Crazy Heart’s Fallin’ and Flyin’: a Chinese Translation

06 Apr 2010

疯狂的心

I saw Crazy Heart the other day, and to my surprise, I rather liked it. While I can certainly understand my wife’s view that it was “boring” and that “nothing really happens” in it, I found it enjoyable.

Perhaps what I enjoyed the most was seeing Jeff Bridges (who will always be “the dude” in the Big Lebowski to me) and Colin Farrell play American country singers and actually sing their own songs. I was impressed. Colin Farrell is Irish!

Not only that, but several days later I’m finding that a few of those songs are still stuck in my head. I tried to find them online, but it’s a bit difficult. I turned to a Youku video of the entire movie. The Jeff Bridges / Colin Farrell “Fallin’ and Flyin'” duet begins at 47:30 in that video. Watching this scene for the second time, I paid much more attention to the Chinese translation of the lyrics (provided in full at the end of this post), and found a few interesting points.

The opening few lines were done very nicely, both in terms of reproduction of the parallel construction, as well as in rhythm. These lines match the rhythm of the song perfectly, meaning they could even be sung in translation.

> I was goin’ where I shouldn’t go
我去不该去的地

> Seein’ who I shouldn’t see
看到不该看的人

> Doin’ what I shouldn’t do
做了不该做的事

> And bein’ who I shouldn’t be
成了不该成的人

It’s always interesting to see translations of the verb “to be,” as in “bein’ who I shouldn’t be,” and this one was done well.

Unfortunately, after this the Chinese translation breaks the rhythm and gets way too long for the English:

> A little voice told me it’s all wrong
有个微弱的声音对我说 这一切都不对

> Another voice told me it’s all right
另个声音对我说 这一切没关系

What initially caught my attention, though, was the translation of the main chorus:

Fallin' and Flyin' duet

> It’s funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’
奇怪奇怪 有那么一瞬

> For a little while
感觉堕落好似飞翔

Translating this Chinese translation back into English, it would be something like:

> It’s strange, it’s strange… just for an instant
[Being] fallen felt like flying

The use of the Chinese word 堕落 makes sense; it’s commonly used in phrases like “fallen angel” (堕落天使). The problem is that it means “fallen” and not “falling”; it emphasizes some kind of degeneration or “Fall from grace” rather than a physical fall. So whereas “fallin’ feels like flyin'” can be understood on both the literal level (like skydiving, maybe) as well as a figurative level, this Chinese translation chucks the literal interpretation out the window. I wonder whether both meanings were just too difficult to translate into Chinese, or if perhaps the translator heard “fallen” rather than “fallin’.”

Also, there’s the use of 一瞬, which means “an instant.” “For a little while” is certainly not an “instant”… especially when this song represents the main character’s own life, and he’s been “falling” for decades, perhaps.

The translations of these lines made me smile:

> Never see it comin’ till it’s gone
失去后才知道珍惜

> It all happens for a reason, even when it’s wrong
就算错事也有因

> Especially when it’s wrong
尤其是错事

The “never see it comin’ till it’s gone” sounds very country, very American, and rather cliché to me, and yet “失去后才知道珍惜” sounds so typically Chinese, the kind of line you hear in countless Chinese love songs. And yet, it’s a pretty accurate translation. Well done.

I was also amused by the use of 错事 for “when it’s wrong.” The Chinese language likes to bring in 事 when it can. It works.

Overall, the translation is pretty solid. With a little more work, I think it could even be sung. I’d be interested in hearing other thoughts on this translation into Chinese (尤其想知道中国朋友的看法!).



Full Chinese translation of “Fallin’ and Flyin'”

This is the translation used in the subtitles of the Youku video version I found, and it also seems to be widely circulated (word for word) on the Chinese internet:

> 堕落好似飞翔

> 我去不该去的地
看到不该看的人
做了不该做的事
成了不该成的人
有个微弱的声音对我说 这一切都不对
另个声音对我说 这一切没关系
我曾认为我很坚强
但最近我却被打败

> 奇怪奇怪 有那么一瞬
感觉堕落好似飞翔
奇怪奇怪 有那么一瞬
感觉堕落好似飞翔

> 我厌倦演好人
开始想念过去的自由
不再伪装成道貌岸然
重新只做我自己
我没想伤害任何人
只是坚强自己的方式
要是真有极乐世界
你也要为此付出代价

> 奇怪奇怪 有那么一瞬
感觉堕落好似飞翔
奇怪奇怪 有那么一瞬
感觉堕落好似飞翔

> 失去后才知道珍惜
就算错事也有因
尤其是错事

> 奇怪奇怪 有那么一瞬
感觉堕落好似飞翔
奇怪奇怪 有那么一瞬
感觉堕落好似飞翔

> 我去不该去的地
看到不该看的人
做了不该做的事
成了不该成的人

Share

John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. Stephanie Says: April 6, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I’m sorry, this is totally unrelated to your post (which I enjoyed, by the way)… I have a friend that’s working really hard to learn English, so I’m trying to find some way to get some movies where English is spoken, but with Chinese subtitles. My Chinese reading level isn’t the greatest, but I think with the help of Google Translate, I could probably (slowly) navigate through. Do you know of any stores online that would sell something like this that I can buy in the US?

    • Sorry, I don’t know much about finding that kind of thing in the US, but I think finding Disney movies with Chinese subtitles shouldn’t be too hard. I’ve heard of people in the States doing that.

  2. svenaldo Says: April 6, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    great info on this website…. i’ve been a lurker since you joined ChinesePod!

    this one is completely off the topic John but hey…..

    how are you finding your new webhost (im still with dreamhost with readers in china)?

    And feedback on how they fair?

    Regards… and keep up the quality posts.

    sven

  3. svenaldo Says: April 6, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    *fare

    (quality English from an English teacher)

  4. 挺好听的一首歌!这首歌让我觉得音乐的艺术也是“源于生活,又高于生活”,呵呵!

    关于那个falling估计是译者听错了吧,或者是字打错了。个人认为这里用“坠落”更好。

    It’s funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’
    奇怪的是,为何有那么一会儿
    
    For a little while
    感觉坠落好似飞翔
    
  5. and now I’m scouring the interwebs looking for those songs, too 😉 thanks for that, ha.

  6. My understanding for the line is
    “即便墜落也有片時
    像在飛翔…”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *