Koj Nyob Qhov Twg (aka Ntuj No Tuaj Lawm)

Song Title: Koj Nyob Qhov Twg (aka Ntuj No Tuaj Lawm)
Translation Title: Where are you?
Artist/Band: Kab Nqos Vias
Translator(s): Ntawv & Cua

Hmong

ntuj no tuaj lawm koj nyob qhov twg
kuv pw tsis tau tseem nco
tseem nco txog wb txoj kev sib hlub

ua cas tsis hnov koj xa xov los
koj twb tsis nco lawm los
los yog koj mus muaj dua lwm tus

thaum hnub ci iab lub siab poob nthav
Hnub tig rov qab lub plawv yaj ntshis
vim koj ncaim kuv mus lawm ntau hli

ntuj nag tu lawm tsis pom koj los
kuv tseem nyob tos niaj hmo
niaj hmo nyob tos koj yuav rov los

thaum hnub ci iab lub siab poob nthav
Hnub tig rov qab lub plawv yaj ntshis
vim koj ncaim kuv mus lawm ntau hli

ntuj nag tu lawm tsis pom koj los
kuv tseem nyob tos niaj hmo
niaj hmo nyob tos koj yuav rov los

English

Winter is here, where are you?
I can’t sleep, still missing you
I still remember the time we spent together

There’s no news from you
Have you forgotten?
or have you moved on?

When the rising sun gleams, my heart sinks
When the sun sets, my heart melts away
because you’ve been gone for so many months

Spring has subsided, you haven’t returned
I’m still waiting every night
still awaiting your return

When the rising sun gleams, my heart sinks
When the sun sets, my heart melts away
because you’ve been gone for many months

Spring has subsided, you haven’t returned
I’m still waiting every night
still awaiting your return

Translation Notes & Interpretation

kuv pw tsis tau tseem nco
tseem nco txog wb txoj kev sib hlub

I can’t sleep, still missing you
I still remember the time we spent together

Here, it is important to note that the last two words in the first line and the first two words in the second line are the same. But, in Hmong “nco” is a homonym for both “to miss” and “to remember”. These two lines could be translated as either just miss, remember or both. We thought it was more appropriate to use both “remember” and “miss” not only to make it less redundant, but also to convey the speaker’s yearning for his beloved. One should also take notice of the significance behind each word and the emotions it mounts. A person can “remember” and not have any special feelings towards that memory. In a not-so-similar but similar case, a person can “miss” someone or something and remember nothing about them (such situations would be when a person feels lonely or empty and start to fantasize about things they may or may not have done together with the person they miss). So in using both words, the speaker remembers the time they spent together and misses his beloved along with their love.

thaum hnub ci iab lub siab poob nthav
Hnub tig rov qab lub plawv yaj ntshis

When the rising sun gleams, my heart sinks
When the sun sets, my heart melts away

This verse was actually the hardest to translate. Breaking down some of the words, if we look at “ci iab”, “iab” functions as the adverb of “ci” (shine).  I chose to translate “hnub ci iab” as “rising sun gleams” because each person had a different perspective in what it might actually be, either the lighted sky during sunrise or just a shining sun. However, put in the context of the next line “hnub tig rov qab”, it made most sense to translate “hnub ci iab” as the pinkish gleam of the rising sun because both lines put together would make a full day. For the sunset, literally “hnub tig rov qab” means “the sun going backward”. But when reading it in the context of the growing months, the phrase suggests the repeated cycle of the sun rising and setting as the speaker awaits the return of his loved one.

Now moving onto the second part of both sentences. Although “siab” is literally the liver and “plawv” is the heart, both have grown to mean “heart” in English. In a similar way, it could be seen as the English “heart” and “soul” used side-by-side in songs, poems and other writings.

These two lines convey the most feeling in this song, serving almost as the climax and resolution. The speaker’s hope drops as he realizes a new day has begun without the arrival of his beloved; but there was still the possibility of his beloved’s return by the end of the day.  However, by sunset he loses hope, or literally his “heart melts” and disappears as his lover does not return. The cycle would start all over again leading into the night.

ntuj nag tu lawm tsis pom koj los

Spring has subsided, you haven’t returned

In the first part of this line, the literal translation would be “the raining season has stopped.” However, since the song was written in Thailand(?), the rainy season would be spring. More importantly, there is no single word in the Hmong language for spring, nor any of the seasons; each season is a description. Literally, it would be either “the time of” or “the sky of” attached with the adjective “raining”, “hot”, “falling leaves”, or “cold”.   So instead of translating from word to word, Cua and I have decided to just use “spring”.

Hope I didn’t get anything too wrong. If there’s any questions or suggestions, I’m more than happy to discuss it.

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