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I'm trying to render a song in Chinese from Spanish, precisely this onelyrics here –, but I'm not sure how to translate the subjunctives at the start. The beginning reads:

May the infinite become starless,
And the immense sea lose its vastness,
But the black of your eyes, may it not die,
And the aroma of your skin, may it stay the same.

I thought of something like:

无边无际可能变成没有星星,
广大的海洋也来失去广漠
但希望你眼睛的黑色不死去
而你皮肤的香气也留一样

Any advice? PS I'm also trying to keep the tune, i.e. keep the translation fitted in the tune, so if you could help me with that and with keeping the rhymes (optional) it would be great.

  • Infinity has a lot of stars, does it? – user3306356 Sep 7 '14 at 14:39
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    The subjunctive in Chinese can be realized with 但愿, 要是 and similar constructs: 但愿无穷变成无星, or whatever will fit the music. – user4452 Sep 7 '14 at 14:45
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    I believe 'may' in such poems means 宁愿. To rephrase this poem in one-liner spoken language: (as time goes by,) I would rather find the stars and sea vanish than seeing your beauty fade away. – NS.X. Sep 8 '14 at 5:06
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I disagree with the translation into English of this use of the subjunctive.

The structure May + [SUBJECT] + [VERB in infinitive form] in English generally implies a type of volitive subjunctive in the Romance languages, where the speaker has the authority to wish (or even to will) that something happen.

Here though, I would see the original language construction is as a potential subjunctive, which in English would have [SUBJECT] + may + [VERB in infinitive form], which would result in:

The infinite may become starless

In this case, though could precede the subject and introduce the condition.

Though the infinite may become starless

If there is a hint of any volitive or optative subjunctive however, we could replace though with the construction rather that before the subject, and keep the subjunctive:

Rather that the infinite become starless


In Chinese, which lacks the distinction of indicative, subjunctive and imperative moods in its verbs, additional indicators of the grammatical mood are required. But they need not be attached to each verb that has the subjunctive in Spanish or to each occurrence of the word may in English.

If we establish that this is a potential subjunctive, then the use as a monosyllabic verb before the main verb is an adequate literary device; depending on the rhythm, we may want use the diysllabic 可以 or 可能 which is a little more common in daily speech and thus a little less elevated.

无穷苍昊逝星

无穷的穹苍里的星星可能消逝

I've translated the other vocabulary items differently depending on the style, and have translated become starless with an equivalent of lose stars or the stars disappear .

Using or 虽然 in the first clause can reinforce this sense of potentiality if necessary.

无穷苍昊逝星 / 无尽天可逝星

虽然无穷的穹苍里的星星可能消逝

But if we do want to add a sense of the emotional dependency, much as English can add Rather that instead of Though at the beginning before the subject, the disyllabic word 宁愿 can begin the sentence, or the similar (in an elevated classically-influenced style) or 宁可 (in more common speech) can precede the main verb; these are often followed by with a negative verb or a verb of regret or non-volition in the volitional clause (like in Italian and Spanish, but different to English's main clause with than after a clause beginning rather that). Such mutually dependent clauses are often a characteristic of Chinese sentences.

宁愿无穷苍逝星 / 无穷苍昊逝星 ...

也惜你瞳乌死去 / 但愿你瞳也不


宁愿无穷的穹苍里的星星消逝 / 无穷的穹苍里的星星宁可消逝 ...

也愿你眼孔乌黑不至面对死亡 / 你眼中瞳仁的黑孔也不要死去

I hope that gives you a few more tools to use in your translation.

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Sorry for my bad english first, and it's my ADVICE,

if i translate those Chinese to English, it become like this:

Infinite may become no stars

Immense sea lose large too

But hope your black never dies (which is in your eyes)

And the aroma of your skin stay the same too

--

If you trying to tell us that "may" word has the same as the "hope" word

then you should use "但願",

但願(May) 無窮(the infinite) 變成(become) 無星(starless),

而(And) 廣大的(the immense) 海洋(sea) 也可能(may) 失去(lose) its(它的) vastness(浩瀚無邊),

Sorry, I don't understand what's the black thing will in your eyes,

If you just want to tell us that black which is about the color,

and the "die" means "disappear" too, and if will become like:

But the 在你眼中的黑色(black of your eyes), 但願(hope) 它(it) 將(will) 永不(never) 消逝(die),

And(而) 你皮膚的香氣(the aroma of your skin), 僅希望(only hope) 那將永不改變(that will never change)

Sorry for change some words, so the whole lyrics should be like this:

但願無窮變成無星,

May the infinite become starless, (But starless with what?)

而廣大的海洋也可能失去它的浩瀚無邊,

And the immense sea may lose its vastness too,

希望你眼中的黑色,將永不消逝,

Hope that black of your eyes will never disappear, (What's the black thing?)

也希望你肌膚上的香氣將永不改變。

Also hope that aroma of your skin, will never change.

Note: 肌膚 same as 皮膚, but 肌膚 always use on women's skin(softly skin)

I really dizzy for reviewing my answer, I'm going to rest ..

hope that I can help you a little bit ..

  • With my Italian mother tongue and cultural background, I would take the infinite to refer to the infinity of the sky. Maybe this is not that straightforward in Chinese, or in English in fact, come to think of it. So maybe it is better to make it more explicit like 但愿无穷的那夜空变成无星. The black of your eyes I would take to be the black colour, since it is stated later in the song that the (girl's) eyes are black. I'd also guess die is disappear. A little tip on English, if I may: in Chinese, phrases like 我很累 have subject and adjective; in English, instead of , … – MickG Sep 7 '14 at 19:50
  • … you find a form of to be, e.g. I am tired. For example, the I really dizzy at the end of your answer is better rendered as I AM really dizzy. So, no sorry for change, but sorry for change. Moreover, we don't say "…" word, but "the word "…". Finally, thx for your advice. I'll work on it sooner or later. – MickG Sep 7 '14 at 19:58
  • May, in English, does express a wish, as the subjunctive in Romance languages. In this context, it is used to express a wish that is rather than something else. I mean, clearly he doesn't want the stars to go out or the sea to lose its immensity, but he'd prefer these if the alternative were losing the black of his girl's eyes and the aroma of her skin. If anyone is curious as to the rest of the lyrics, the Google English translation is good enough, save for Que me llegan a desesperar translating to That bring me to despair. – MickG Sep 7 '14 at 20:08
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Let me just post the full lyrics and Chinese translation.

Lyrics:

Que se quede el infinito sin estrellas,
Y que pierda el ancho mar su inmensidad,
Pero el negro de tus ojos que no muera,
Y el canela de tu piel se quede igual.

Aunque pierda el arco iris su belleza,
Y las flores su perfume y su color,
No sería tan inmensa mi tristeza,
Como aquella de quedarme sin tu amor.

Me importas tú y tú y tú
Y solamente tú y tú y tú
Me importas tú y tú y tú
Y solamente tú,
Ojos negros, piel canela,
Que me llegan a desesperar.
Me importas tú y tú y tú
Y nadie más que tú.

English:

[I'd rather] the infinite [sky] become starless,
And the vast sea lose its immensity,
But may the black [colour] of your eyes not die,
And may the cinnamon [color] of your skin remain equal.

Even if the rainbow lost its beauty,
Or the flowers [lost] their scent and their colour,
My sadness wouldn't be as immense
As that of finding myself without your love.

I care about you and you and you
And only about you and you and you
I care about you and you and you
And only about you,
Black eyes, cinnamon skin,
Which lead me to despair.
I care about you and you and you
And about no one more than about you.

Chinese singable translation:

宁愿无边无际的苍昊来逝星,
广大的海岸也宁愿变得小,
却希望你眼中的黑色不消失,
你屁股的肉桂色也来担保。

虽然彩虹可来失去它的美丽,
鲜花也可失去颜色和清香,
我的悲哀一定不会这么天大,
不会像失去你爱情的一样。

我在乎你和你和你
和只有在乎你和你和你
我在乎你和你和你
和只有在乎你,
黑色的眼,肉桂色皮,
他们一定会叫我失望。
我在乎你和你和你
没人比你更爱。

Any comments are welcome. I tried to keep at least two rhymes per verse, but I must admit danbao there doesn't convince me, and I fear implying the sadness in the last line of the second verse might result in understanding trouble…

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