While watching Sword Art Online, in the third episode when Kirito receives a pre-recorded message from Sachi on Christmas she says that she'll sing but instead hums "Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer".

This came from the dubbed version of Sword Art Online, it also made me remember that some other anime i've seen dubbed, when a character says they'll sing, alot of the time they hum instead.

I am wondering, when an anime is dubbed are songs changed to be hummed or even changed entirely due to language difference or is it a translation error when say "sing"?

Note: i am not referring to Insert Songs

  • Sachi was humming in the original version as well.
    – Deathspike
    Mar 10, 2014 at 22:22
  • 2
    I don't think it's possible to say anything in general about this - there isn't really any reason to expect that dubbing companies will be consistent in the way they handle songs. (That said, I would be surprised if dubbing companies converted sung songs to hummed songs very often. What would be the point?)
    – senshin
    Mar 10, 2014 at 22:38
  • I believe the translation to be correct. Utawoutau ne (歌を歌う ね), Should translate to I sing/ Sing a song.
    – Dimitri mx
    Mar 10, 2014 at 23:53
  • A lot of anime VAs in Japan are also singers (or trying to be one), so they are trained/have the ability to pull off the song. The English VAs... not always. Plus licensing issues where they may not always be able to get instrumental-only tracks, or even the music at all... Varies by show; the first season of Haruhi used the original (Japanese) opening/closing songs, but some plot-relevant insert songs were translated and sung in English. Ouran had a re-dubbed open/close. Chance Pop Session retained the Japanese language tracks for the songs. Mar 13, 2014 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


Sachi in particular hummed the story in the Japanese version as well. (Though, in the book, she actually sang "Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer". For whatever reason, they altered that scene in the Anime)

In general, what you're saying will vary from anime to anime, and it depends on who is dubbing them. How much localization the studio wants, I'm sure is a big thing when it comes to this. "How much of the origin language's references do we want to keep?" Overall, it'd difficult to directly translate a song from Japanese to English, while keeping the flow and meaning intact.

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