ES > EN: Libre soy

As far as the Spanish language goes, Castilian Spanish will always have a special place in my heart. It's what I started learning, and I feel a real affinity for Spain, its cities and its languages.

However, after much remonstration with myself, I have to admit that I think the Latin American Spanish translation of Let It Go is better than the Castilian Spanish one.

Take a look and decide for yourself.

Spanish version

English translation

English version

La nieve pinta la montaña hoy The snow paints the mountain today The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
No hay huellas que seguir There are no footprints to follow Not a footprint to be seen
En la soledad, un reino In the solitude, a kingdom A kingdom of isolation
Y la reina vive en mí And the queen lives in me And it looks like I'm the queen
El viento ruge, hay tormenta en mi interior The wind roars, there's a storm inside me The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside
Una tempestad que de mí salió A tempest that came out of me Couldn't keep it in, heaven knows I tried

I really like the image of snow painting a mountain, and "no footprints to follow" feels more evocative to me than "no footprints left". Everything about this translation feels really alive to me, though I can't say I can pin down what gives me that impression.

Spanish version

English translation

English version

Lo que hay en ti What you have in you Don't let them in
No dejes ver Don't let it be seen Don't let them see
Buena chica A good girl Be the good girl
Tú siempre debes ser You must always be You always had to be
No has de abrir tu corazón You must not open up your heart Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Pues ya se abrió Well, now it's open Well, now they know

It's really difficult not to mentally compare two translations of the same language. Here I especially like the relationship between the last two lines, which is missing in the Castilian Spanish version.

Incidentally, I wasn't able to find a reference for this, at least not quickly. I rarely see "haber de" + verb in popular usage, but it's used here presumably because the more natural translation, "tener que" + verb requires too many syllables. What I've just realised I don't know is what it means when negated. "Haber de" usually means "must" or "have to", but does "no haber de" mean "must not" or "don't have to"? In both the Castilian Spanish version and here I've translated it as "must not", because "you don't have to open up your heart" makes zero sense, but I realise I actually don't know for sure.

Tsk, so much for being a Spanish major.

Spanish version

English translation

English version

Libre soy, libre soy I am free, I am free Let it go, let it go
No puedo ocultarlo más I can't hide it any more Can't hold it back any more
Libre soy, libre soy I am free, I am free Let it go, let go
Libertad sin vuelta atrás Freedom with no turning back Turn away and slam the door
Qué más da, no me importa ya It doesn't matter, I don't care any more I don't care what they're going to say
Gran tormenta habrá There will be a great storm Let the storm rage on
El frío es parte también de mí The cold too is a part of me The cold never bothered me anyway

Yes, I translated "qué más da" differently each time. I don't know, Castilian Spanish Elsa sounds more "heck-care", as we say in Singapore, and Latin American Spanish Elsa seems to have more of a coherence about her, so it seemed appropriate to translate them slightly differently even when the words were the same.

I can see a case for choosing "the cold is also a part of me" over "the cold too is a part of me", but I have an inexplicable preference for "too" here, and I also inexplicably want it in a position other than at the end of the sentence. Maybe it reflects my expectation that "también" should have come before the verb? Since I expected "también" elsewhere, maybe that's why I decided to stick "too" in an unexpected position to mirror that unexpected syntax. I need a synonym for "expect" and all its derivative forms.

Spanish version

English translation

English version

Mirando a la distancia Looking into the distance It's funny how some distance
Pequeño todo es Everything is small Makes everything seem small
Y los miedos que me ataban And the fears that used to tie me down And the fears that fears once controlled me
Muy lejos los dejé I've left them far behind Can't get to me at all
Voy a probar qué puedo hacer I'm going to test what I can do It's time to see what I can do
Sin limitar mi proceder Without limiting my behaviour To test the limits and break through
Ni mal ni bien ni obedecer No evil, no good, no obeying No right, no wrong, no rules for me
¡Jamás! Never! I'm free

Two decisions were involved in "I've left them far behind":

  1. Present perfect or simple present?: Latin American Spanish tends to prefer the preterite where Castilian Spanish would use the present perfect. So, when translating a preterite verb form from Latin American Spanish, there's some latitude to choose between the present perfect and the simple present. If one of my students came to me with this question, I'd call "leaving [her fears] far behind" an accomplishment, necessitating the use of the present perfect.
  2. Far behind or far away?: "Lejos" is more accurately "far away", but "to leave something far away" doesn't ring as right as "to leave something far behind". Translator's licence.

I can't say that "sin limitar mi proceder" is my favourite line (litotes!) It feels a bit stiff.

Spanish version

English translation

English version

Libre soy, libre soy I am free, I am free Let it go, let it go
El viento me abrazará The wind will embrace me I'm one with the wind and sky
Libre soy, libre soy I am free, I am free Let it go, let go
No me verán llorar They'll never see me cry You'll never see me cry
Firme así, me quedo ahí [Standing] strong, I'm staying there Here I stand and here I'm staying
Gran tormenta habrá There will be a great storm Let the storm rage on

I mulled over "firme así" for a long time. I feel like the expression that corresponds most closely is "to hold fast", but I wanted an adjective, and "fast" by itself doesn't quite cut it. "Firme así" is perhaps closer to "strong like this". I'm not happy with this translation, but at some point you have to put some words down on paper and move on.

It's a bit of a mystery to me why it's "me quedo ahí", "I'm staying there", instead of "me quedo aquí", "I'm staying here".

Spanish version

English translation

English version

Por viento y tierra mi poder florecerá Through wind and earth my power will flourish My power flurries through the air into the ground
Mi alma congelada en fragmentos romperá My frozen soul will shatter into fragments My soul is spiralling in frozen fractals all around
Ideas nuevas pronto cristalizaré Soon I will crystallise new ideas And one thought crystallises like an icy blast
No volveré jamás I will never go back I'm never going back
No queda nada atrás There's nothing left back there The past is in the past

Here's where I think this translation really distinguishes itself from the Castilian Spanish one. I find those first two lines so much more potent. "Through wind and earth" feels a lot more all-encompassing than "the bowels of the earth", and the image of a shattering soul, somehow, feels a lot more powerful than a growing one. Just me? Okay, just me then.

That third line, "ideas nuevas", has got to be just about the only time in Spanish a clause begins with a noun without an article. Strictly speaking, it shouldn't happen, but I guess when you have a strict form that's not designed for your language, you do what you have to do to make the words fit (c.f. siempre with the imperfect).

I far prefer "no queda nada atrás" to the Castilian Spanish version's "el pasado ya pasó" (the past has already passed). I know it's trying to stick close to the English version, but the latter is a bit too much of a tautology for my liking.

Spanish version

English translation

English version

Libre soy, libre soy I am free, I am free Let it go, let it go
Surgiré como el despertar I will rise like the awakening And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Libre soy, libre soy I am free, I am free Let it go, let go
Se fue la chica ideal The ideal girl is gone That perfect girl is gone
Firme así a la luz del sol [Standing] strong in the light of the sun Here I stand in the light of day
Gran tormenta habrá There will be a great storm Let the storm rage on
El frío es parte también de mí The cold too is a part of me The cold never bothered me anyway

When I look at "se fue la chica ideal", the comparison that jumps to mind is the Catalan "ja no em portaré bé" (I won't behave well any more). There's a pretty big difference between "the ideal girl is gone" and "I'm going to behave badly!!!"

Overall, I think this is a really solid translation that keeps its eye on the big picture and tries to make the song make sense as a whole.


This post is part of the Parallel Translation series, where I translate things that have been translated from English into other languages back into English. It's my idea of fun. Yes, I'm a riot at parties.