mixtape: wrong in translation

鄧福如 A-fu – 前面路口停 feat. 小宇 Xiao Yu

Either we go wrong or go right, we go on
Neither we stop here nor back to the start

Trickyyy. The mistake lies in trying to apply parallel syntax. What works for “Either/Or” doesn’t for “Neither/nor”, which is a difficult concept to grasp since they function similarly but have slightly different rules!

Here’s the problem: Verbs are missing.
Corrections: “Neither can / will (auxiliary verb) we stop here, nor go (transitive verb) back to the start” or “We can/will neither stop here, nor go back to the start”

The auxiliary verb is actually functioning in the “either”, even though it is absent
Correct: “Either we can/will go wrong, or go right; we go on”  or “We can/will either go wrong, or go right; we can/will go on.”
The sentence carries a directive, since the elision of “can” implies the presence of “will”. Although about choice, the sentences come across more as more descriptive than prescriptive, which makes perfect sense given the song is about a couple at the crossroads and at an impasse.

The fixes aren’t too difficult, but then there’d be all the complicated shuffling with number of beats per line and rhyming sounds (v. important in Chinese music) so, grammar whatever!


陳昇 – 然而(你不會知道) / Bobby Chen – But (you will not know)

i want you freedom, like a bird

I can guess the original Chinese lyric used as a reference to translate into English:

The problem is that in the Chinese, adjectives and nouns (and sometimes verbs) can be exactly the same. They are modified with additional characters or placed in different positions in relation to the subject.

Correction: “I want your freedom / I want you to be free

But also, I want you freedom has a nice ring to it, even if the “you” is modified, it still means something. Just probably not what 陳昇 meant. hahaha


We all know that K-pop is notorious for having (very) bad English (you will find tons of examples when you google “Bad English in Korean Songs), that it has come to the point where “bad English” is an obvious feature and I myself don’t even recognize it when I’m listening to the songs.

Here are two great songs with “bad English” which any 80-90’s babies who have been attuned to Korean pop culture can probably sing-a-long.


K.Will – Love 119 (feat. MC몽 / MC Mong)

I can’t believe that is over

I can’t never let you go
That you why you got to know

You can say rap can forgive incorrect grammar. But I don’t think this rap is that kind of rap. Not simply because the song’s in Korean, but all MC몽 had to do was to make “is” a contraction of “it is,” and replace that unnecessary first “you” with another contraction of “that is.”

Correction:I can’t believe that it’s over / I can’t never let you go / That’s why you got to know”

Maybe he left out the “s” sound for a staccato effect. At least he got “can’t” right.


장나라 Jang Nara – Sweet Dream

it’s gonna be another day with the sunshine

when we can get together right, remember night

when we can get together I feel paradise

These are prime examples of writing in English while thinking in Korean, or simply the result of English academies (which I can confirm with my brother’s English), where commas are one of the biggest tasks to learn.

We have an excessive use of the article “the” which apparently all important nouns require. We have an attempt at rhyming which forgot the article. On another note, the unnecessary “the” and “right” appears more like filler words to compensate the rhythm; or we’ll have awkward pauses or dragging words to fill that one beat.

I imagine “remember night” as a direct translation of “기억나, 그 밤,” which requires more words in English to convey the message. I imagine “I feel paradise” as a direct translation of “파라다이스처럼 느껴져,” which is comprehensible in Korean but loses the sensibility when described in English.

Correction: “it’s gonna be another day with sunshine // when we can get together, do you remember the night // when we can get together, I feel like I’m in paradise”