Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Translation Project 3: "How Can You Say" by Teresa Teng

Time for another translation: I'll be translating a classic of Mandarin pop into English.

Teresa Teng, blessed be her soul, was the ultimate diva of Chinese-language pop in the '80s and early '90s until her sudden and tragic death in the mid-1990s. Born to Mainland refugees on Taiwan, she took Taiwan, Japan, and then the rest of Asia by storm with her songs in Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Indonesian and English. Even though she died almost two decades ago, her songs still top charts in China, Taiwan and around Asia. When I was in Shenzhen last summer, I heard her most famous songs all the time in restaurants. They're also great for karaoke (my perennial favorite, for those of you who care, is 何日君再來).

This song, called Ni zenme shuo (你怎麽說) in Chinese, is about a woman jilted by an insincere man. The first time I heard it, I must admit that I thought "oh narrator, you are a silly, silly lady." But the song is beautifully touching and very short and sweet in the Chinese. Unfortunately, Chinese is very hard to translate into English, and the lyricism of the song is lost in a literal translation. I took some liberty with it.

How Can You Say to Me?
Lyrics : Teresa Teng
Translated by Jonathan Katz into a lyrical form


The lyrics of the song are sung twice.


I did not forget,
But you forgot me,
Even my name 
you forgot, I see.
All along, it is clear
that you cheated me
And now, on this day
how can you say to me?

You had said two days, 
and you would be by,
but over a year 
I waited, apparently,
three hundred sixty five
days badly passed by
I was not anywhere
inside your heart, clearly
Please give back
my love to me.


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