CULTURE SPOT: Cerati in English (A Comparative Language Exercise)

by StoryPaul

As a lifelong music fan (& player) who also happens to work with languages and storytelling, I've always had fun with the linguistic side of the music I listen to. 

Basically, I love to think about how the lyrics of a song would sound in another language. If anything, it's a fun exercise. But not just any exercise.

------ A Comparative Language Exercise ------

So for this exercise, I chose to honor one of my cultural heroes, the late Argentine rock legend Gustavo Cerati, who leaves a legacy of beautiful songs and soundscapes, not just for Spanish speakers, but for the world. The song I chose is called Crimen (Crime), winner of multiple awards all over the Spanish-speaking music world and beyond, and one of the most successful in Cerati's solo career. 

THE EXERCISE involves watching the following modified version of the VIDEO for Cerati's "Crimen". Click on this LINK to watch: (make sure you hit HD for better quality)

I picked this gem as an exercise in imagining what the lyrics might look, feel and sound like in English. This is called "transcreation". So fair warning, if you're looking for a literary translation, you might be disappointed. 

TRANSCREATION is a form a translation that takes a detour from the conventional word-for-word approach, but rather goes for meaning, context and style. Bottom line, what you say simply has to work in the language it's being transcreated to. If it sounds translated, it's not quite there yet. 

You can read more about transcreation in a previous post.

Interestingly, Cerati did his own of transcreation of the song "Bring on the Night" by The Police, called "Traeme la noche" and an amazing job he did! But transcreation is certainly not limited to music. 

In fact, translators of books, advertising campaigns and of course films must transcreate words so that they sound good in the language of destination. So if you've ever read a text or watched a film that was poorly translated, it was probably poorly transcreated.

THE STORY: Coming back to Cerati's song and video, I also liked the fact that Cerati's "Crimen" tells a great detective story, but in a non-linear style. After watching the video, as a language teacher, I would ask students to put the story in order. This would require watching the video a few times and then comparing among students. This is called "sequencing" and it's a great exercise to do with lower intermediate students, although you'd be surprised how much upper intermediate ones would benefit as well.

ON TO YOU: In conclusion, if you're a language teacher, learner or lover, you are encouraged to use this material as an exercise in comparing two languages and enhancing the sense (yours or your students') of why going from one language to another (any language) is never a word for word affair. And obviously, a great exercise is to take a song you like in your native language and try to transcreate it to English. Fun stuff!

Gracias Totales, Gustavo! Your beautiful music will always be with us.


You can get this great track from Cerati's "Ahi Vamos" album

NOTE: The video was modified from the original to keep the story, but favor the comparison of lyrics in both languages. You may watch the original in FULL SCREEN here:

DISCLAIMER: For Educational Use Only. No copyright Infringement intended. All copyrights property of their respective owners.


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