It seems that English is the universal language for Business, Science, Entertainment and (to some extent) even Literature now. Maybe it is not immediately obvious to many native English speakers that, how big the advantage they have over other language speakers - especially the languages not belonging to the Indo-European Family (that means their monther tongues are less similar to English). As far as I am concerned, it is still quite hard for an average Chinese undergraduate to understand serious English content (I mean, things like The Economist or The New Yorker...), let alone literature works or modern poems. (Yeah, I am camparing Simon's lyrics to modern poems. And I know there are simpler works like Charlotte's Web, but here I mean books like Pride and Prejudice.) What's more, only less than ten percent of Chinese polulation has gone to university. (According to a recent statistic)

So, as a result, translation has been thriving here in China, especially after the Internet came into being. All kinds of fun materials - films, news, songs, jokes, twitters, reddits, quoras, and so on - are in English. And the GFW makes the segregating situation worse. (Sorry to tell you that, your whole blog is blocked in China. That's because blogspot is a google service. Or I think more Chinese fans would come here and try to grab some song meanings.) So some people with good English skills (and good "wall-climbing" skills shh...) would translate the things they are interested in and "carry these materials back inside the walls". (Here by "the wall", I mean the GFW, or the language barrier, or both.)

So it goes with song lyrics translation. The most popular music software here, Netease Cloud Music (this software is quite like Spotify, but I think it cannot be accessed out of China...), has special settings for "Foreign Language Songs": users can upload the Chinese translation of the original lyrics. If an English song has no Chinese translation, then very few people would bother to listen to it, because they won't be able to know what the song is talking about. So, if you like a song very much, but it has no translation, the best thing you can do for it is to translate the lyrics.

Well, I think I've said quite enough for the general "translation". Now let's talk about translations for Paul Simon's lyrics.


In China, Simon's most famous songs are Scarborough Fair and The Sound of Silence. Everyone knows about these two songs (while most of them having no idea about S & G, or Simon's other works). So there are many versions of lyric translation for these two songs. One of the most creative ones is this Scarborough Fair translation, paraphrasing the ballad into an very old Chinese poetry style, The Classic of Poetry style:

Lyric Translation
Are you going to Scarborough Fair 問爾所之,是否如適
Parsely sage rosemary and thyme 蕙蘭芫荽,郁郁香芷
Remember me to one who lives there 彼方淑女,憑君寄辭
She once was a true love of mine 伊人曾在,與我相知

However I prefer a more literal translation than this free one. One of the problems is that, I think the original words are modern English (or something very close), but the translation is in Classic Chinese.

As of other songs, I'll give some translations that I quite like as an example. However, they might not be perfect.

Here is a translation of April Come She Will by 灾难艺术家小魏 (It seems that he makes music himself!):

Lyric Translation
April come she will 四月,她将到来
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain; 溪流如同佳酿,雨水融入其中
May, she will stay 五月,她将停歇
Resting in my arms again 于我怀中休憩
June, she′ll change her tune, 六月,她将唱起新的歌谣
In restless walks she′ll prowl the night; 在无眠的夜里隐匿行踪
July, she will fly 七月,她将翱翔
And give no warning to her flight. 展翅高飞毫无顾虑
August, die she must, 八月,她必须消逝
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold; 秋风飕飕寒冷刺骨
September I′ll remember. 九月,我将怀念
A love once new has now grown old. 曾经鲜活如今苍白的爱情

And here is a translation of Bookends Theme (Reprise) by 无为世界:

Lyric Translation
Time it was (No translation provided for this line)
And what a time it was 多么易逝的时光
It was a time of innocence 那是一段天真无邪的时光
A time of confidences 也是自信满满的时光
Long ago, it must be 一定发生在很久以前
I have a photograph 我保留着一张照片
Preserve your memories 封存了你的所有记忆
They're all that's left you 这些记忆只为你而留

However, till now, most of Simon's songs still lack translation. And I have to admit that some of the translation online now are not so good, maybe mine included... but I'll do my best. Yes, I have been translating the rest songs - but my time is limited, and sometimes translating his lyrics is really a headache. Take Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes as an example - it has all the problems, foreign words, vague meanings... As for the non-English words, I just translate them out to plain Chinese and put a footnote down there saying "the original text of that line is in Zulu", something like that. But the vagueness and wordplays are the real problem. Should I take "diamonds" as real diamonds, or just diamonds shapes on soles? Although I think Simon means "real" dimonds, I can't just deny the latter interpretion. I want to convey the multiple ways of understanding through my translation, but sometimes it is quite beyond my ability.

Another problem is cultural barrier. For example, in The Teacher, however I translate the line "Whose words were like the tablets of stone", almost no Chinese reader can relate that to the Bible story. They might have never heard about Moses, at least not familiar with him. And I feel that directly pointing out the similarity of "The Teacher" and Moses in the translation is not a good idea.

Recently I have got some new ideas. I might have expected too much from the translations... Some of the work should belong to comments, reviews or analysises. So maybe now on I'll continue to translate these lyrics, and write some thing about the song as well as translating.


And it would be easy to conclude from above that, most of my (and almost all the other) English lyric translations are never intended for singing along. They are intended for the listener to read while listening to the song so they can understand what the song is singing about.

Yeah, I have considered that kind of thing. It would be great if I can sing my own Chinese version of lyrics. But It's really, really hard. I had composed more "singable" versions, but every time after thinking about the nature of these translations, I always choose the more "readable" and "faithful" versions.

Well, I am not a professional translator, at least not yet. I think the best solutions I have seen so far are translations for Schubert's lieder, like this translation for Heidenröslein. But since the original language is German, I won't discuss these songs further now.

But most musicians are not professional translators either. So they choose a different way: using the original song's music arrangement (of course buying the rights first), and singing their own Chinese lyric. These Chinese lyrics can be completely unrelated to the original lyrics. Some of the most popular songs of this kind are:

And yes, there exists a similar arrangement for Simon's song Mother and Child Reunion. It's called 制水歌 ("The Song of Water Restriction" in English) by 許冠傑. He sings in Cantonese (a dialect of Chinese), not Mandarin (the standard Chinese), a dialect that I am not really familiar with. In case you should be interested in his lyric, I have made up a loose English version of that.

Cantonese lyric English Lyric
又制水真正受气 The authorities are restricting the use of water again, and I feel like a doormat
又制水的确系无谓 The authorities are restricting the use of water again, but I can do nothing about that
又制水今晚点冲凉 The authorities are restricting the use of water again, I can't take a shower tonight
成晚要干煎真撞鬼 Ah heck, I'm gonna feel sizzling all night
OH!真苦透呀老友 听朝早D起身 Oh! Life's so hard, my dear friend. I shall get up earlier next morning
搵定水桶半打 装多D水乜都假 And snatch half a dozen water buckets. Though I can get more water in this way, it's still not enough
水紧真真冇修 I really realy can do nothing about the water shortage
快搵多D水啦老友 My dear friend, don't hesitate to grab more water
莫水真阴功 请保重 We are so pitiful without water, please take care
又制水 夜街你都无谓去 The authorities are restricting the use of water again, I don't feel like going to the night market now
又制水 拍拖都冇话厘味 The authorities are restricting the use of water again, even the dating couples are stinking
又制水 妹佢怕我周身一阵除 The authorities are restricting the use of water again, my girlfriend thinks that I lack hygiene
成晚要干煎真正悲 It feels so sad that I'm gonna sizzle all night
又制水真正真冇乐趣 The authorities are restricting the use of water again, it ain't no fun living
又制水的确系无谓 The authorities are restricting the use of water again, but I can do nothing about that
又制水今晚点冲凉 The authorities are restricting the use of water again, I can't take a shower tonight
成晚要干煎真撞鬼 Ah heck, I'm gonna feel sizzling all night