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Translation of the US National Anthem

June 5, 2009 1 Comment »

Poetry translations are notoriously difficult and force a translator to walk the fine line between accuracy and beauty. In a similar vein, song translations frequently receive a mixed reception.

Case in point: the US National Anthem in Spanish. There have been a number of  “Star Spangled Banner” translations, the most controversial being the hip-hop version “Nuestro Himno,” featuring Wyclef Jean, Pitbull, Carlos Ponce and Olga Tanon. The criticism ranges from the liberties taken with the translation (it is far from literal) to the topic of illegal immigration. Below are the “Nuestro Himno” lyrics and the “Star Spangled Banner”  lyrics for comparison, plus the  “Nuestro Himno” Youtube video.

“Nuestro Himno”

Amanece:­ ¿lo veis a la luz de la aurora
Lo que tanto aclamamos la noche al caer?
Sus estrellas, sus franjas flotaban ayer,
En el fiero combate en señal de victoria.
Fulgor de lucha, al paso de la libertad,
Por la noche decían: «¡Se va defendiendo!»
¡Oh, decid! ¿Despliega aún su hermosura estrellada
Sobre tierra de libres la bandera sagrada?

“The Star Spangled Banner”

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

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One Response to “Translation of the US National Anthem”

  • Anonymous
    Commented on October 7, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    If one is to translate the national anthem, then accuracy should be the first priority, and the translation should be created simply for communicating the meaning, and not to be sung. If it is to be sung, then it should be sung in English.