After singing renditions of my favorite songs in French, I realized that following along and singing with the written lyrics was a great way to guide me through the vocabulary, enhance my reading skills, and test my listening comprehension.
This is why I encourage all of you to use French songs with lyrics as a language learning activity.
I’ll show you my favorite jams with lyric videos you can stream right now, broken into four categories you can choose from depending on your language level.
- Videos of French Songs with English Subtitles
- Bilingual Songs in English and French
- French Versions of English Songs
- Videos of French Songs with French Subtitles
- The Perks of Learning with French Songs and Lyrics
- Tools to Transform French Song Lyrics into Language Lessons
Videos of French Songs with English Subtitles
Don’t worry if you’re a beginner, there’s room for you too. Thanks to these subtitled videos, you don’t need to awkwardly bop your head and pretend you’re understanding (speaking from experience…).
There are already some YouTube playlists of French songs with English subtitles, but our favorite options are below.
This is a cute, slow-tempo song that sounds like something you’d hear on a lazy summer Sunday by the Eiffel Tower.
“Aline” features a nice vocabulary range and mix of verb tenses to help you understand the difference between the imparfait and passe composé (imperfect and past tense).
Mika, “Elle Me Dit” (“She Tells Me”)
This song contains a lot of words and it’s slightly more challenging because it’s quicker than “Aline” (then again, what isn’t?).
But fear not, because the chorus is really easy to understand and mostly consists of the word danse (dance), which you’ll inevitably end up doing after your first listen.
Yelle, “Ce Jeu” (“This Game”)
“Ce Jeu” is a fast-paced song that features some uncommon words and French phrases to know because they don’t directly translate well to English. This makes it ideal for upper-beginner learners.
Bilingual Songs in English and French
Bilingual songs are basically the equivalent of a sign that’s in both English and French. When your brain inconveniently forgets all the French you’ve learned, English comes to the rescue. They also offer great mental exercises because by listening to the English parts, you can try to decipher the “gist” of the French parts.
Jean Leloup, “I Lost My Baby”
This song has a memorable melody, and the chorus is in English so it doesn’t contain an overwhelming amount of French content, but just enough.
The verses contain similar lyrical structures, but not identical, so you have a combination of repetition and new content to learn.
Charles Aznavour, “For Me Formidable“
Here’s a short song that might be best for upper-intermediate learners, as the singer fluctuates between French and English relatively quickly, so keeping up is a little trickier.
Simple Plan featuring Marie-Mai, “Jet Lag”
If you’re in a long distance relationship, I 100% recommend you take a listen. This song follows a similar format to “I Lost My Baby,” except the chorus also contains French and the verses are a bit quicker.
French Versions of English Songs
Would you believe me if I told you I once watched all the “Harry Potter” movies in one sitting? No? I don’t blame you, because I’m lying.
However, I’m not lying when I tell you there are loads of French versions of popular English songs online. Here are some of my favorites.
If you enjoy these jams, there’s no shortage of other songs you’ll love. All of the below come from the artist Sara’h, who has a whole playlist of English pop hits covered in French.
Sara’h, “Hello” by Adele
When you finally get to the “other side” of bilingualism, make sure you thank Adele when paying your dues. The pace of this song is quite slow, making it easy to understand, but the chorus contains a lot of words so it’s a good opportunity to expand your vocabulary.
Sara’h, “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift
This cover is a good option for people who are unsure about listening to French songs, because the pace is slow and—as I’m sure you don’t need to be reminded because you’ve probably heard this song 405,032 times—the chorus is very repetitive.
Sara’h, “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran
A nice combination of some quicker and shorter sections, and since this is such a popular song, it isn’t too hard to mentally translate the lyrics.
Videos of French Songs with French Subtitles
You’ve plowed through those awkward beginning phases, endured the growing pains of being an intermediate learner, and you’ve finally almost reached the peak of full French proficiency. You’re ready to graduate to listening to French songs with (gasp) French subtitles!
This is the most immersive way to learn because you’re practicing your listening and reading comprehension simultaneously.
Alain Souchon, “Foule Sentimentale” (“Sentimental Crowd”)
This is a longer song than most that features some unique verbs and vocabulary, as well as pop culture references a true French lover should understand.
Francis Cabrel, “Je t’aimais, je t’aime et je t’aimerai” (“I loved you, I love you and I will love you”)
We all understand the struggle of verb conjugation, and this song offers some great practice. The lyrics contain a lot of conjugations for different tenses and moods, including the subjunctive, helping you learn the appropriate contexts to use each.
Celine Dion: “Pour que tu m’aimes encore” (“For you to love me still”)
Since this is one of the most word-dense songs featured here, you’re sure to broaden your vocabulary.
Please note the title of the video is misspelled and missing the final “s” in “que tu m’aimes.” It happens to the best of us!
The Perks of Learning with French Songs and Lyrics
- It’s often difficult to know how to actually spell a word you’ve heard in a foreign language, so seeing the lyrics right on the screen is a huge plus. You don’t need to worry about feeling like you’re in “Akeelah and the Bee” trying to figure out how to spell obscure words.
- You’ll see the different verb conjugations for tenses that sound the same but are spelled differently. French is notorious for its homophones, so it’s important to distinguish the meanings of different words.
- Be more in tune with French culture by knowing what’s popular in France. French music also offers a window into French culture because it reflects social norms, values and all that good stuff.
- Many songs contain French idioms that’ll help you sound more casual and natural in French. Just be aware many of them aren’t going to translate properly, so if something in the English version seems off, it probably is.
Tools to Transform French Song Lyrics into Language Lessons
You don’t need to just read French song lyrics with a dictionary beside you. There are some unique online tools that are actually designed to teach you French through song lyrics!
- FluentU: This program turns songs, as well as other authentic media, into personalized language lessons by providing videos with built-in interactive subtitles and flashcards with personalized review sessions.
- LyricsTranslate.com: This site is an awesome tool that lets you search for lyrical translations of a massive range of songs. Whether you want to bilingually serenade your lover or you’re caught in your feelings and want to listen to throwback Drake while improving your French, this website has you covered.
If you want to act like you’re auditioning for the next season of “American Idol” or just want to jam out, these songs are waiting. Ever since I’ve started using French songs with lyrics to learn the language, my dream of having a seamless French conversation is one step closer to reality.
My dream of being better at karaoke, though? Well, not so much.