Lost in Translation

Thursday, February 07, 2008

One of my favorite songs of all time is
Je T'aimais, Je T'aime Et Je T'aimerai by Francis Cabrel
I first heard this song when I was 12,
when I lived in Bordeaux, France
When I am not thinking in English,
I am thinking in French.
Portuguese lost its place in my thoughts a while ago...
But the deal is, I am not a very good translator because of it,
because when I am listening, watching or reading in one language
I am thinking in that language....
I am lazy and I actually hate translating
because you lose a lot when you do that
specially in French, because you can express yourself more
if you say it in French
(yes yes they're perfect)

So, since I am lazy, I wanted a translation for that song in English
I googled it and every single translation out there sucked!
A girl even translated "galets" as rollers, and "galet" is "pebble"
like the French mediterranean beaches at Côte d'Azur
with just pebble and no sand...

That drives me crazy!
I had to remind myself to breathe.
so anyway...
I fixed her horrible translation and here it is
the video, the lyrics in French and the translation in English.

The lyrics are just amazing.

Mon enfant, nue sur les galets,
Le vent dans tes cheveux défaits,
Comme un printemps sur mon trajet,
Un diamant tombé d'un coffret.

Seule la lumière pourrait
Défaire nos repères secrets
Où mes doigts pris sur tes poignets,
Je t'aimais, je t'aime et je t'aimerai...

Quoi que tu fasses, l'amour est partout ou tu regardes
Dans les moindres recoins de l'espace,
Dans le moindre rêve ou tu t'attardes
L'amour, comme s'il en pleuvait,
Nu sur les galets...

Le ciel prétend qu'il te connait
Il est si beau c'est sûrement vrai.
Lui qui s'approche jamais
Je l'ai vu pris dans tes filets.

Le monde a tellement de regrets
Tellement de choses qu'on promet.
Une seule pour laquelle je suis fait
Je t'aimais, je t'aime et je t'aimerai...

Quoi que tu fasses, l'amour est partout ou tu regardes,
Dans les moindres recoins de l'espace,
Dans le moindre rêve ou tu t'attardes.
L'amour, comme s'il en pleuvait,
Nu sur les galets...

On s'envolera du même quai
Les yeux dans les mêmes reflets,
Pour cette vie et celle d'après
Tu seras mon unique projet.

Je m'en irai poser tes portraits
A tous les plafonds de tous les palais,
Sur tous les murs que je trouverai
Et juste en-dessous j'écrirai

Que seule la lumière pourrait...

Et mes doigts pris sur tes poignets,
Je t'aimais, je t'aime et je t'aimerai....

 My child, nude over the rocks,
The wind blowing through your disarranged hair,
Like Spring on my path,
A diamond fallen from a chest.

Only the light could
Reveal our secret marks
With my fingers tight around your wrists,
I loved you, I love you and I'll love you. . .

No matter what you do, love is everywhere you look
In the farthest corners of space,
In the slightest dreams or when you are late,
Love, as if it rained it,
Nude over the rocks.

The sky pretends to know you
It's so beautiful, it is true
The sky that never comes near
I saw it captured in your nets.

The World has so many regrets
So many things that we promise
Only her, that I am made for
I loved you, I love you and I'll love you.

No matter what you do, love is everywhere you look
In the farthest corners of space,
In the slightest dreams or when you are late,
Love, as if it rained it,
Nude over the rocks.

We will fly away together from the same platform,
Our eyes in the same reflection
For this life and the next one,
You will be my only project.

I will put all your portraits
On all the ceilings of all the palaces
Over every wall that I will find
And just below it, I will write

That only the light could. . .

With my fingers tight around your wrists,
I loved you, I love you and I will love you.


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  1. Lol I liked your translation of this song. I just hate how some of the feeling and meaning is lost in translation. The most obvious loss I think is the repetition of "I love you" when he is saying the has and always loved 'her. But that does get cumbersome in the English. :)

  2. i agree with you, this song is beautiful... but the way the je t'aimais line comes into english is slightly annoying because it just doesnt sound right =[
    i like this translation best out of all the ones ive come across tbh it has the right tone to it, nice one =]

  3. GREAT song- but despite your disgust, pebble is a correct translation for galet. My dictionary I have at home defines it as "Caillou poli et arrondi par frottement, qui se trouve le plus souvent sur le rivage de la mer ou dans le lit des torrents". Have you never seen a beach made of pebbles as opposed to sand? Someone could just as easily be irked by your translation of "sur" as "over" as opposed to "on"- how are you "over the rocks" levitation perhaps?

  4. Not to mention your less than poetic use of disarranged for "defaits" (it could even be seen as simply undone, i.e. her hair is down). Translation is not a word for word artform- it is often required to alter the phrasing slightly to maintain the intended feeling, especially in music and poetry.

  5. to the anonymous post above....

    I did say that pebble are rocks (read my post again)... like the ones from the south of France...on the beaches. My disgust was about the translation I found online before I made mine, where a girl said that galet was rollers... not that galet means pebble, I said above on the post that pebble was the correct translation for galet.
    I lived in France and when I saw that the girl translated roller for galet, since I have seen galets, a lot... I said "wait, those are rocks..." I still have my sandales plastiques that you have to use to walk on them...
    And "sur" does mean over, the English adaptation of "on" doesnt have an exact equal trasnlation if you consider Latin based languages like French, and since when I read in French I think in French, at the time I did the translation "on" didn't come to mind, because "over" is a "word-per-word" type translation (raw) and showed up in my mind first... but I guess you could use on...
    Do you mind giving me a link so I know who you are? It's not very nice when you give me a critique (good ro bad), and do that as anonymous... or show me your translation so I can fix mine =)
    thank you.

  6. Mea culpa, I misread your post- however you still chose rocks over pebbles? And I do know that "over" is a perfectly acceptable translation of "sur"- You just seemed so angry that I thought I'd poke a little fun at your translation. What I was trying to point out is that translation of a song is very difficult with such fickle results (Although I will admit "rollers" is pretty bad)

    Not a fan of anonymity? Welcome to the internet! Besides, why does it matter who I am as opposed to what I am saying? Do you wish to judge me on who I may appear to be, as opposed to my words?

  7. Oh and for your second post...
    I don't phrase slightly anything... because it changes the meaning, and that is why reading translated books sucks... and that is why I speak more than 5 lnaguages... because you either read and think in that language or you use a word per word translation... certified translators can't phrase anything because it changes the meaning and then the document is not valid... so there is no way I will translate anything in my life and phrase it to fit a poem. A poem isnt that good anymore when translated... if you want to understand it, the intended feeling of it, then read it in the original language and get it! I read Romeo and Juliet, my fav book, in 4 languages and trust me... it sucks if it is not English, it loses meaning and poetry, it "sounds" dry and cold, so I'm sorry the translation I did for myself and decided to share with others doesn't fit your needs... here in my blog, you will get word per word of anything I translate, so you get exactly what it means and not just a feeling. But again, make one and share... it would be great!

  8. And should I point out that you had no problem to the first anonymous poster's critique? So your good or bad comment doesn't exactly apply.

  9. =D
    I don't wish to judge you at anything...
    I just think it is "bad taste" not to "show your face" when you make a comment.
    To me, even if the internet allows you to be Anonymous, we are still humans, and that doesn't change the fact that we should stand and speak, facing each other...
    but anyway...
    I am sorry if I sounded angry but again...
    here on my blog, you will always see word per word, or to the word translations.
    I am not a fan of re writing other's songs and poems because to me, I loses the meaning.
    Even this song, translating like I did, to the word, already sounds different to me, it sounds like it is not saying everything like it should or it sounds less romantic, etc...

    the "over" thing... In Portuguese, French, Spanish and Italian, I can tell you that sur in those languages will always pop as "over" in my head first. Lots of things are explained with only one word in those langauges whenin English they have 2 words to say it... and sometimes vice versa....


  10. The 2 first ones I didn't have anything to say back besides a Thank you. It is hard to talk back to you writing here... That's all

  11. Ahhhh, how beautiful to find someone who loves this song as much (or more?) than me!!! The video link is much appreciated. I made my own little translation of the song a bit ago, and since two heads can be better than one (even if mine may actually be half a mind) =D, I thought I would share what I got out of it. BTW, your translation is beautiful (so is your blog layout). I appreciate the time you took to share it. Merci.

    Anon or otherwise, fell free to help making this a perfect translation of intent (meaning what Francis was saying versus what was literally said), for I am no poet!

    Tiny translation note: In the song he says "Et" before "quoi que tu fasses" even though it is not in the official lyrics. I have included that "and" in my translation.

    My child naked on the pebbles
    The wind in your undone hair
    Like a Spring on my journey
    A diamond fallen from a box
    Only the light could make

    Undo our landmark secrets
    Where my fingers hold onto your wrists
    I have always loved you, I love you, I will always love you

    And whatever you do
    Love is everywhere you look
    In the smallest corners of space
    In the smallest dream where you linger for
    Love as if it was raining
    Naked on the pebbles

    The sky pretends that it knows you
    It is so beautiful its surely true
    Him that never approaches us
    I saw him caught in your nets

    The world has so many regrets
    So many things we promise
    Only one for which I'm made
    I have always loved you, I love you, I will always love you

    And whatever you do
    Love is everywhere you look
    In the smallest corners of space
    In the smallest dream where you wait for
    Love as if it was raining
    Naked on the pebbles

    We'll fly away to the same quay
    Our eyes in the same reflections
    For this life and the one after
    You will be my unique project

    I will put your portraits
    In all the ceilings of all the palaces
    On all the walls that I can find
    And just below, I will write

    What only the light could make...

    And my fingers hold onto your wrists
    I have always loved you, I love you, I will always love you

  12. Hey guys! It is very diffcult to translate this song. IN my opinion for example
    Je t'aimais, je t'aime et je t'aimmerais
    shoudl be translated lke this:

    I loved, love and will love you

    just to keep the rythme! It is amazing how the french way of syaing it seems to sum up past present and future in a few seconds as opposed to the enlgish!

    Also I think seth's translation of "Où tu t'attardes" is the correct one, because it makes more sense that she makes any insignificant dream that she is in filled with love.

  13. One more thing...
    Sometimes to keep the meaning you need to give your self more freedom.

    For example

    Mon enfant nue sur les galets

    Make more sense to me like

    My child, standing naked on the pebbles

    I ma not sure if we can lose "standing" and keep it

    My child, naked on the pebbles

  14. dear nep,
    thanks for translating the lyrics :)
    i really like the song, and i don't speak french (i knew few french words, but that's all lol)
    though you said that its less meaningful than the original lyrics, the translation doesn't make me less like the song.
    and for sure, i will learn french more ! ;)

  15. Thank you for your comment! Means a lot!

  16. Hi!I just found your blog and actually this translation! I loved it! I love that song, I find it amazingly nice,music and voice and of course the language! How ever I don't speak French and the previous translation I found was not expressing everything I feel when I hear this song! I think you did a great job here!
    but I'd like to ask you your opinion about the video clip of this song! what do you think is the story? ( the song for me represents probably a true love, a happy one) but the video clip shows something different! what's your opinion?
    thanks in advance!

  17. to me the video shows the story of someone who lost his great love, that guy sitting at the train station...

    the song talks about how that great love was the one, and even if he lost it he will keep searching for her

    that's the feeling I get from the video


  18. This is one of my favorite songs as well. Thank you for sharing the translation. I hope you don't mind but I borrowed it for one of my blog posts.
    thanks again,


  19. I love this song!

    I think that when he says...-mon enfant nue sur les galets

    I believe he is talking about his inner child, because only once you have left your adult ideals for childish innocence can you love so deaply!

    Anyway...just a thought. I think your translation was beautifuly done. It's not easy to translate someones emotions from one language to another, and I think you did a wonderfuly beautiful job. :)

  20. Actualy...I take that back! He's speaking to his child! Still beautifuly translated. Great job! :)

  21. I love this song! I'd just like to share an experience about translating songs, if you allow me! I understand your intention is to have a word by word translation, but when it comes to songs sometimes we need to go further than translating in order to express everything the original means to say... I'm Brazilian and a friend of mine used to ask me to translate songs from English into Portuguese for her, and I used to translate it as it was and add some comments so that she could really grab the meaning that words simply put in Portuguese could not convey. She loved it, 'cause she managed to interpret the lyrics without speaking English. That's the responsibility of a translator: allowing people who do not speak a language to be able to fully understand the meaning (and the feelings!) of a song. I agree entirely with you that a book is far more interesting in its own language, and the same apply for songs. But we cannot expect that everyone speaks all the languages we speak - and that's where translations play their parts... Don't you think?

    For the chorus line, for instance, I think we need to use more adverbs in English to express the same meaning that in French the verbs alone are able to do... And I would not repeat the "love" 3 times: while in French it emphasizes the idea and gives a notion of intensity, in English it loses sense.

    In English I'd say something like:

    "I've always loved you, I still do, and I always will".

    Unless we want to have an English version to be sang... Then it's a completely different matter! ;-)

    It's just another way of seeing things... Hope you don't mind :-)

  22. Oh, just about the song: when I see the lyrics, I can't help but think that he might be literally speaking about a child, his child, as he says "mon enfant, nu(e) sur les galets" and he speaks about such a profound and transcendental love that it might really be the love of a father for his child... What do you think?

  23. beautiful lyrics
    beautiful translation, lost or found
    beautiful blog, very deviant, very nep
    beautiful morning, 445am... back to bed

  24. I, too, believe it is about a father and his child. I like the translation. Despite a few mistakes (e.g. translation of 'tu t'attardes, 'reperes' and 'pretend') you have done a very good job.

  25. Has anyone else thought this song could be about a miscarried baby?

    1. wow never thought about that, it really could be huh?