Word on the street is you can learn French by listening to music.
We’ve also heard rumor that stand-up comedy routines will do the trick.
Since we’re always looking for fun new ways to immerse ourselves in French, why not combine these two?
And yes, I know what you’re thinking—”How can French music be funny?”
If you’re having silly thoughts like that, you’ll be in for a surprise.
French music isn’t limited to romantic crooners and cool indie bands. The French music scene boasts a whole catalog of humorous songs. A lot of French comedy is about body language and slapstick, so music (and funny dances) are a natural fit.
These songs will not only have you chuckling as you brush up on grammar, but doubled over and forgetting what you were doing watching them in the first place.
How to Make Sure You’re In On the Joke: 4 Ways to Listen Along
Unless your listening comprehension skills are pure perfection (and if so, then sit tight), you might need guidance to get through these songs.
It’s no secret that some French songs are hard to understand. Heck, some English language songs are tough to get a word out of. So, here are a few ways to make sure that you’re getting the most out of each laugh, and getting the most laughs out of each song.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Belt It Out
You’re probably alone listening to these songs, so why not clear out those old wind pipes and get a real feeling for their rhythm? Or lip-sync, whatever you think the neighbors will be more comfortable with.
Step Two: Listen to the song once to get an idea of what you’ve gotten yourself into.
Step Three: Read the lyrics and pop out the dictionary for any vocabulary that makes you cock your head and say “quoi ?”.
Step Four: Pronounce the lyrics in your best musical French and parade around with your hairbrush. Put on a performance for a lucky soul if you really feel confident in your French.
2. Succumb to the Translation
As effective as option number one is, it may be too silly for some. And while I don’t recommend getting too cozy with translations, they can be particularly useful when you have no idea why a song is funny.
Step One: Listen to the French song once to first determine whether or not you laughed. If not, then maybe it’s time to dig deeper.
Step Two: Find the English translation of the lyrics and give them a good read, focusing on the jokes and the general comedic tone.
Step Three: Give the song another chance, listen to it a few times. Search for words you don’t know while you listen and relate them back to the English translation. If things still aren’t funny, try brushing up on your slang and idioms. Or perhaps the song wasn’t all that funny to begin with.
3. Become a French Weird Al
Often, finding creative writing exercises for French immersion can be a challenge. Luckily, I have a real winner for you:
Step One: Find a French song you like. Or don’t like. It doesn’t matter. In fact, the original song doesn’t even have to be in French. Hit shuffle on your music player and come what may!
Step Two: Find the lyrics for the song (French, English, doesn’t matter). You’ll want to have these on hand to visualize the construction of the song.
Step Three: Write a “better” version. Replace the lyrics with a string of French gibberish, or a story about how your pet goat ate a car. Whatever makes you happy, as long as it’s funny and it’s in French.
Step Four: This is a bonus step, but if you want to go above and beyond, record your rendition with specially choreographed dance moves and post it on YouTube for all the world to see. Just a suggestion.
4. Play Paroles Detective
Get your highlighter, magnifying glass and getaway car. Maybe not the last one, or the first two. But you’ll need your analytical thinking to get to the bottom of some of these bizarre lyrics.
Step One: Listen to the song to gauge how well you understand the lyrics,
Step Two: Read the lyrics and single out phrases, words and jokes that you don’t understand.
Step Three: Hit the books! Or the Internet, I should say. Because where there’s a question, there’s a forum deep on the Internet with the answer. Try the WordReference forums or this insane list of slang and idioms to help unearth the dark mysteries.
Step Four: Slap your knee and give yourself a pat on the back, because you’re totally in on the joke now.
7 Funny French Songs for Jamming and Hamming
Each song includes a link to a music video of some sort and the French and English lyrics at the end. With everything from dry humor from the 1950s to modern YouTube crazes, there’s bound to be one that tickles your fancy.
1. “Ça plane pour moi” by Plastic Bertrand
This is a deep and thoughtful song, one with a meaning that will only be unearthed by generations of analysis.
Just kidding. They’re essentially nonsense lyrics.
While you might not get the best grammar lesson from this song, there’s some vocabulary to take away. It also proves a great exercise for French comprehension: the more of the nonsense you can understand, the funnier it gets.
Ça plane pour moi — It means “It’s all going well for me” in English. Literally, “That glides for me.”
Nana — While at first glance this seems like it means a nanny or a grandma, it’s actually the French way of saying girl or chick.
Bouffer — This is a good verb to use in place of manger (to eat), but it’s closer to “stuffing your face.” In the song, Plastic Bertrand refers to his cat eating his tongue. Pure nonsense.
If New Wave grooves are your cup of tea, check out this YouTube playlist of Plastic Bertrand’s songs.
2. “La Tristitude” by Oldelaf
How did a song called “The Sadness” make it onto this list? Well, first of all, remember that the more recognizable word for “sadness” is tristesse. Tristitude is its ironic cousin. Another appropriate title for this song would have been “First World Problems.” Some of the very sad, no good things talked about in this song include:
Quand un copain t’appelle pour son déménagement — When a friend calls you for his move. Nothing worse than having to help a friend move.
Quand des jeunes t’appellent Monsieur pour la première fois — When the young people call you Mister for the first time. Feeling old makes some people feel sad, I guess.
C’est faire les courses le samedi d’avant Noël — It [sadness] is running errands on the Saturday before Christmas. Don’t do that unless you want to feel unending pain.
If you want more of Oldelaf and like to drink a whole lot of coffee, check out the song “Le Cafe.”
3. “Je ne suis pas bien portant” by Gaston Ouvrard
If you aren’t familiar with your body part vocabulary, then skip the songs for school children and let Gaston Ouvrard lead you through the human body. With the song making a play on a hypochondriac’s state of mind, it’s essentially a laundry list of bodily ailments.
bien portant — While it literally means “well running,” it refers to good health. In the case of the title, it means “I am not in good health.” Hence, all of the woes. So many woes.
C’est embêtant — It’s annoying. Most of the injuries and illnesses in this list rate somewhere on the annoying scale.
Ce n’est pas rigolo — It’s not funny. Well actually, it is, because this is a post about Funny French songs. Rigolo is a useful synonym for other words for funny like drôle.
For more of Ouvrard, assuming you’re into the oldies (but goodies), here’s “L’internationalisation.”
4. “Le temps ne fait rien à l’affaire” by Georges Brassens
Now, let me warn you before you start looking up translations of this song and get offended by the translation (the link below to the lyrics has a good version). Des cons is a way to call someone an idiot or a jerk in French, but has a literal meaning that refers to the female anatomy. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, this song is all about how once you’re a jerk, you’re always a jerk.
Le temps ne fait rien à l’affaire — the title translates to “time has nothing to do with it,” specifically referring to being a jerk with this song.
Vous les cons âgés
les cons usagés
les vieux cons
“You the aged jerks, the worn jerks, the old jerks.” This is a funny way to learn that sometimes adjectives go in different places depending on their meaning. This is illustrated throughout the song as it cites many different types of jerks.
This song plays at the opening of the film “Le Dîner de Cons,” which is a great film to check out if you want more laughs as you advance your French. If you enjoyed this tune by Brassens, you can learn even more French with even more of his songs here!
5. “Moustache” by Twin Twin
I’m sure you’ve asked yourself from time to time what to get a man who already has everything. This song answers that for you: a mustache. Nothing compares to a mustache, not all of the riches in the world, not even the love of friends and family. Right?
I particularly recommend this song for singing along. It rhymes, And rhymes are fun. Here are a few things that pale in comparison to having a mustache:
des rêves en dollars — Dreams in money. Dreams made out of money! Nope, rather have a mustache.
un nouveau costard — A new suit. Costard or costume, the vocabulary doesn’t matter. Suits don’t matter if you don’t have a mustache.
Y’a du cuir, dans ma voiture — There is leather, in my car. That’s fancy stuff, but not as fancy as having a little patch of hair above your lip.
Mon corps est une machine de guerre — My body is a war machine. Who cares about that if you don’t have a ‘stache.
Now, don’t feel bad if you don’t have a mustache, or moustache. This song was part of the Eurovision song contest, but it didn’t win. Here’s a video that recaps all of the winners since 1956. While all of them aren’t in French, it can lead to some great French songs!
6. “La complainte du progrès” by Boris Vian
Okay, so you don’t want a mustache. Maybe kitchen appliances are more up your alley. According to this song, the best way to woo a lady is to get her fine home furnishings. While this may be a dated way to think, this song provides some good laughs, a fun beat and even some ideas for a wedding registry.
To give you a few ideas of what the ladies were looking for according to Boris Vian, we’ve got:
Une tourniquette, pour faire la vinaigrette
Un bel aérateur pour bouffer les odeurs
Des draps qui chauffent
Un pistolet à gaufres
Un avion pour deux
Let’s see, that would be: an electric mixer to make vinaigrette, an air cleaner to eat up smells, heated sheets, a waffle gun and a plane for two. Realistically, how often would you actually use those things?
Boris Vian was not only a musician, but a writer, actor, engineer and translator. That’s not even the full list! This man is a legend, and his Wikipedia page is only the doorway.
7. “Maintenant j’ai Google” by Norman
The Internet is an amazing thing. You wouldn’t be reading this right now without it. And “Now I Have Google” will make you realize how much you’ve been taking advantage of the amazing search engine that is Google. Life is unimaginable without Google.
Where would your French comprehension skills be if you couldn’t scour the Internet for translations?
Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics that captures the gist of the song well:
Avant j’avais une meuf, maintenant j’ai Google
J’avais la télé, maintenant j’ai Google
Je mangeais en famille, maintenant j’ai Google
Avant j’avais une chaise, maintenant j’ai Google
Before, I had a girlfriend/I had a television/I ate family dinner/I had a chair… now I have Google.
While this song’s main function is to make you laugh and for you to hear how the French pronounce “Google,” there’s some good slang hidden in there.
Norman has an almost endless stream of videos (not all of which are songs). If you’re looking for a new French vlogger to follow, then Norman might be your next time void.
“La chanson de l’humour” by Natoo
Funny songs can be a gateway to the world of French vlogging, as evidenced by Norman’s “Maintenant j’ai Google.” If his comedy isn’t up your alley, then Natoo is another one to check out. This video is a great source of vocabulary about jokes. Blague (joke), nul (stupid) and ringard (dorky) are a few to listen for in this song.
Some other great videos from Natoo include: All of them. They’re all great.
“La chanson canadienne” by Coluche
This one is for Advanced French students out there. This song lampoons the way French-Canadians speak their Quebecois French, making the lyrics a little difficult to understand. If you want a taste of the playful rivalry between French and Quebecois, then have a listen.
Whether music or comedy is your thing, let’s agree that the two can come together as one for a nice break from your routine French practice.
And while the French tradition of comedic songs goes way back, as we saw with Gaston Ouvrard and Boris Vian, modern YouTube stars partake in the tradition as well. But for now, don’t you think you need to give your cheeks a break from laughing?
And One More Thing…
If you like learning French with entertaining videos, then you’ve got to try FluentU.
FluentU lets you learn French from real-world content like music videos, commercials, news broadcasts, cartoons and inspiring talks. Since this video content is stuff that native French speakers actually watch on the regular, you’ll get the opportunity to learn real French—the way it’s spoken in modern life.
One quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content found on FluentU:
Love the thought of learning French with native materials but afraid you won’t understand what’s being said? FluentU brings authentic French videos within reach of any learner. Interactive captions will guide you along the way, so you’ll never miss a word.
Tap on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more. For example, if you tap on the word “suit,” then this is what appears on your screen:
Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU’s learn mode to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video with vocabulary lists, flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”
As you continue advancing in your French studies, FluentU keeps track of all the grammar and vocabulary that you’ve been learning. It uses your viewed videos and mastered language lessons to recommend more useful videos and give you a 100% personalized experience. Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.