ZH > EN: Taiwanese Mandarin Let It Go

If you haven't read the note at the beginning of the other Mandarin translation, hop over there and read it before we begin, so I don't have to repeat myself.

I have a confession to make: I can't really read Traditional Chinese. I worked through this translation by sticking the lyrics into Google Translate and asking it to translate from Traditional to Simplified Chinese.

This is the version of Let It Go that was recorded for Taiwan:

Mandarin version

English translation

English version

白雪紛飛一片銀色世界 White snow swirls, a world blanketed in silver The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
báixuě fēnfēi yīpiàn yínsè shìjiè (white-snow swirls one-field silver world)
放眼望去是沉寂 Stillness as far as the eye can see Not a footprint to be seen
fàngyǎn wàngqù shì chénjì (let eye see out is stillness)
遙遠國度放逐自我 I've banished myself to a distant kingdom A kingdom of isolation
yáoyuǎn guódù fàngzhú zìwǒ (distant kingdom exile myself)
孤單寂寞每一天 Alone and lonely every day And it looks like I'm the queen
gūdān jìmò měi yītiān (alone lonely every day)
思緒像狂風呼嘯巨浪般澎湃 My train of thought is screaming like a gale, surging like giant waves The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside
sīxù xiàng kuángfēng hūxiào jùlàng bān péngpài (thought-thread like mad-wind screaming giant-wave type surging)
無法再壓抑最後的忍耐 No way to hold back, my restraint is at an end Couldn't keep it in, heaven knows I tried
wúfǎ zài yāyì zuìhòu de rěnnài (no-way again hold back most-last ATTR restraint)

The Taiwanese Mandarin translation feels a bit more literary to my ears, a little less conversational. It's a little denser, a bit harder to understand, but also jam-packed with some incredible imagery. Look at that second-last line, and then look at the gloss! There is no deadweight there, every word counts. It's beautiful.

English really doesn't have an equivalent to 忍. Spanish has aguantar, Malay has tahan, but the closest English comes to is "endure". "My endurance is at an end" sounds like somebody running out of energy at the end of a marathon.

You'll notice the line isn't actually divided into two. I actually read it as "no way to hold back my last bit of restraint" but that sounds a little bit contradictory to me. If you hold back your last bit of restraint, you... still have restraint, don't you? And if you don't hold back your last bit of restraint, you didn't really have any restraint left, did you?

Mandarin version

English translation

English version

不要靠近 Don't get close Don't let them in
bùyào kàojìn (don't get close)
不要相信 Don't believe Don't let them see
bùyào xiāngxìn (don't believe)
乖乖聽話 Be good and listen Be the good girl
guāiguāi tīnghuà (obedient-obedient listen)
安分一如往昔 Know your place just as in the past You always had to be
ānfèn yīrú wǎngxī (content-place like in the past)
隱藏,堅強,拒絕表露 Hide, don't yield, refuse to reveal Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
yǐncáng, jiānqiáng, jùjué biǎolù (hide, strong, refuse reveal)
拋下所有 Abandon it all Well, now they know
pāoxià suǒyǒu (throw down everything)

Reduplication appears here in the form of 乖乖, glossed here as obedient-obedient. It's a gloss, so it's okay; you would have to be a bit deaf to try to fit that into a meter.

Mandarin version

English translation

English version

放開手,放開手 Let it go, let it go Let it go, let it go
fàngkāi shǒu, fàngkāi shǒu (let-open hand, let-open hand)
不需要任何理由 There's no need for a reason Can't hold it back any more
bù xūyào rènhé lǐyóu (don't need any reason)
放開手,放開手 Let it go, let it go Let it go, let go
fàngkāi shǒu, fàngkāi shǒu (let-open hand, let-open hand)
不理會心中枷鎖 Ignore the shackles in your heart Turn away and slam the door
bù lǐhuì xīnzhōng jiāsuǒ (don't pay attention heart inside shackle)
還以為曾經在乎過誰 To think I once cared about them I don't care what they're going to say
hái yǐwéi céngjīng zàihūguò shuí (still think once cared who)
讓暴雨翻騰 Let the rainstorm rage Let the storm rage on
ràng bàoyǔ fānténg (let rainstorm churn)
從不畏懼征服冰霜風雪 Never again fear conquering the ice, frost, wind and snow The cold never bothered me anyway
cóng bù wèijù zhēngfú bīngshuāng fēngxuě (ever no fear conquer ice-frost-wind-snow)

放開手 is to let go of something that you're holding on to ("let-go hand", after all). Later on we'll see another translation which I've also rendered as "let it go", but which has a slightly different nuance.

The first meaning of 翻騰 churn, rage in my dictionary is "tuck dive", as in diving.

I think in the sticklebrick compound expression stakes, 冰天雪地 ice-sky snow-earth beats out 冰霜風雪 ice-frost-wind-snow by a bit -- just a bit. Ice-frost-wind-snow is a bit too much air and not enough gravity.

Mandarin version

English translation

English version

你我之間有距離 There's a distance between you and me It's funny how some distance
nǐ wǒ zhījiān yǒu jùlí (you me between have distance)
一切變得渺小 Everything becomes insignificant Makes everything seem small
yīqiè biàn dé miǎoxiǎo (everything becomes insignificant-small)
那縈繞心頭的恐懼 Those fears hovering over my head and heart And the fears that fears once controlled me
nà yíngrào xīntóu de kǒngjù (that hover heart-head ATTR fear)
已經不再重要 Are no longer important Can't get to me at all
yǐjīng bù zài zhòngyào (already not again important)
看看我要如何去做 Let's see how I do things It's time to see what I can do
kànkàn wǒ yào rúhé qù zuò (see-see I want how go do)
測試極限能否突破 Testing limits to see if I can break them To test the limits and break through
cèshì jíxiàn néngfǒu túpò (test limits can-not break through)
沒有對錯,沒有束縛 No right, no wrong, there are no limits No right, no wrong, no rules for me
méiyǒu duìcuò, méiyǒu shùfù (don't-have right-wrong, don't-have restriction)
起飛 Take flight! I'm free
qǐfēi (up-fly)

Okay 心頭 is literally "heart-head" but in usage it typically refers to the mind or to thoughts. I split them out in the translation because the song is so much about following your heart yadda yadda.

起飛 actually refers to an airplane lifting off. It was a bit hard to put that context in the gloss and still have it make sense, so "up-fly" it was.

Mandarin version

English translation

English version

放開手,放開手 Let it go, let it go Let it go, let it go
fàngkāi shǒu, fàngkāi shǒu (let-open hand, let-open hand)
從今往後由我主宰 From today, I will decide I'm one with the wind and sky
cóng jīn wǎnghòu yóu wǒ zhǔzǎi (from today in future due to me decide)
讓它走,讓它走 Let it go, let it go Let it go, let go
ràng tā zǒu, ràng tā zǒu (let it go, let it go)
絕不再受傷害 Never again will I be hurt You'll never see me cry
jué bù zài shòu shānghài (absolutely not ever suffer hurt)
新世界在我眼前 A new world lies in front of my eyes Here I stand and here I'm staying
xīn shìjiè zài wǒ yǎnqián (new world is my eyes front)
讓暴雨翻騰 Let the rainstorm rage Let the storm rage on
ràng bàoyǔ fānténg (let rainstorm churn)

The other rendition of "let it go" makes its appearance: 讓它走. Unlike 放開手, which is about letting go of something in your grasp, 讓它走 is about letting something walk away or letting something go free.

I've been glossing 在 as "is" and it's making me unhappy because it's so vague. In this context, 在 indicates position; it's not a copula). It tells you that something is somewhere. 前 "front" is a postposition, so mentally swing it around before the noun phrase 我眼 "my eyes", and you get "in front of my eyes".

Mandarin version

English translation

English version

力量強大從地底直竄上雲霄 My power strengthens from underground and bursts up towards the skies My power flurries through the air into the ground
lìliàng qiángdà cóng dìdǐ zhí cuàn shàng yúnxiāo (power strong-big from ground-under straight expel up clouds)
我的心層層冰封,銳利碎片很難消 My heart freezes over layer by layer, sharp shards that are very hard to extinguish My soul is spiralling in frozen fractals all around
wǒ de xīn céngcéng bīngfēng, ruìlì suìpiàn hěn nán xiāo (my heart layer-layer ice-seal, sharp break-piece very difficult eliminate)
心念動,冰晶立起,天地將改變 A thought moves my heart, ice crystals freeze, the sky and earth will soon transform And one thought crystallises like an icy blast
xīnniàn dòng, bīngjīng lì qǐ, tiāndì jiāng gǎibiàn (heart-thought move, ice crystals freeze, sky-earth soon transform)
前方的路等待 The road ahead awaits I'm never going back
qiánfāng de lù děngdài (ahead ATTR road awaits)
過去不要留戀 Don't dwell on the past The past is in the past
guòqù bùyào liúliàn (past don't be nostalgic)

I spent a long time with 竄上. I originally used "flies up towards the skies", but "fly" doesn't have the force of "expel", and so I settled on "bursts up". 強大 strong actually parses like an adjective here to me, although I don't see why it shouldn't be 強大力量 instead of 力量強大, so I hedged a bit and avoided the question altogether.

層層 layer-layer is a fascinating use of reduplication. Actually, both cases of reduplication in this version have been adverbial, which cough Wikipedia cough doesn't mention in its section about reduplication in Mandarin. Nominal, verbal, adjectival reduplication yes, but not adverbial.

Mandarin version

English translation

English version

讓它走,讓它走 Let it go, let it go Let it go, let it go
ràng tā zǒu, ràng tā zǒu (let it go, let it go)
烏雲後面就是曙光 Behind the dark clouds is the dawn And I'll rise like the break of dawn
wūyún hòumiàn jiùshì shǔguāng (dark-clouds behind-side just is dawn-light)
讓它走,讓它走 Let it go, let it go Let it go, let go
ràng tā zǒu, ràng tā zǒu (let it go, let it go)
只剩記憶迴盪 Only memories left echoing That perfect girl is gone
zhǐ shèng jìyì huídàng (only left memories reverberating)
新世界,希望在眼前 A new world, hope before my eyes Here I stand in the light of day
xīn shìjiè, xīwàng zài yǎnqián (ne world, hope is eyes-front)
讓暴雨翻騰 Let the rainstorm rage Let the storm rage on
ràng bàoyǔ fānténg (let rainstorm churn)
從不畏懼征服冰霜風雪 Never again fear conquering the ice, frost, wind and snow The cold never bothered me anyway
cóng bù wèijù zhēngfú bīngshuāng fēngxuě (ever no fear conquer ice-frost-wind-snow)

I know echo and reverb are not the same thing but reverberating has too many damn syllables.

At this point in this translation binge, all I can think is: how do you know the clouds are dark if the sun isn't up yet?


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.