(The Essential Skeeter Davis album cover. The album contains her most famous songs, including “The End of the World”. Image taken from Discogs website:

Translation is a formidable endeavour. It is even more challenging to translate a lyrical text. I enjoyed listening to music and I especially like songs produced in the 50s and 60s. For that reason, that instant when I hear an excellent song from a Singaporean singer Aaliya titled “Penghujung Dunia,” I knew this must be a translated version of Skeeter Davis’s “The End of the World.” Still fascinated by the song, I imagined myself as the translator, having tasked to do the translation.

Before I start translating, I have to analyse the type of the text. The lyrics of a song can be considered an expressive text, as they generally conveyed meaning through an ‘artistically organized’ text (Reiss, 1981). That means when I start the translation, I have to be careful to preserve the lyrical content of the text as well as the semantic meaning. This is comparable to translating a poem. Moreover, this has additional layer of complexity to it: the translated text must fit melodically to the music. Furthermore, I have to consider the melody that accompanies it, which may impact the intended meaning of the lyrics as well. Is it a sad song? A happy song? Citing Pierce, Eco (1984) says that something may be considered a sign of something else, and thus melodies may also represent various moods. I also have to come into decision whether to make it an adequate or acceptable translation (Toury, 2000).

Though this particular song’s lyrics is relatively easy to translate closer to source language, I would still have to make an adjustment in the translation to make it fit melodically. Lyrics to a song is inseparable to its melody, after all. As such, I need to make a smaller decision to translate the individual lines of the lyrics to fit the melody and still making sure the semantic meaning intact. One particular technique when dealing with an expressive text which placed a particular importance to sound has been introduced by Cavagnoli (2003): I have to actively say the particular lines out loud until I feel they sound right, or in this case, sing them until they are fit into the melody.


Cavagnoli, F. (2003). Vola Gigino? Translating David Malouf’s Novels into Italian. Southerly, 63(1), pp. 73-78.

Eco, U. (1984). Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Reiss, K. (1981). Type, Kind and Iindividuality of Text, Decision Making in Translation. Poetics Today, Vol. 2:4, 121-131.

Toury, G. (2000). The Translation Studies Reader. In L. Venuti, The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation (pp. 168-181). London: Routledge.


catatan #9

things i got from the half dreams #1

the guy in the dark blue suit strode through the basement door, stopped at the landing above

and waved a transparent plastic bag in front of him. in it: five toes,

dark as chunks of chocolates, and each twice the size of my left index finger.

i was in the process of making bread, mixing flour and water and eggs and a pinch of salt.

he said, “these are the last ingredients. meat and bone.”

i could taste the bread already;

salty and meaty. and the weight of it inside my belly.

– january 18th, 2016

catatan #8

a hazed mind.

it’s like you’re walking on a knee-deep muddy road, in the middle of a very thick fog. so thick you can’t even see the tip of your nose. and the air is so dense that the words coming out of your mouth just barely makes a vibration in the air, let alone to be heard. you have to make a great effort to just get the words to be heard by you yourself. shout as hard as you can, try to get the words to go through the fog. walk! shout! pierce! you don’t know if there’ll be someone that hears you, or walking the same muddy road with you inside that fog, but shout anyway. keep walking. keep talking. know this: all things must end. including the road and the fog and the state of mind you’re in right now.

but it’s also like when you are full of energy and excitement, but you don’t feel that anything excites you at all. so you writhe in agony, all that energy and excitement eventually get to pent up inside you until you feel like exploding. ranting about anything to anyone willing. dancing like a madman in the middle of the road. walking or running around to anywhere, anywhere at all. until eventually it all calms down and you feel so exhausted after getting all that energy and excitement out of your system. and then you rest. you eat. you sleep. and perhaps after a good few hours you’re back to normal. normal.

funny word, ‘normal.’