Lyrics Translations: The Breeze – What Should I Say

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Translating Korean lyrics can be like fishing in the dark. Without a pole. On top of an Antarctic subglacial lake with several thousand feet of ice between you and the fish. Okay, I jest. It’s highly unlikely a species of fish could survive in such an oxygen supersaturated, oligotrophic environment. So there are no fish. So I was grossly exaggerating.

To get back on topic, my point is that I find translating Korean lyrics difficult, one of the reasons being their propensity for indirectness. Korean in general can be indirect because Korean sentences don’t require subjects. As such, subjects are often omitted if they can be implied by context, which occurs frequently in poetic writing such as lyrics. The problem arises when your proficiency in Korean is middling at best and you fail to pick up on the clues (i.e., yours truly).

For example, in The Breeze’s How Do I Put This I thought the subject of the speaker’s narration in this line was himself, “혼자일거라는 생각은 사실 못했었어” or “To be honest, [I] didn’t think [I’d] be alone.” It took me a while to realize that he was referring to his past girlfriend, which means the correct translation of this line is, “To be honest, [I] didn’t think [you’d] be alone.” In light of this revelation, this line takes on a different connotation. Based on the the first translation (“To be honest, I never thought I’d end up alone”), it can be construed that the speaker pities himself and is possibly pining after his ex. Based on the second translation (“Honestly, it never crossed my mind that you’d be alone”), it can be construed that the speaker has gotten over his ex since she’s become an afterthought. The song’s tone switches from being sad and mopey to something more hardened and cynical.

So, what’s this song about? Basically, a guy has finally gotten over a hellish break up when his ex-girlfriend reapproaches him. He struggles to find the words to say to her. The song’s title “뭐라할까” means something along the lines of “what should I say.” Literally translated, the phrase is “what should do.” The subject “I” and verb “say” are implied. Meaning, you have to infer “what words should I use” from “what should do.” As I mentioned earlier, ellipsis is more frequent in Korean than in English. In the context of this song, “뭐라할까” means something along the lines of “how do I put this” with the attitude of “wtf do you expect me to say?”1


The Breeze (브리즈) – How Do I Put This (뭐라할까) English Lyrics
Alternative Translations: What to Say, What Should I Say, How to Put This

Honestly, it never crossed my mind you’d be alone. 혼자일 거라는 생각은 사실 못했었어
And the days I felt like dying have just passed. 죽을 것만 같던 시간도 결국 흘러갔고…
The words you uttered so easily, words of happiness. 너무 쉽게 네게 뱉은 말 행복하다는 말
Like those words, you looked well. So that’s what I assumed.2 그 말처럼 너는 나보다 좋아 보였으니
So you couldn’t forget me? 나를 잊지 못했니
So is that what happened? 살다보니 그랬니
But, looking at you, my heart no longer feels the same. 너를 보는 내 마음도 예전 같지는… 않은데

How do I put this. All I needed 뭐라할까 나에겐
Was you. That’s what I thought. That’s how it was. 오직 너만 필요할 것 같았어 그랬어
One day I became used to life without you. 어느새 나 너 없는 시간이 익숙해졌고
That’s how I could watch over you. 그렇게 널 지켜볼 수 있게 됐어…

Sometimes I think there might be something. 뭔가 있을 거란 생각을 가끔 하기는 해
As if you had no greed, how could you do that 아무 욕심없는 것처럼 돌아섰던 내게
While my back was turned? Those are my thoughts. 어쩜 그럴 수 있었을까… 그런 생각이지. 오~
After you left the pieces, to forget you 그래 놓고 내게 남겨진 너를 잊기 위해
I threw away a lot of things. I drove myself crazy trying to survive. 많은 것을 버렸어. 살기 위해 미쳤어
I lived as the self I never showed you. 네게 보여주지 않은 나로 살았어

Now… How do I put this. All I needed 지금은 뭐라할까 나에겐
Was you. That’s what I thought. That’s how it was. 오직 너만 필요할 것 같았어 그랬어
One day I became used to life without you. 어느새 나 너 얺는 시간이 익숙해졌고…
That’s how I could watch over you. 그렇게 널 지켜 볼 수 있게 됐어…

You can do without me. 나 없이는 되잖아
So leave me now. 이젠 나를 벗어나..
If you really care for me, please do this. 나를 정말 생각해 준다면 그래 주겠니. 우~

How do I put this. All I needed 뭐라할까 나에겐 오직 너만
Was you. That’s what I thought. That’s how it was. 필요할 것 같았어 그랬어
One day I became used to life without you. 어느새 나 너 없는 시간이 익숙해졌고
That’s how I could watch over you. 그렇게 널 지켜볼 수 있게 됐어

Honestly, it never crossed my mind you’d be alone. 혼자일 거라는 생각은 사실 못했었어..
And the days I felt like dying have just passed. 죽을 것만 같던 시간도 결국 흘러갔고..

Translation Credits: Arevolvingwheel
Please take out with credits 🙂


Jung Joon Young’s Cover on SSK4

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If this link doesn’t work, try this YT link.


Notes

1 At least, in my opinion.

2 Alternative translation: Besides, like those words, you looked as though you had been doing better than me.


Sources

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/02/lake-vostok-drilled
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100161222/the-lake-that-time-forgot
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Korean/Personal_pronouns


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3 thoughts on “Lyrics Translations: The Breeze – What Should I Say

  1. Abe Chung

    hey this is super cool. I’ve translated this very song sever years ago before the fall of Cyworld. I’ve translated quite a few back then, both KE and EK.
    Thanks for sharing such insight.

    Reply

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