‘America The Beautiful’ Super Bowl Commercial: Lost In (Tagalog) Translation

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It was not the first time it aired. This Coca-Cola TV commercial made its debut during Super Bowl 2014. It aired again Sunday at Super Bowl LI.

This time around, it seemed to be more powerful. Many will agree that its impact on current events, specifically on the new administration of President Donald Trump, is priceless.

The commercial features the patriotic song ‘America The Beautiful’ sung in different languages, including Tagalog. It’s a powerful depiction of America’s diversity that has been enriched by immigrants from all over the world.

It’s a repudiation of Trump’s policy of ‘making America first,’ that has taken form in the banning of refugees, Muslims and foreign citizens from entering the United States. It is a policy that has overreached to individuals that have earned legal status or even citizenship.

But alas, the commercial was lost in translation when it comes to the Tagalog phrase used to substitute for the words, ‘above the fruited plain.’

It is quite obvious that the song’s composer was referring to the fertile land beneath America’s spacious skies. Fruits merely represented the abundance of agricultural produce in beautiful America.

In the commercial, the phrase was translated into ‘sa ibabaw ng mga prutas,’ which literally, is equivalent to ‘on top of the fruits.’

Lost were the plains and lost was the spirit of abundance. In fact, the Tagalog translation could very well mean on top of a bowl of fruits sitting on a dining table or kitchen counter.

As I’m sure it is with other languages, not everything can or must be translated literally. Word for word. To do so would be to diminish the spirit and true meaning of a great work of art.

Perhaps this re-aired commercial can send a message to Trump to open up America’s borders to allow language experts to work for companies like Coca-Cola or American ad agencies. It will ensure that songs as beautiful as that sung in the commercial will never again be lost in translation.

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