Four Awesome French Songs with French Subtitles
The other day my wife laughed at me. I had my phone in my pocket as I was getting ready for work in the morning. Blasting from my phone was a song from Genii, a pop music group from Laos. My wife that it was the funniest thing.
"Why are you laughing?" I asked her.
"That music. It sounds like pop music."
"It is pop music," I responded.
"It sounds like Korean pop music-like K-pop."
"No, it's L-pop. It's Lao pop music."
I hate pop music. Well, usually. I'm more of a classic rock kind of guy. And the song I was listening to while I buttered my toast was the exact opposite of the type of music I usually listen to in English. I think that's why she was laughing at me, because it was so uncharacteristic of me to listen to that type of music. But right now I'm trying to learn Lao, and the music was catchy. And sometimes the catchier the better.
Last year I studied Esperanto for six weeks and discovered something. I need to sing more in foreign languages. It's fun. And it's a great way to cement vocabulary in your head without trying to memorize boring lists.
My favorite place to find music is YouTube. I look for music that has subtitles in the same language it's sung in, because reading those subtitles as you watch the music videos helps you both with your listening skills and your reading skills.
I also try to find a few catchy songs. Catchy songs often have lyrics that are repeated over and over. And half an hour after you've listened to the song you find yourself singing it to yourself. I think this is great because it helps you internalize new words. My favorite Esperanto version of this principle is Tiel La Mondo Iras which is so catchy that my kids were singing it along with me in my car, even though they don't know any Esperanto.
Since I find music so useful in learning languages, I thought I'd share a few lists of songs with subtitles that you can read, sing along to, or just enjoy. For no reason in particular, I thought I'd start with French. More languages to come later.
Ne me Quitte Pas - Jacques Brel
Jacques Brel was a famous Belgian singer in the late 1950's and 1960's. I love his music. He puts so much emotion into everything he sings.
My favorite song from Jacques Brel is "Ne Me Quitte Pas". It is, in my opinion, probably the world's saddest song. I first heard it in high school when my high school French teacher introduced it to us. Coincidentally, the world's second saddest song is also by Jacques Brel: Les Bonbons. Search for Jacques Brel on YouTube and you'll find lots of great French music.
Rien de Rien - Édith Piaf
Édith Piaf was a famous French singer from the same era as Jacques Brel. Probably her two most popular songs were La Vie en Rose and Rien de Rien. I like Rien de Rien a little better. Here it is below.
Elle Me Dit - Mika
Mika is a British-Lebanese singer. Born to a Syrian mother and an American father in Lebanon, he grew up in France and England. "Elle Me Dit" is his first French language song release. It's funny and catchy. The video embedded on this page doesn't have subtitles, but there is another version that has subtitles in French and English, which is nice. (That version has embedding disabled.) YouTube user frenchrescue has lots more videos with both French and English subtitles.
Foux de Fa Fa - Flight of the Conchords
Flight of the Conchords is a folk duo from New Zealand that used to have a television show about them trying to get famous in America. Foux de Fa Fa is their only French song that I'm aware of.
The phrase "Foux de Fa Fa" doesn't mean anything; it just sounds French. The rest of the song is full of real French words and sentences, with an occasional grammar error. (For example they say "a le supermarché", when it should be "au supermarché". The subtitles are correct, the actual lyrics sung are not.)
The song is funny, and doesn't make any sense. It is full of words and phrases you'd learn in a beginning French class, like "Where is the library" and "Here is my passport." This is probably intentional; none of Flight of the Conchords songs are serious.
Below is a version with French subtitles. (I think the subtitles before the 17 second mark are in Swedish, but it switches over to French after the English dialog is over.) For a version with English subtitles, go here.
Though songs with subtitles are useful, I wouldn't limit myself to only songs with subtitles. If a song is popular enough, you'll be able to find lyrics to that song with a quick Google search, and you might even be able to find an English translation as well.
Do you have any favorite French songs I should have included in my list? Let me know in the comments below.