Like the First Time (처음처럼) by T-ara (티아라): Lyrics, Translation, & Explanation

With lyrics designed to stoke any guy’s ego, and a music video full of eye-candy to boot, Like the First Time (처음처럼) by T-ara (티아라) is a very embarrassing song for a pro-feminist blogger to admit to liking.

Let alone have as his ringtone.

One of the handful of songs that got me addicted to K-pop though, then I’m guess I’m stuck with this peccadillo of mine. But in fairness, I wouldn’t have had it on my old, audio-only iPod for the past year if that’s all it could be be reduced to.

And in hindsight, is it really all that different to, say, You Look So Fine (1999) by Garbage, who to the best of my recollection have never been described as projecting an image of weakness and passivity?

Either way, here’s the remix by DJ Areia that originally got me hooked (downloadable here):

And here’s the original, which for a change I like almost as much:

And here goes with the translation:

왜 자꾸 두근두근대죠 이 내 가슴이

왜 자꾸만 터 터질것 같죠 왜 자꾸만

왜 자꾸 숨이 가빠오죠 미칠것같이

왜 자꾸만 수 숨이 막히죠 왜 자꾸만

첫 사랑도 아닌데 순진한 건 아닌데

그댄 자꾸만 또 자꾸만 또 느끼게 해줘요

Why does my heart throb so often? Why does my chest

often feel like it’s going to burst? Why do I often keep

running out of breath? It’s like I will go crazy

Why do I often feel like I’m suffocating? Why so often?

This is not the first time I’ve fallen in love, I’m not innocent

You often again and again make me feel this way

Nothing too difficult here. First, as we’ve seen in just about every other song translation, again “만” doesn’t mean “only” but is just added for emphasis. Next, “죠”, short for “지요” is an ending meaning “right” that turns the sentence into a tag question, but I haven’t put it like that in the text because just like in English, tag questions often aren’t real questions, and clearly aren’t here (again, they just seem to be for emphasis). Finally, there’s the construction “~ㄹ 것 같다” which is used twice, and literally means ” [future tense]-thing-same [as]”, or effectively “it seems like/looks like/appears that … will do/be”; hence “Why does my chest often feel like it’s going to burst?” and “It’s like I will go crazy”, although admittedly the latter doesn’t sound that great in English.

One thing of great interest to me personally though, because it sort of came up in another translation, is the “오다” added to “가쁘다” in 3, with a tag question at the end added on top of that giving “가빠오죠”. Now “가쁘다” means “gasping [panting] for breath; difficulty in breathing”, but what does the “오다” (“come”) added to that do to it? Well, this is what I originally learned, from page 16 of the grammar and vocabulary guidebook that comes with 5A of the Sogang Korean series:

If you’d rather have an English explanation though, then this is what my trusty Korean Grammar for International Learners (KGIL) says on page 340:

When [“오다” & “가다” are] expressed as auxiliary verbs, they signify that an action is carried out continuously and repeatedly over a period of time. In keeping with the original meaning of these verbs, the patterns [above] mean “continuous performance of an action over time in the past as one comes toward the ‘present and continuous’ performance of an action over time into the future (away from the present)” respectively.

Quite a mouthful unfortunately, which I think it could be better edited (I’m sure an “and” is missing in it), and I think the above diagram is a must to make any sense of it! But hopefully, now you can see why I chose “Why do I often keep running out of breath?” for “왜 자꾸 숨이 가빠오죠” at least, rather than “Why do I often run of breath?”. Granted, they effectively mean the same thing, and “Why do I keep running out of breath” would sound better in English (like in the translation in the video). But with the “자꾸” is  still in the Korean unfortunately, then I’ll allow it to awkwardly remain in the English too (and same logic goes for line 6).

그댄 나를 기쁘게 해요 그댄 나를 느끼게 해요

처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼

그댄 나를 미치게 해요 자꾸자꾸 원하게 해요

처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼

처 처음처럼처럼처럼 처럼처럼처럼처럼

처 처음처럼처럼처럼 처럼처럼처럼처럼

처 처음처럼처럼 처처처처럼처럼

처럼처럼처럼처럼 처처처처처음처럼

You make me feel happy You make me feel you

Like the first time Like the first time Like the first time

You make me feel crazy I want you again and again

Like the first time, like the first time…(etc)

Easy as, but it’s just impossible for me to do a literal translation and keep a straight face sorry: for instance the first line would be “As for you – me – joyfully – do” then “As for you – me – feelingly – do”…gotta love the way Korean uses adverbs. More seriously though, I don’t think “기쁘다” should ever be translated as “joyfully” in English (the first entry in Korean dictionaries, but used by precisely zero native speakers), and it’s a red flag for me for any translator that does.

After that, I think “again and again” is more appropriate than the literal Korean “often often”.

왜 자꾸 열이 나는 거죠 온몸이 자꾸

왜 자꾸만 다 달아오르죠 왜 자꾸만

왜 자꾸 아찔아찔 하죠 정신이 없어

왜 자꾸만 주 죽을것 같죠 왜 자꾸만

사랑 사랑 지금껏 말로만 했던건지

그댈 만나고 난 느껴요 난 진짜 사랑이 뭔지

Why do I often get this fever, Why does my whole body

often burn, Why do I often

get so dizzy and lightheaded, It’s crazy

Why is it often like I’m going to die, Why did I often

love through only words before now

After meeting you I feel it, I [know] what real love is

Again easy, but it’s difficult to know where one clause and/or sentence begins and the other ends, although of course the resulting numerous translations would all pretty much amount to the same thing.

Just 3 things of note. First, that although “정신이 없어” on line 3 is literally “without a mind”, “mindless”, or “absent-minded”, and that it’s especially tempting to translate it in that vein given the context of the “왜 자꾸 아찔아찔 하죠” before it (“Why do I often get so dizzy and lightheaded”), in reality it’s most often said to express one’s annoyance at some crazy and/or untenable situation. Like me trying to write this post with two toddlers literally climbing all over me and the desk demanding to listen to KARA for instance, or both of them bawling their eyes out when I tell them 5 times every other night is quite enough.

Next, the “주” in “왜 자꾸만 주 죽을것 같죠” on line 3 (“Why is it often like I’m going to die”) is just to emphasize to the “death” part (“죽다”).

Finally, in line 6 the “건지” in “했던건지” had me stumped for a little while. The “던”, of course, refers to “recollection of a state in the past, or of a repeated, habitual, or uncompleted action in the past”, and the “~았/었/였” form before that “gives clearer expression to the notion of ‘completeness’ and also expresses experience” (KGIL, pp. 318-19), but “건지”? Then I realized it was short for “것인지”, or literally “thing-is-yes?”, another way of saying “I guess”.

그댄 나를 기쁘게 해요 그댄 나를 느끼게 해요

처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼

그댄 나를 미치게 해요 자꾸자꾸 원하게 해요

처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼

처 처음처럼처럼처럼 처럼처럼처럼처럼

처 처음처럼처럼처럼 처럼처럼처럼처럼

처 처음처럼처럼 처처처처럼처럼

You make me feel happy You make me feel you

Like the first time Like the first time Like the first time

You make me feel crazy I want you again and again

Like the first time, like the first time…(etc)

No explanation: that’s the chorus again!

(Source)

리무진에 champagne bling bling jewelry chain

나를 원해 목이 메인 그런 남자 oh no

항상 발길에 채이는 그런 남잔 just pain

Don’t wanna play this game 꺼져버려 이젠

Now I wanna pump up my gain this is about a man

You know you’re the only man 넌 나를 너무 잘 알기에

나를 기쁘게 기쁘게 기쁘게 해줘

나를 느끼게 느끼게 느끼게 해줘

Limousine champagne bling bling jewelry chain

I don’t want a man who wants me so badly he chokes oh no

I don’t want a man who always gets pushed around by a woman just pain

Don’t wanna play this game Get lost now

Now I wanna pump up my gain this is about a man

Now I wanna pump up my gain this is about a man Since you know me so well

You make me happy happy happy

You make me happy happy happy

(Source)

Finishing the translation of this song late last night, and composing an introduction to (hopefully) pique your interest as I fell asleep, then that was the first thing I wrote this morning. In hindsight though, it’s a little frivolous for how provocative this verse is.

In particular, lines 2 & 3. But as they were also the hardest parts of the song to translate, then I’ll keep the introduction as it is for now just in case I’ve misinterpreted them.

The difficulty was because at first, little things meant that they were quite different to what you’d expect given the rest of the song. For instance, there’s a phrase “사랑에 목을 메다”  which means you’re very in love with someone, so much so that you’re sort of hanging around their neck all the time. But then in line 2 it’s not actually  “목이” but “목을”, and “목을 메다” means “choke”.

With that in mind, then “나를 원해 목이 메인 그런 남자” literally gives “me-want-choke-kind of-man”, which was very very easy to interpret as “a man that wants to choke me”. But to put it mildly, that raised alarm bells. Instead, there’s really 2 clauses here “나를 원해” and “목이 메인 그런 남자”, giving “me-want”  and “choke-kind of-man”, and cobbling those together I came up with “I don’t want a man who wants me so badly he chokes”.

That seemed out of place, but it made sense in the context of line 3, “항상 발길에 채이는 그런 남잔” literally being “always-a kick-get kicked-kind-of-man”, but which I interpreted as “always-gets kicked [pushed around]-kind of-man”, and presumably by his female partner. The English “just pain” cobbled on the end of that though, is probably just virtually random English, and too much shouldn’t be read into it.

Taken all together then, then there’s a huge double standard: the female protagonist is free to feel powerless in wake of her desire for her man, but a man that feels the same way about her, and is prepared to spend a lot of money on and get pushed around by her to win her heart? That’s unacceptable.

Which is fine I suppose. But why I say the verse is provocative though, is that given the context of the woman’s weakness and passivity in the song as a whole, then I’m left with the uneasy feeling that she at least wouldn’t mind if things were reversed. That she wants to be dominated by him.

What do you think? Is there something to that, or should I reconsider after having my second coffee?

Either way, that’s it, but for the chorus again:

(Source)

그댄 나를 기쁘게 해요 그댄 나를 느끼게 해요

처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼

그댄 나를 미치게 해요 자꾸자꾸 원하게 해요

처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼

처 처음처럼처럼처럼 처럼처럼처럼처럼

처 처음처럼처럼처럼 처럼처럼처럼처럼

처 처음처럼처럼 처처처처럼처럼

처럼처럼처럼처럼

You make me feel happy You make me feel you

Like the first time Like the first time Like the first time

You make me feel crazy I want you again and again

Like the first time, like the first time…(etc)

For more on T-ara and (indirectly) this song and the surreal ads above, see here and here. Meanwhile, for those of you that like your K-pop gossip, netizens are very concerned about Hyo-min’s (효민) recent excessive weightloss, the main character in the music video.

Next song to be translated: Oh! (오!) by Girls’ Generation (소녀시대), with a very similar narrative to this one.

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11 thoughts on “Like the First Time (처음처럼) by T-ara (티아라): Lyrics, Translation, & Explanation

  1. Hi James,

    First one in on this one? On the translation of the below bit, I basically think you’ve got it all right, but am noot sure about the grammatical analysis:

    그댄 나를 기쁘게 해요 그댄 나를 느끼게 해요

    처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼 처 처음처럼

    그댄 나를 미치게 해요 자꾸자꾸 원하게 해요

    I wouldn’t call the -게 here an adverb, so much as that we have a causative construction: -게 + 하다 (to make or let someone do/be something). I don’t think Korean linguists would define the -게 as an adverb in this construction. For what it’s worth, my wife (she being the native speaker in the house and with an MA in Applied Linguistics albeit oriented towards TESOL) agrees with you, not me.

    And not sure whether the repeated “you” is a typo here, but you can leave it out: You make me feel you/like the first time” – I’d go with just “You make me feel like the “first time.”

    You don’t mention it (maybe in an earlier post on this song), but there’s a pretty obvious touchstone (I think) for the song’s lyrics by an obscure artist named Madonna Ciccone:

    “Easy as”? Are you from New Zealand or something, dude? :-)

  2. Love the combination of hot girls, Korean grammar and anthropological musings. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs… :^D

    So I agree with ddb, against James and ddb’s wife. It strikes me as more accurate to say that the causative semantics is the primary one for -게, such that the Korean -게 “adverbs” (i.e. the words translated by English adverbs) are an extension of the causative. So something like 똑똑하게 공부하다 ‘study intelligently’ has a more literal gloss like ‘study so that it makes (one) be intelligent’.

    Supporting this view, consider some examples that can’t be translated (well) by English adverbs. From the Korean Grammar Database:

    멀게 느껴진다.
    I feel distant. / X I feel distantly.
    너무 비싸게 산 것 같아요.
    It seems that I paid too much. / X paid too expensively.

    These show that English adverbs tend to be semantically much more integrated with the main action of the verb, whereas in Korean they can denote many kinds of peripheral effects. As intermediate/advanced learners, it seems to me that we’re probably better off if we break the mental link between -게 forms and adverbs.

    • Thanks to both of you, and apologies for the late reply. Partially, because I’m getting over a slight cold, but mostly because, frankly, I can’t think of more to say than that you’re both right(!), and I defer to your better judgments. And I especially like your last point J. Goard, which is good advice.

      Will still make an effort to look at the 2 videos tomorrow morning though, and give my 2 cents then.

  3. By the way, to contrast “Like a Virgin” with “처음처럼”, the most striking point is that the former depicts its experienced woman as fallen and downtrodden, while the latter just suggests competence and independence. In its pessimism about society, “Like a Virgin” strikes me as a prototypical product of the 80s. Other English songs on this theme play rather differently:

    Miss guarded heart
    Miss play it smart
    Miss if you wanna use that line, you better not start, no
    But she miscalculated
    She didn’t want to end up jaded
    And this Miss decided not to miss out on true love
    So, by changing her misconceptions
    She went in a new direction
    And found inside she felt a connection

  4. Hello,

    I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Laila, the girl that long time ago asked you to use information from your website for her project.
    I’m going to handle it out next friday, and even though the subject for the work wasn’t Asian Ads, (I changed it to Spanish Magazine Ads & their influence in the society) some topics talks that you’ve done through your site really helped me.

    Thanks again,

    Laila.

  5. James, as a fellow feminist, I fail to see what’s sexist about this song and I think you’re reading way too much into it. It’s just a lovesong, no different to any other. The song is about one particular person who is helplessly in love. It doesn’t say anything about gender issues. When Britney Spears sang “crazy” she wasn’t trying to say that all women are crazy. It’s just a lovesong about one particular relationship.

    Also, I don’t see why would it be sexist if a woman sang about wanting to be dominated by a man? It’s very common for men to be more dominant than women, both in terms of personality and sexually, and it’s also very common for women to be attracted to dominant men. None of that has anything to do with sexual inequality. Just because someone is submissive doesn’t mean they think they are inferior to others or should have less rights. If that were the case, sexual inequality would be natural to our species, and it is not.

    The bottom line: having a submissive or dominant personality doesn’t make a person sexist. Thinking your gender is inferior or superior does.

    • Sorry, but I find your comment a little contradictory: on the one hand you say that sexual inequality isn’t natural to our species, yet on the other you say that it’s “very common for men to be more dominant than women both in terms of personality and sexually”, and also that it’s “very common for women to be attracted to dominant men,” as if both were entirely natural and nothing whatsoever to do with socialization.

      Actually, I’ve got nothing against songs about being helplessly in love either. But in K-pop at least, there’s suspiciously few songs and/or music videos featuring a man being hopelessly in love with a women, yet passively waiting for her to do something about it. So no, I don’t think I’m reading too much into it at all.

  6. Pingback: Finding K-Pop Songs to Learn « Beginner's Mind: South Korea

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