Tenso! (Just... uptight! Uptight!)
Tenso! Tenso! (Uptight! Uptight!)
Tenso! Tenso! (Uptight! Uptight...)
Tenso! Tenso... (Uptight! Uptight...)
posted by Rhaomi at 5:16 AM on July 6, 2012

Response by poster: Here's the song and translation I ended up with.
posted by hanoixan at 2:56 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: And thanks Rhaomi for your input. Although I felt like much of the meaning had changed in your translation, I really liked some of the opening and used it.
posted by hanoixan at 2:57 PM on July 8, 2012

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