Google Translate Does Song Lyrics: Eurovision Special – ABBA

It’s Eurovision week, so you just know we couldn’t miss the opportunity to do a “Google Translate Does Song Lyrics” Eurovision Special! Since Sweden is hosting the contest this year, we will of course be featuring a song by ABBA.

50 years ago, ABBA took the win for Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest with their famous Waterloo. This was the beginning of ABBA’s success and they could now be considered musical phenomenons, even after 50 years. While we love Waterloo, we decided to use one of ABBA’s most listened to hits Dancing Queen for the purpose of this experiment. This time we decided to really put Google Translate to the test and run these lyrics through 6 different languages – the big five (English, French, German, Italian and Spanish) followed by Swedish.

Take this moment to step away from your desk or jump off the sofa and have a little dance… Then keep scrolling and read Google Translate’s lyrics as you listen.

Dancing Queen by ABBA

Here are the Swedish lyrics after having already been translated through French, German, Spanish and Italian:

dansdrottning

ÅH
Kan du dansa
du kan vara rolig
Ha kul som aldrig förr
Åh, titta på den här tjejen
titta på den här scenen
Digga baldrottningen

Fredag ​​kväll och ljuset är svagt.
Jag letar efter ett ställe att gå
där de spelar bra musik
Hoppa på gungan
Du letar efter en kung
Vem som helst kan vara den här killen.
Natten är ung och musiken är hög.
Med lite rockmusik
Allt är bra
Vill du dansa
Och om du har chansen

Du är dansens drottning.
ung och söt
bara sjutton
dansdrottning
Känn rytmen i tamburinen, oh yeah
Kan du dansa
du kan vara rolig
Ha kul som aldrig förr
Åh, titta på den här tjejen
titta på den här scenen
Digga baldrottningen

Du är en joker, du tänder på henne.
Låt dem brinna och gå
Hitta en annan
alla kommer att göra det
Vill du dansa
Och om du har chansen

Du är dansens drottning.
ung och söt
bara sjutton
dansdrottning
Känn rytmen i tamburinen, oh yeah
Kan du dansa
du kan vara rolig
Ha kul som aldrig förr
Åh, titta på den här tjejen
titta på den här scenen
Digga baldrottningen
Digga baldrottningen

How did Google Translate do? Now, let’s see what it sounds like when translated back into English:

dancing Queen

OH
Can you dance
you can be funny
Have fun like never before
Oh, look at this girl
watch this scene
Dig the prom queen

Friday night and the light is dim.
I’m looking for a place to go
where they play good music
Jump on the swing
You are looking for a king
Anyone can be this guy.
The night is young and the music is loud.
With some rock music
All is well
Do you want to dance
And if you have the chance

You are the queen of dancing.
young and cute
only seventeen
dancing Queen
Feel the rhythm in the tambourine, oh yeah
Can you dance
you can be funny
Have fun like never before
Oh, look at this girl
watch this scene
Dig the prom queen

You’re a joker, you turn her on.
Let them burn and go
Find another one
everyone will do it
Do you want to dance
And if you have the chance

You are the queen of dancing.
young and cute
only seventeen
dancing Queen
Feel the rhythm in the tambourine, oh yeah
Can you dance
you can be funny
Have fun like never before
Oh, look at this girl
watch this scene
Dig the prom queen
Dig the prom queen


There is so much to dig into here, where do we start? Straight off the bat, Google Translate has messed up the capitalisation and hasn’t quite got a grasp of where the capital letters are needed. It feels like the very first ‘ooh’ is now a shout: ‘OH’!

However, it turns out the shouty ‘OH’ is the closest line to the original lyrics in the first verse. The rest of the lines look like they’ve really been through it. The second has been turned into a question, the third has been mistranslated altogether (‘be funny’ is not another way of saying ‘jive’) and although the fourth works, it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Original version

Ooh
You can dance
You can jive
Having the time of your life
Ooh, see that girl
Watch that scene
Digging the dancing queen

Google Translate’s version

OH
Can you dance
you can be funny
Have fun like never before
Oh, look at this girl
watch this scene
Dig the prom queen

One of the biggest issues in Google Translate’s version is the switching between ‘dancing queen’ and ‘prom queen’, that could create quite the confusion. Making this switch changes the entire meaning of the song, it is called Dancing Queen after all.

A common theme we see in our Google Translate Does Song Lyrics series is the lack of rhyme and rhythm in the translations. If you tried to sing these lyrics along with the music, it would make for a very awkward sounding song. When translating song lyrics and poems, the number of syllables in each line needs to be considered to make sure it flows naturally and like the original. Being able to keep the rhyming is just as important. Thankfully Google Translate managed that here with ‘scene’ and ‘queen’, even if it is the wrong kind of queen.


Do you think Google Translate has been successful in translating any other lyrics? Why not take a look at the other songs from our Google Translate does Song Lyrics series to find out:

Just like with music, many other industries need some creativity to deliver an impressive final product. Marketing translation is one of them and is an area we specialise in. Our team of translators are creative and they apply this to their work. With our range of translation services, we can help with all of your language needs. We can’t work as quickly as Google Translate can switch between languages, but at least you won’t need to worry about inaccurate translations and a loss of meaning.


Kitty LEaF blog 2021

About the Author

Kitty

Kitty Trewhitt is a translation project manager at LEaF Translations. She oversees each phase of the translation project and keeps in contact with both the client and linguists throughout the process. Besides managing our projects, Kitty also translates and proofreads texts from French and Italian into English, as well as creating LEaF’s monthly newsletter and managing the company social media accounts.