《 那些年》is the theme song of the movie titled 《那些年，我们一起追的女孩》 ,which was based on a romance novel of the same title. It was hugely popular when it was first released in 2011 – everybody knew this movie, and you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing this song. The lyrics contain spoilers for the ending of the story, so if you have not watched the movie (but plan to give it a go at some point), you might want to stop reading. That is assuming you have not heard of this song already… Which I kind of doubt, haha.
|The Original||My Translation|
We’re back to where we began
I remember your youthful face as if it were yesterday
Here we are, at last, the day has finally arrived
The old photograph under the table mat
Links together countless memories of days past
Today, the boy and the girl will go on their very last date
We’re back to where we began
I’m standing awkwardly in front of the mirror
Fumbling with the knot of my red tie
I’ll fix my hair to look more grown up
And put on a handsome-looking suit
And in a bit, when I see you
I bet you’ll look even more beautiful than I imagined
Oh, how I wish we could return to those times
Back to the classroom, where you used to sit behind me
And I would mess around
Just to hear your gentle chiding
The math combinations on the blackboard
Could you bring yourself to solve them?
Regardless of who sits with whom, he loves her all the same
The rains we’ve missed all these years
The love that we’ve missed all these years
How I wish I could hold you
And embrace the courage that I should have had
I used to want to conquer the world
But it was when I looked back in the end that I realised
That you were my whole world
The rains we’ve missed all those years
The love that we’ve missed all those years
I wish I could tell you
That I never forgot about us
The sky was full of stars that night
In a parallel universe, I would have made you a promise
That the next time I see you, I will embrace you tightly
Embrace you tightly
A Detailed Breakdown
又回到最初的起点 记忆中妳青涩的脸 我们终于来到了这一天
So, a bit of context – the movie is about, simply put, the love that got away. The protagonists fell in love in high school, but parted ways not long after they went to college after a fight and never reconciled. The girl ended up marrying someone else many years after, and the movie ends with the guy attending her wedding. This song is written from his perspective, describing how he felt on her wedding day.
He begins by singing, “We’re once again back to where we started, your youthful face in my memory, we have finally arrived at this day”. These lines serve to set the stage – it’s her wedding day, the guy is in the midst of getting ready to attend the ceremony. He remembers how she used to look, and laments about having returned to where they started – this is either a reference to the current state of their relationship (back to zero), or the fact that he’s reminded of how he felt when he was getting ready for their first date, all those years ago. Probably both.
桌垫下的老照片 无数回忆连结 今天男孩要赴女孩最后的约
‘The old photograph under the table mat, countless memories joining up, today the boy will go on his last date with the girl’. The first line tells us that he still has an old photograph of her – or them – hidden under a table mat. The second one describes ‘countless memories joined up with one another’, which is probably a metaphor for the collection of memories he still has of her that are, in a way, immortalised in the photograph. Or maybe he’s just saying that he looked at the photograph, and it brought back a lot of old memories. The wording is really ambiguous, which pretty much leaves it open to interpretation.
赴约 refers to the act of going to see someone that you’ve promised to meet. It doesn’t have to be a date – it could be anything, an appointment, a meeting, or an interview. He says ‘最后的约’ because this is probably the last time she’ll reach out and ask to see him – at least in a long time. The fact that this ‘最后的约’ came in the form of a wedding invitation makes it doubly sad.
又回到最初的起点 呆呆地站在镜子前 笨拙系上红色领带的结
‘We’re back once again to where we started, I’m standing awkwardly in front of the mirror, fumbling with the knot of my red tie’. It is as if he’s reliving the day they went on their first date. He feels like an awkward teenager again, dressing up to impress her.
将头发梳成大人模样 穿上一身帅气西装 等会儿見妳一定比想像美
‘Combing my hair into a mature, grown-up looking hairstyle, putting on a handsome suit, when I see you, later, I bet you’ll look even more beautiful than I imagined/am imagining’. He felt like this while he was getting ready for their first date. And now, on her wedding day, he still feels the same way.
好想再回到那些年的时光 回到教室座位前后 故意讨妳温柔的骂
‘Oh, how I wish we could return to those times, back to the classroom, where you used to sit behind me, and I would deliberately try to get you to gently chide me’. The boy always sat in front of the girl in class. He was your typical prankster, and the girl was a straight-A student, and a bit of a goody-two-shoes. He would goof around a lot, just to get her attention, and she always responded by gently chiding him.
黑板上排列组合 妳舍得解开吗 谁与谁坐 他又爱着她
‘The math combinations on the blackboard, could you bring yourself to solve them? Regardless of who sits with whom, he loves her all the same’. He’s asking if she would be able to bring herself to solve those math problems on the blackboard, if they really went back in time. He wouldn’t, because solving them means they would have to move forward in time, and eventually they would arrive at where they are today. He wished he could go back and that time would freeze, so he could stay in that moment, forever.
The wording of that last bit is a bit strange, but it’s a play on a common type of math problems in Taiwan when it comes to permutations and combinations (排列组合). It’s called ‘谁与谁坐’. It literally means ‘who sits with whom’, and those problems usually go along the lines of ‘There are A, B and C and there are 50 desks in the classroom, arranged in 5 rows, with 10 desks in each row. Assuming A, B and C have to be seated together no matter what, how many possible combinations of seating arrangement are there?’ (I suck at math, so forgive me if this doesn’t make sense, but yeah, classroom seating arrangement is a recurring theme with these math problems).
He’s basically saying that regardless of seating arrangement, he loves her all the same.
那些年错过的大雨 那些年错过的爱情 好想拥抱妳 拥抱错过的勇气
Literal translation: ‘The rains we’ve missed all these years, the love that we’ve missed all these years, how I wish I could hold you, and embrace the courage that I missed’. So here we have the main theme of the song: 错过, which means to miss something you shouldn’t have, like a bus, or an opportunity. Picture this: two people are on their way to meet each other. Right before they do, however, one of them changes their course, and they end up never seeing each other ever again. I feel like this metal image best describes the feeling of the word 错过 – it’s a narrow miss. It suggests that things might have turned out very, very differently if something – usually something small or seemingly insignificant that ends up having a much bigger impact on the outcome than anyone could have foreseen – hadn’t happened.
So in this first bit of the chorus, he wonders about the love that could have been, and the things they could have experienced together; the rains being a reference to the fights they would have had as a couple, since it was that fight in the rain that ended their relationship. He wished he could embrace her, and the courage that he should have had – if only he had been a little braver, things would have turned out differently.
曾经想征服全世界 到最后回首才发现 这世界滴滴点点全部都是妳
‘I used to want to conquer the world, but it was when I looked back in the end that I realised, that you were my whole world’. He is talking about not knowing what he had when they were still together – he wanted to conquer the world, not knowing that he already had it, because she was his world. 滴滴点点(or 点点滴滴) literally translates to ‘dots and drops’, which is usually used to describe things that are small but numerous, like efforts, or memories – things that accumulate over time, usually. He’s saying that he sees her in the little things, in every corner and every part of this world, because she is the entirety of his world.
那些年错过的大雨 那些年错过的爱情 好想告诉妳 告诉妳我没有忘记
‘The rains we’ve missed all those years, the love that we’ve missed all those years, I wish I could tell you that I never forgot (about us)’. He can’t, because it’s too late for that now.
那天晚上满天星星 平行时空下的约定 再一次相遇我会紧紧抱着妳 紧紧抱着妳
‘The sky was full of stars that night, a promise made in a parallel universe, the next time I see you, I will embrace you tightly, embrace you tightly’. There’s a scene that takes place 2 years after their break-up, where he calls her after seeing news of an earthquake, to ask if she’s okay, and they talk for hours on the phone, reminiscing about the past. He asks the girl if she believes in parallel universes, and suggests that they might still be together, in one of those universes. The girl smiles and says that she’s envious of their parallel-universe-counterparts, and looks up at the star-dappled night sky. Neither of them broached the subject of getting back together, and I think here, the boy is lamenting about what might have happened if he had. He believes that somewhere out there, there’s a parallel universe where he actually did something about it and made her a promise, that the next time he sees her he’ll hold her tightly, like he should have.