“Pourquoi philosopher alors qu’on peut chanter ?”
This question means, “why philosophize when we can sing?”
Georges Brassens, the beloved French singer who posed this question, might have a really good point.
The French language is highly melodic, and what better way to learn a melodious language than by singing?
Why Learn French Through Song?
Music has many benefits, in general. Listening to French songs has added benefits for learners. Here are the major reasons why you should add French music to your playlist.
1. Train Your Ear: Every language has a pattern that native speakers are born with and you have to learn. There’s a reason why traditional language classrooms use recorded dialogues of French speakers for students. In order to effectively communicate in a language, you need to be able to understand it. Songs can help you do just that through repeated listening. French has many pesky words which tend to sound similar to the untrained ear, and the only way to conquer them is to get lots of exposure to them.
2. Improve Your Pronunciation: While it might seem strange to ameliorate your pronunciation through listening instead of speaking, it’s actually quite logical. Do you remember those songs that get stuck in your head and you keep mentally playing them over and over again? Well, learning works the same way, through repetition. By listening to your favorite French songs and singing along, you’ll improve your pronunciation for certain words which are common to almost all songs.
3. Improve Your Vocabulary Retention: The song’s melody will help you remember the lyrics. There are certain words and expressions in songs which will stay with you. It helps to read through a rough translation of the song before listening to it. That way, you have an idea of what each line in the song means. Later on, if you find a lyric or expression that you love, you can always search for it and find out if it’s used as a common expression in the language.
Now that you’ve been told about how advantageous French songs are to your language learning journey, you can begin listening! The songs you like will depend on your music tastes, but French must has no shortage of genres. Here are some well-known French songs for you language learners to get your groove on in another language!
6 Famous and Fun French Songs to Learn French
1. “La Vie en Rose” by Edith Piaf
Almost everyone knows the melody of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.“ The song was first aired in the 1940s and we have been hearing it ever since.
As such a classic French song, it should become the staple to your French playlist. While perhaps a bit cliché and overly-romantic, the lyrics and dreamy music make you want to fall in love with French all over again.
As a bonus, the song is sung at a slow pace, which makes it easy for newbie and intermediate students to sing along. No matter what your level, “La Vie en Rose” never loses its magic no matter how many times you play it.
2. “Bonnie and Clyde” by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot
Serge Gainsbourg was the heavy smoking, heavier drinking bad boy of the Parisian music scene. His scandalous behavior is just as memorable as his music.
Brigitte Bardot was the French Marilyn Monroe and sweetheart of French cinema. Put the two of them together and what do you get? Well, Bonnie and Clyde, of course!
Between Serge’s raspy singing and Brigitte’s sultry voice, you’re sure to get the same chills as if you were listening to the real Bonnie and Clyde. The song is sung at a slower—almost criminally slow—pace, which will help you follow along. In France, Gainsbourg is just as famous as Bonnie and Clyde, if not even more notorious.
3. “La Vie Ne M’Apprend Rien” by Daniel Balavoine
Daniel Balavoine was a great French rock singer with a greater legacy. He believed in doing things his own way, and he was usually right. Balavoine stood up for human rights and spoke out against all forms of racism and economic discrimination when interracial relationships were still taboo in France. Tragically, he was killed in a helicopter accident aged just 33.
He wasn’t always politically involved, but a lot of his music was charged with political messages.
The message behind his song, “La Vie Ne M’Apprend Rien,” will stay with you long after you’ve heard it. For any learner who wants to know just what life is all about, Daniel Balavoine will tell you in this song.
4. “Ma Liberté de Penser” by Florent Pagny
If you don’t like Daniel Balavoine telling you what to think, you just might be fond of Florent Pagny. The French rocker is known for his emotional ballads and extremely poetic music.
However, “Ma Liberté de Penser” is a much more sarcastic and biting song by the French troublemaker. In fact, the story behind the song is that Pagny got into a lot of trouble with the French tax department and had the majority of his assets seized. Pagny responded by comparing the French taxman to the devil, telling him to take everything he wants and leave the singer with his freedom to think.
French music doesn’t always have to be about love or philosophical musings, Florent Pagny proves that it can also be a way to make fun of the government.
5. “Aussi Libre Que Moi” by Calogero
If you’re a pop-rock fan, you might just fall in love with Calogero. The music is upbeat and the lyrics are both seductive and fun, at the same time. Don’t be worried if you can’t hit the same high notes as Calogero, the singer’s frail voice is his trademark.
The song will help you with pesky French pronunciation when speaking quickly, like when the singer croons “comme je crois” (as I believe) as only a Frenchman can. The song will definitely get you pumped up enough to continue learning French when you’re feeling unmotivated.
6. “Écris l’histoire” by Grégory Lemarchal
Much more pop than Calogero, you can almost imagine the fans rushing the stage when Grégory Lemarchal began singing. The young singer had to overcome many obstacles to even start singing. Lemarchal was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as an infant, and the illness would go on to affect his lungs and other vital organs.
The young singer overcame his illness to bring his talent to the stage and sing songs like “Écris l’histoire.” Sadly, the young Grégory passed away in 2007 due to complications caused by his cystic fibrosis. Fortunately, his memory lives on in all his fans who rightly feel like he left them too soon.
Now that you have your French learner’s starter playlist, you can keep finding and adding songs of your own!
You might like other songs by the above artists, or you could branch off and dance to the beat of your own French musician.
In any case, playing French songs will enrich your learning experience and offer you a chance to still experience the language without being surrounded by French speakers.
Remember, you can always translate the lyrics and you don’t need to memorize every word you hear the first time you hear it.
Like with any song, if you like it you’ll remember it after a few plays.
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