Can we translate "despacito" as "nice and slow" instead of "slowly"?

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Joined: 27.11.2017
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I am referring to the song Despacito by Luis Fonsi, featuring Daddy Yankee. Fonsi himself has declared that the English translation is "Slowly", but when describing why he chose the word "despacito", he describes sentiments that really are not implied by the English word "slowly". I think "nice and slow" is better on several levels. Adding the suffix -ito to the adverb in this case makes it sound warmer, more casual, and more positive. I think the English equivalent is something like "nice and slow". As an added bonus, this is an extra syllable and it is easier to stretch it out, as is done in the Spanish vocals. If you want the syllable count to match exactly, you can do "nice and slowly", but as a native English speaker that doesn't sound as natural to me.

The song title should probably remain "Slowly", because Fonsi is the artist and he wants that to be the English title. In addition, when "despacito" actually modifies a verb, I would leave it as "slowly" in English - for instance, "I want to breathe your neck, slowly". However, when "despacito" occurs by itself, not in a phrase, I think it should be "nice and slow".

Fonsi has not actually translated the entire song into English (as far as I know), so I think he might have used "nice and slow" in context if he did so. Fonsi has actually said that he doesn't think the song works in English, he thinks it is too silly.

I looked at all 8 English versions on this site, and they all use "slowly" as the English word. I suggest "nice and slow".

Different question: In the Spanish transcription, it has the line "aquí tengo la pieza, oye!". In the album version, the final word (which may or may not be "oye") is on a different vocal track, it is overlaid on the track of DY singing "aquí tengo la pieza". Perhaps it should be in parentheses because it is a separate vocal track? Also, I am really not convinced the word is "oye". On the album version, it sounds very much like the English word "slowly" (at 2:29 on the album version). When Luis Fonsi performed the song live on Conan, he either said the Spanish word "oye" or the Spanglish/English interjection "oh yeah". In other live performances, the word has been omitted entirely. I also might suggest omitting the word altogether, it is a stylistic flourish that doesn't fit the verse structure and is obviously optional in performance.

Super Member
Joined: 02.02.2016

I'm not knowledgeable enough about the Spanish language to tell you if that's an appropriate translation for that word or not, but what I can tell you is that it really doesn't matter too much what the original author wants the translation to be. When all is said and done, it's your translation, not his.

But even more than that, the author cannot prescribe translation, and there's no guarantee that their preferred translation is the most appropriate. Taking an example from Japanese (a language I'm much more familiar with), there's a popular comic by the name of "Shingeki no Kyojin (進撃の巨人)." When bringing the comic to English speaking countries, the author himself had created the English title that he wanted used. And so, the English title for this comic became: "Attack on Titan." If you read that, you would probably come away thinking that the comic was about an assault on some place named Titan, but that's not at all the case. While "shingeki" can indeed mean "attack" (specifically the idea of charging or advancing on a position), and "kyojin" can mean "titan" (though it more broadly just means "giant" and not the specific mythological characters), the way the author has chosen to connect the two makes no sense in the context of his own comic. A more contextually appropriate title might be something like "The Titan Assault" or "The Advancing Giants" or something along those lines.

And so the point is that, unless you have some sort of obligation to follow what the author wishes regarding the translation (which, in a professional situation, you very well might), you're better off translating it the way that you feel is most befitting the context. Because even if a dictionary describes "despacito" as "slowly," it might not be the best translation in the context of the overall work. And just because the original author thinks a certain translation is best, it doesn't automatically make them an authority on what best conveys their intended meaning in another language.

Junior Member
Joined: 01.12.2017

Slowly is better, honestly. Nice and slow would alter the original meaning, in my perspective.