Translation and adaptation of the song lyrics

Inside our Song Translation and Adaptation page you can find all the adaptations we have made so that all our musicals can be performed almost entirely in Catalan, both the script of the dialogue and the lyrics of the songs.

We would now like to share with you a bit about the process of adaptation that we follow so that the songs, once translated, still preserve their original meaning.

Translating songs is not as easy as it might seem. It’s not as simple as putting the lyrics in to Google translate. This will never achieve the expected results since Google literally translates the lyrics, but it doesn’t translate taking into account the meaning of the words of the song. On top of this, in the translation of songs an equally important factor is the music since the rhyme and the tonic syllable of the original song must be taken into account. If not, we will never get close to the original intention of the author.

Translating songs is not the same as subtitling them. The right word for this task, I think, is adapting song lyrics to another language.

I apply the following strategy for each of my song adaptations:

  1. Listen, listen, and listen to the song many, many times. Once I know the lyrics in the original language almost by heart, I know I have it fully internalized and I can start the adaptation process.
  2. The next task is to translate the lyrics, for this you need to understand them and capture the same meaning that the author gives it, and above all, preserve the same context that he / she put it in. The latter is very difficult to do for songs on their own, but if in musical theatre it is much easier since the context is given to us in the plot of the musical.
  3. The next step is to find the rhymes within the song like where they are and what type they are. The tonic syllable of the rhyme is very important as it is sure to be closely linked to the melody. The tonality of the rhyme is also very important since it is not the same if a rhyme ends with “i” in the original song and you want to end it with “o” in the translated version because the key will clearly change. I would say the latter is the most difficult to achieve, but it must be attempted
  4. The next step is to sing the song. Yes… I know… Even if singing isn’t your forte, like me, it must be done to know if the new lyrics are easy or difficult to pronounce once it is being interpreted. It has happened to me sometimes that once I am satisfied with my adaptation, the singer has performed it and asked me for modifications because they are not able to vocalize some syllables well.
  5. Finally, it’s time to polish the lyrics. Maybe there’s a word you don’t like how it sounds, or you might find a better synonym. It is also possible that some sentences depart too much from original meaning and you want to find a better adaptation. Here is the moment to make these final touches.

Here is an example of what we have just explained. Example, Memory of the musical CATS:

Translated by Google

Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale, cold smell of morning
The streetlamp dies in the cold air
Another night is over
Another day is dawning

Terminis extrets de dies fums
L’olor freda i freda del matí
El fanal mor a l’aire fred
Una altra nit ha acabat
Un altre dia és l’alba

Adapted and translated by me:

Burnt out ends of smoky days
The stale, cold smell of morning
The streetlamp dies in the cold air
Another night is over
Another day is dawning

Ja la boira està cansada
Ja és aquí la matinada
Les llums ja cauen
Una altre nit s’acaba
Un altre dia s’obre

Here are some examples of adaptations we have done apart from the musicals we have already adapted, also with audios.

Thanks to Helena Ros Redon and Marina de la Maza for volunteering to help us with this post, without them and their wonderful voice it would not have been the same.

Mamma Who Bore me from Musical Spring Aweaking (Marina de la Maza)

Memory of the musical CATS (Helena Ros Redon)

And all our adaptations are in . Translation and adaptation of songs

You can find more information about these wonderful ladies here:

Marina de la Maza >>

Helena Ros Redon  >>

Here are some examples of other authors, especially the TV3 marathon are doing an exceptional task at this.

Brilla (Sunny – Bobby Hebb)

Tu pots canviar-ho tot (what a feeling- Flashdance)

Ja surt el sol (here comes the sun- The Beatles)


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