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Songs of Christmas, Part 1
Songs Allow Liberty in Translation
 Related Resources
• Songs of Christmas, Part 2
• Spanish Christmas Carols
• Christmas
 
I haven't tried translating an English-language song into Spanish since trying it as a class exercise in high school, but I remember it isn't easy.

It's enough of a challenge at times to translate prose. But when translating music it is necessary not only to translate meaning, but also to get the right number of syllables, rhythm, and rhyme. It's OK usually to fudge on the literal meaning as long as the mood of the song comes through, but that concession doesn't seem to help much.

Fortunately, in the case of popular Christmas carols the work has been done for us. Below are three traditional Christmas songs in Spanish. Rather than including the traditional English words (which themselves are often translations from some other tongue), I've included my translation of the Spanish words into English.
 
 

Silent Night, Holy Night
Noche de paz, noche de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor.
Entre sus astros que esparcen su luz
Bella anunciando al niñito Jesú
Brilla la estrella de paz
Brilla la estrella de paz.

Noche de paz, noche de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor
Sólo velan en la oscuridad
Los pastores que en el campo están
Y la estrella de Belén
Y la estrella de Belén.

Noche de paz, noche de amor
Todo duerme en derredor
sobre el santo niño Jesú
Una estrella esparce su luz,
Brilla sobre el Rey
Brilla sobre el Rey.

Noche de paz, noche de amor,
Todo duerme en derredor
Fieles velando allí en Belén
Los pastores, la madre también.
Y la estrella de paz,
Y la estrella de paz.

Night of peace, night of love,
Everyone is sleeping all about.
The stars spread their light,
Beautifully announcing the baby Jesus.
The star of peace shines,
The star of peace shines.

Night of peace, night of love.
Everyone is sleeping all about.
The only ones watching in the darkness
Are the shepherds in the field
And the star of Bethlehem,
And the star of Bethlehem.

Night of peace, night of love.
Everyone is sleeping all about.
Over the holy baby Jesus
A star spreads its light,
Brightly over the King,
Brightly over the King.

Night of peace, night of love.
Everyone is sleeping all about.
The shepherds, the mother too.
And the star of peace
And the star of peace.


 
Adeste Fideles
Venid, venid fieles
ha nacido el Niño
Jesús, nuestro salvador,
venid a Belén.

El Rey del Cielo
ha venido al mundo.

Venid a contemplarle
venid y adoradle,
venid y adoradle
es nuestro Señor.

Venid a contemplarle
venid y adoradle,
venid y adoradle
es nuestro Señor.
 

Come, come, faithful ones
The Baby has been born,
Jesus, our savior,
Come to Bethlehem.

The King of Heaven
has come to the world.

Come and reflect upon Him,
Come and adore him,
come and adore him,
He is our Lord.

Come and reflect upon him,
come and adore him,
come and adore him,
He is our Lord.
 


 
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
Al mortal, paz en la tierra;
en los cielos, gloria a Dios.
Al mortal, paz en la tierra,
canta la celeste voz.

Con los cielos alabemos;
al eterno Rey cantemos.
A Jesús, a nuestro bien,
con el coro de Belén,
canta la celeste voz:
En los cielos
gloria a Dios.
 

To humankind, peace in the land;
in the heavens, glory to God.
To humankind, peace in the land,
sings the heavenly voice.

With the heavens let us praise;
to the eternal King let us sing.
To Jesus, to our Ideal,
with the choir of Bethlehem,
sings the heavenly voice:
In the heavens
glory to God.
 

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