Japanese Double Negatives?


#1

Hello all,

One of the things I like to do to practice vocabulary and grammar is to dissect song lyrics. I was listening to one of Kalafina’s songs, Progressive, and at one point, Hikaru and Keiko sing the following:

「一人じゃないことに慣れない、この胸で」

At first glance, my thought of a translation was “I’m not used to no longer being alone,” or “I’m not used to being with others,” literally, “(The thing of) not being alone, I’m not used with”, but when I checked a translation, it said that they are actually singing, “I’m not used to being alone.”

I think the double negative is what introduces this meaning, but I am wondering how this construction works exactly, and if double negatives can be applied to other verbs.

Thank you so much!

EDIT: Here’s a link to the Vevo PV of the song in case you’re interested; for some reason, the one live on YouTube is unusually awful.


#2

I don’t see any reason to think the translation you found is right.


#3

“I cant get used to not being alone.” Is how I translate the first part. More smoothly “Im used to being alone”

Xに慣れない is I cant get used to X. Never seen it mean anything different. From another song, 痛みに慣れない is I cant get used to this pain, for example.

EDIT: Yeah, pretty much what Leebo said. He always beats me somehow smh. Also I misread their translation as being “Im used to being alone”. Yeah in that case I completely disagree with their translation.

EDIT2: Kalafina is awesome.


#4

That’s a very good point.

Thank you for your answer! That makes more sense than what they said.

I’m glad you think Kalafina is awesome! I love them to death. ^ ^


#5

It’s really a good song


#6

I love Kalafina! I’ve learnt a lot of Japanese through their songs. Your translation is correct. As for the translation you found, fan translations are sometimes done by people who aren’t that fluent in Japanese. On top of that, Yuki Kajiura writes very nice lyrics but they can be quite poetic and ambiguous which means the songs can be quite hard to understand so that leads to more mistakes.

In seventh heaven for instance, 歌って欲しい is translated as “I want to sing” on both canta-per-me.net and animelyrics.com when it actually means I want you/someone to sing. I want to sing would be 歌いたい. It’s not as if this is particularly advanced grammar either, ~たい is covered in Genki 1 and ~て欲しい is covered in Genki 2. Maybe a rough translation is better than no translation at all but I use song lyrics (and their translations) as a way of picking up new vocab and grammar so it’s kinda unhelpful if the person who translated it has made mistakes.


#7

Literally everything Yuki touches is amazing, but yeah. This is why songs aren’t exactly the perfect study tool. They can teach you a lot, and in the end they will always make sense, but the way they say some things will be less than common.

Yeah, usually what I do is just not even bother with fan translations. Usually they are done by people better qualified as fans than translators, if you catch my drift. They’re writing for people who aren’t supposed to know japanese, so they don’t care about mistakes as much.

EDIT: Also you get so much more out of actually being able to understand the song in japanese. People often talk about how translators can never really fully carry over the full value of what was said, and its true. Its especially terrible when people try do translate songs and make them singable in the new language.

Just look at how they translated one of my favorite songs. So different and terrible I passed out the first time I read it.



#8

I’m glad there’s Yuki fans here :grinning: I thought since she’s composed for a lot of shows (and super popular ones too) and Kalafina has had a fair few anime songs that a lot of people who like anime (aka majority of my Japanese class) would know Yuki Kajiura and Kalafina. But sadly not the case- anyone I’ve mentioned Kalafina to in class haven’t heard of them and when I talk to Japanese people about j-pop no one has heard of them. But I do have one friend who knew their music. To be honest one of my main reasons for wanting to learn Japanese (other than understanding anime and songs) is so I can write something appropriate and coherent to Yuki professing my undying love for her music :stuck_out_tongue:. (I actually compose music myself so she’s a big inspiration to me in a lot of ways)

Yeah you’re definitely right there. I’ve found songs are better for learning vocab and listening skills than grammar- one of the first Kalafina songs I heard was oblivious and I learned a lot words from that- this was before I actually started learning Japanese too. With lyrics, in some cases yeah the meaning of a line or the song as a whole can be interpreted in different ways but other times I’m not sure if it’s ambiguous or if I just don’t know enough Japanese yet to understand.

I don’t know I mean “Lalalalalalalalala” is pretty accurate :thinking:

I mean to me it seems like way too many words but they add things that aren’t in the original and leave out things that are and use words that are in the original but use them in a different way so the meaning of the phrases are different- as is often the case with English versions. Maybe I’m wrong since I’ve only listened to the song a few times but it seems like there’s bad word-setting in a few spots. Wrong number of syllables for the melody/emphasis on the wrong syllables. Obviously you can’t do a literal word-for-word translation because the syllables won’t match at all but if you’re going to change the lyrics a lot then at least make them match the melody properly…

I don’t wanna hijack this topic too much so I’ll make a Yuki Kajiura/Kalafina thread.


#9

Good point! Sometimes as I study the lyrics I see she combines words and constructions in a way that you wouldn’t really use outside of song lyrics, but make sense within the context. For example, in 闇の唄 Keiko sings, 「あでなる楽の音始まる闇の中」What I found interesting about it is that あでなる seems like a combo of 艶やか and 成る, and I think 楽の音 may be plays on the sound of ‘pleasure’ as well as ‘music.’ (I may not be correct, but that’s how I’ve interpreted it) Definitely these are not constructions that might be very common outside of a poetic text, so that makes it a little harder to understand the meaning.

Interesting! The te-form imperative seems to be at play; I didn’t know you can put it with 欲しい like that!

I am just trying to understand at this point. Sometimes translating works. Sometimes, Kalafina (and Yuki Kajiura) get so punny that it’s nigh impossible.

YAS. I also want to write Keiko Kubota a letter. In truth, Keiko has had a very interesting and somewhat convoluted path to becoming a musician, and her story to me seems to say that you can always follow your dreams, even if others tell you it’s ‘too late.’ As someone who’s recently rediscovered piano, it’s a very inspirational story.

Please do!

(And sorry for the overlong post)


#10

Thats good, you always gotta start somewhere. As you learn more and more, understanding will become more automatic and you can begin to focus on the nuance of what is said. Im no expert when it comes to japanese, but even I can appreciate some of the things that fan translations can’t convey.

LUL. They got something right.

Right, I just especially hate translations intended to be used as lyrics for that reason. Its hard enough to convey the same ideas, but trying to make it work as a song just warps it even more.

Even other translations not meant to be used as a song still cant properly convey. This is how they end the song as an example:
ここで 永遠に眠るわ
二人が出会った日の夜明けに
さようなら 目を閉じたら
I will sleep here peacefully alone forever
Dreaming of the dawn on the day that we first met
Farewell to you, now I’ll just close my eyes…

First of all, they use 眠る rather than 寝る which implies they aren’t exactly intending to go to sleep, and instead sleep will “come over them”. Secondly they added peacefully (and alone), which makes no sense. They may have mistaken わ as being 和, but yeah that makes no sense given the rest of the song. Lastly they have 閉じる in the たら form. This たら tells that the さようなら will sort of be like a result, but its not just a normal conditional. It can also imply that it WILL happen no matter what, and is a condition that will be fulfilled. They just decide to translate this as “now I’ll just close my eyes…”, which yeah…it gets the point across…but its not the same thing. Very small things, but you just cant translate this stuff into english well, which is upsetting. Hell, even I did a bad job explaining it.

Sorry for the ranty reply. If you couldn’t tell, I dislike translations when it comes to stuff like songs.

In order to save myself from complete embarrassment, ill echo what Leebo said a second time. Don’t always trust other people with their translations. When you read other people’s translations, you are not reading the work of the original artist. Keep this in mind. You are hearing the original ideas through an imperfect filter.


#11

I like your example, because it’s a good example of why not to blindly trust translations you find online.

Presumably, a lot of this is just a case of amateurs wanting stuff to sound good in the target language but not really having any clue how to properly translate. That “peacefully” and “alone” was probably someone’s attempt to make the line more flowery, for instance. Maybe similar to how fan translators of anime tend to add “fuck” and “bitch” all over the place? :slight_smile: Or maybe I’m just dumb, that’s possible too. :slight_smile:

Also, regarding that part…the translator added “dreaming”, which obviously isn’t in the original lyrics, but is this a case of an omitted verb that we can just assume is supposed to be dream-related, considering the former line was about sleeping forever? I’m hardly a Japanese expert myself, and find song lyrics especially hard to translate and comprehend properly. :slight_smile:


#12

I definitely don’t mind some major flexibility with songs, considering how different English and Japanese are rhythmically. But you do have to retain the general meaning, and flipping a negative is just a mistake, not poetic license.


#13

Agreed, there are certainly some mistakes that are unforgivable. There are really two sides to it. You have the musical value of a song, how well it flows and such, and you have the lyrical value. You have to sacrifice one for the other, and obviously in my opinion I believe that the lyrical value should be retained as best as possible. I just think that songs are best stuck to being sung in their native language.

Right, and thats what makes me even more upset with it. Earlier in the song, that dream’s warmth is described as painful and unable to become accustomed to. At the end they omit the dream part, which I can get behind, because as you said shes already saying she will be in a sleeping state. The translator, HOWEVER, decided that that painful dream is peaceful now. Hell nah. This aint no happy song.

Yeah, usually sad/deep songs are especially hard. Even in english I have a hard time following the meaning of some songs.