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You know when writing translations of other songs, you need to know the number of syllables on each line, but the question is how do I do that? Are there good tools on the Internet that does this? I was specifically looking to translate a Japanese song into English while preserving as much of the meaning as possible, but I am not sure how to go about counting the syllables on each line. There are tools in English, but for other languages I am wondering if there's a way to do this easily.

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  • You are wanting to count the Japanese syllables, correct? Is there a reason you cannot do this yourself manually?
    – Trin
    Aug 5 '19 at 20:13
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    I am not fluent in Japanese and I would have to listen to the songs to count.
    – yocu
    Aug 5 '19 at 20:19
  • Especially when thinking about translating a japanese song you should be careful about the term "syllables". It sounds quite simple, but there are quite a few discussions when looking at Haikus for example about what exactly constitutes a syllable: "Traditional haiku often consist of 17 on (also known as morae though often loosely translated as "syllables"), in three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 on, respectively."
    – Secespitus
    Aug 5 '19 at 20:59
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    You could probably get some more help on some of our sister sites like Japanese.SE and Lingustics.SE. Good luck with your project!
    – Secespitus
    Aug 5 '19 at 21:00
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    I admit I'm confused about your project. If you're not familiar with the words enough to know how many syllables they have (not even the subtlety of the definition...if you aren't able to do a basic count), then how can you translate them? Lyrics and poetry are not basic prose and they require a much stronger facility with the language. There are plays on words, playing with the sound and rhythm & tone, alternate meanings, so much more. Even at my best with Spanish, when I worked as a translator, no way could I have translated poetry, in either direction. I barely understood poetry in Spanish. Aug 5 '19 at 22:26
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Currently, automatic linguistic processing is not as advanced as that of a fluent human. There are no tools, online or offline, that can count syllables (or morae, see below) reliably.

When it comes to Japanese lyric rhythm, what you are interested in are not syllables but morae. You will need to be fluent in Japanese to recognize them.

Rendering both meaning and metre of Japanese poetry in English is near impossible. Skilled translators, fluent in both languages, struggle with this.

These are the steps that I believe are necessary to translate Japanese poetry:

  1. Learn English.

    Yes, I know that you think you know English, but your level of mastery of your mother tongue needs to be raised to near perfection.

  2. Learn Japanese.

    You need a native's understanding of the unspoken implications of a word or sentence to grasp the full meaning of poetry.

  3. Learn to write poetry

    To translate poetry, you must be a master poet in the target language.

Translating poetry is a lifelong endeavour.


“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” ~ Robert Frost

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  • Ok, I asked, because I thought you could translate into romanji and then use an English software to count the syllables.
    – yocu
    Aug 8 '19 at 16:47

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