Different types of translation - Word by Word, Aligned and Free

On Cloudlingo.com we use three different types of translation of the song lyrics to help you understand the line completely.

Remember the system is working best in Spanish, other languages have less features at this time.  This article refers to only to the Spanish songs in the system and ones that you add and translate yourself.

Song Pages

The song pages are the public pages that you can see without signing up for an account. For example this song by Nil Moliner - Mi Religión (You need to select the Texual Lyrics radio button to see these translations on that page).

1. Word by Word (Dictionary)

This is the simplest translation. Each word has been looked up in the Cloudlingo dictionary individually and its dictionary definition is shown in the table.  For verbs it also shows the person, tense and mood of the conjugation or if it is an infinitive-form of the verb.

The Cloudlingo user who has translated the song will also have picked the part of speech of each word, and might have added footnotes aligned with one or more of the words as an explanation for a word, or multiple words that are interesting in some way; idiomatic expressions, why a verb is in a certain conjugation, added some more context or what that non-dictionary/slang word means for example.

2. Aligned (Literal)

Aligned translation lets you consider word order (which maybe different to English), whilst also understanding the lyrics's actual literal translation.

The Cloudlingo user who has translated the song has aligned the words in the languages together.  If you hover your mouse over the Original Lyrics and the Aligned Translation you will see an animation showing which original words align with translated words.

This is very useful in learning a new language as you can see exactly which words carry the meanings, also that often the words are not in the same order, and because the phrases are translated literally you can learn these equivalences which will help you remember and learn.

For example in Spanish when you say 'échame la culpa', the expression literally is 'throw me the blame'.  We use a lot of these types of expressions in English - you know them so well you might not realise. 

Think about how 'crying over spilt milk' might sound to someone that doesn't speak English natively?  It is unlikely you'd actually be 'crying', and certainly there's no milk involved in most uses of that expression that, we know, means worring about something that's already happened.

Whilst you can often get a strange result from this translation, learning the words and constructions used in other languages is key to understanding and speaking well.

3. Free (Semantic)

The Cloudlingo user who has translated the song has considered the underlying meaning of the lyrics and given an equivalent natural phrase that you might use in English.

This is the final translation step, and should read naturally in English; as the translation should be the meaning of the phrase.

If the song has used an idiomatic phrase in it's original language the translation should use any English idiomatic phrases that might be consider equivalent.

For example, consider the phrase "me cuesta sonreír" in Amaral's "El universo sobre mi".  In Spanish this translates as "me it costs to smile", so this might be Free translated in English as "I have a hard time smiling".

Account Studio

Once you've signed up for an account you can learn Spanish by translating any song into the three translation types in the Cloudlingo Studio which is available when you login.

It is recommended you perform all three translation at the same time, in parallel, as often you discover something about the meaning, grammar or other use with one or more of the tools available.

1. Word by Word (Dictionary)

In the Studio you will see the lyric line presented.  Click each word individually and pick from the Lingo Dictionary the part of speech (Noun, Adjective etc.) and the "best" meaning.  For Verbs you lookup the word and match it to the correct conjugation - this is very useful in Spanish which has a lot of inflection.

Since languages very often combine words into phrase that then have a (very often completely different meaning) from the words if you considered them individually you might not be able to pick an "exact" meaning. 

Think about some of the bizarre expressions we use commonly in English.  "Cold Turkey" is the first example on this list of funny expressions.   If you translate both words the other way, into Spanish you get "pavo frío" - which just means something you might have left over on Boxing day, rather than the obvious to English speakers - the feeling you get when you stop doing something addictive.

It would be the same if you looked up each word in a paper-based dictionary; it simply can't contain every single possible use. But have no fear!  That is why we do three translation, as the meanings will become clear in a later step.

You can then return and add footnotes aligned with one or more of the words as an explanation for a word, or multiple words that are interesting in some way;  idiomatic expressions, why a verb is in a certain conjugation or what that non-dictionary word means.

2. Aligned (Literal)

This translation lets you consider word order (which maybe different to English), whilst also understanding the lyrics's actual literal translation.

The Cloudlingo user who has translated the song has aligned the words in the languages together.  If you hover your mouse over the Original Lyrics and the Aligned Translation you will see an animation showing which original words align with translated words.

This is very useful in learning a new language as you can see exactly which words carry the meanings, also that often the words are not in the same order, and because the phrases are translated literally you can learn these equalivances which will help you remember and learn.

For example in Spanish when you say 'échame la culpa', the expression literally is 'throw me the blame'.  We use a lot of these types of expressions in English - you know them so well you might not realise. 

Think about how 'crying over spilt milk' might sound to someone that doesn't speak English natively?  It is unlikely you'd actually be 'crying', and certainly there's no milk involved in most uses of that expression that, we know, means worring about something that's already happened.

Whilst you can often get a strange result from this translation, learning the words and constructions used in other languages is key to understanding and speaking well.

3. Free (Semantic)

This translation allows you to consider the underlying meaning of the lyrics and given an equivalent natural phrase that you might use in English.

Ask yourself the question "Would someone ever say this in English?"  If the answer is no, think about a more natural way to get the meaning across.

If the song has used an idiomatic phrase in it's original language the translation should use any English idiomatic phrases that might be consider equivalent.

For example, consider the phrase "me cuesta sonreír" in Amaral's "El universo sobre mi".  In Spanish this translates as "me it costs to smile", so this might be Free translated in English as "I have a hard time smiling".

 

Next Steps

Proceed to the Spanish songs index page and browse songs that you'd like to see the meaning of the lyrics, or if you want to dive in and get translating your own favourite Spanish song then please sign up for an account.