By now, you’re probably familiar with the global hit “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen. However, you may be less familiar with versions sung in one of the 41 other languages recorded for the film’s foreign releases. (NPR)
- The 25 languages represented in the amazing, seamless video above are just more than half of the existing translations of the song. (Take a listen to all 42 here—singing the same phrase in the song; it’s a lot to take.) Ignore the lyrics and just listen—what version is your favorite? Can Spanish speakers hear the distinction between the song’s Latin American and Castilian (European) dialects? Can Portuguese speakers hear the distinction between the Brazilian and European dialects? Can Mandarin speakers hear the difference between the Chinese and Taiwanese dialects?
- Editor’s note: The Japanese singer has a lovely soprano voice, but I think I like the Turkish one.
- Take a look at the official titles of the different versions of the song. Why do you think the writers or translators changed some of the words (lyrics)? Read through this fun Hollywood Reporter article on the challenges of translating “Let it Go” for some help.
- Music: The song’s refrain (“Let it go! Let it go!”) is a repeated, three-syllable, rhyming phrase. The music can’t really be changed, so the writers needed to make sure every language version roughly followed this pattern. This can be extremely difficult! Robert Lopez, who wrote “Let it Go,” remembers translating another one of his songs into Swedish: “When we did the show Avenue Q in Sweden, we asked what was the Swedish word for ‘purpose’—a word in almost every scene [in the show]. The translator said a Swedish word 16 syllables long. I just said, ‘OK, forget this, just do what you want to do.’”
- Lyrics: “Let it go” has a pretty clear meaning, but it’s still not a universally understood phrase. Writers have to adapt the meaning of the lyrics, not just the words. Lopez, the songwriter, recalls a notable translation from English to German: ” [i]n Pulp Fiction . . . Bruce Willis asks, ‘We cool?’ and Ving Rhames replies, ‘We cool.’ In German, it went, ‘Alles in ordnung [Is all in order]? Alles in ordnung.’”
- Read through our encyclopedic entry on globalization. It’s divided into six short sub-sections. How is Disney’s multi-lingual marketing strategy an example of globalization—which sub-section(s) does the strategy appeal to?
- communication: The near-instantaneous sharing of information allows audiences all over the world to appreciate and expand their knowledge of the song.
- pop culture: People from the Australian Outback to the Russian taiga to the rain forests of Brazil are belting out a Broadway song produced by Latinos from America about a Scandinavian princess loosely based on a Dutch fairy tale. This is what globalized pop culture looks like, folks!
- economy: The song is uplifting and has a universal appeal. It is also a product meant to earn a profit. (And at that, it has succeeded magnificently.) Making the movie and music in 42 different languages makes it much more accessible and appealing to foreign audiences.
- Quickly read through “Cholo Universe,” a blog entry about the worldwide spread of California’s Mexican-American cholo culture. In what major way is the globalization of cholo culture different from the globalization of “Let it Go”?
- “Cholo Universe” describes a “bottom-up” globalization phenomenon. Individuals and communities are adapting and interpreting aspects of cholo culture to reflect their own identity. The distinction between “producer” and “consumer” is pretty vague.
- “Let it Go” is a “top-down” form of globalization. All 42 versions of the song were created by Disney employees for (paying) audiences all over the world. The distinction between “producer” and “consumer” is very strict.