tiánmì mì

A morning with Teresa

This morning, I felt cocky and up to translating a song. I picked one of my favorites that takes me back in time: 甜蜜蜜 (tiánmì mì). It’s a song by 鄧麗君 (Teresa Teng) from the late 70s. I discovered it by watching an eponymous Hong Kong movie in the 90s.

I threw my fingers on the keyboard and in one swoop proudly translated the 8 verses of the song. Then I turned to the Tokiponist community on Reddit for advice. Secretly, I thought they would all be sawed in half by this translation.

sleepy looking?

I had no sooner posted the thing than a reply was already waiting for me. u/janKeTami was offering an English translation of my Toki Pona text…

  1. The goodness of your mouth equally sweetens the flowers in the winds of plant-time

  2. Where did I see you?

  3. The goodness of your mouth is known to me

  4. But now I am forgetful, in a dream

  5. I get to dream of you

  6. The goodness of your mouth is sweet

  7. Do I make you, who are this, who are one, sleepy looking?

Well.. That backfired quickly! My translation sucks.

As far as the lexicon is concerned, there are probably two or three things that need to be improved. Here’s the Chinese text, a rough English version and my translation (a bit modified):

  1. 甜蜜蜜你笑得甜蜜蜜 | Your smile is sweet
    pona uta sina li suwi
  2. 好像花儿开在春风里 | Like flowers blooming in the spring breeze
    sama kasi kule lon kon tawa pi tenpo kasi
  3. 在哪里在哪里见过你 | where did I see you before?
    tenpo pini la mi kama lukin sina lon seme?
  4. 你的笑容这样熟悉 | Your smile looks so familiar
    pona uta sina li sona tawa mi
  5. 我一时想不起 | I just can’t seem to remember
    kin mi sona weka
  6. 啊在梦里 | In a dream !
    lon sitelen lape wan a!
  7. 梦里梦里见过你 | I’ve seen you in my dreams
    mi lukin e sina lon sitelen lape a!
  8. 是不是你, 梦见的就是你 | It’s you ! You’re the one I was dreaming of
    mi lape lukin e sina a!

A better vibe

In the afternoon, after I posted the English version, u/bestrand proposed his own translation. I don’t know how he did it, but he managed to get a consistent 13-syllable meter throughout the song and make it rhyme.

sitelen pilin lon sinpin sina li suwi:
sama li kasi kule open lon kon suli!
tenpo seme la mi kama lukin e ona?

sinpin sina li lukin tan sona awen mi
taso, sona sina li awen ala lon mi
lape la mi sona ala sona e ona?

sinpin suwi lape li sina ala sina?
sinpin ni lon lape li sina ala sina?

Light and elegant, and so much better!