happy-birthday-song-in-french

How to Sing “Happy Birthday” in French: Audio and Lyrics

Did you know that the French sing “Joyeux anniversaire” (“Happy Birthday”) not just for celebrations, but for when something goes wrong in a public place?

It’s something I had to find out myself when I was sitting in a trendy Parisian bar one day. The lights had suddenly gone out, and the customers immediately started belting the song.

If that fun fact doesn’t compel you to learn the French “Happy Birthday” song, then let’s talk a few more reasons on why you should!

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Reasons to Learn the French Birthday Song

Apart from singing at friends’ birthday parties and being able to participate in public scenes such as the one above like a true native, there are many reasons to learn the “Happy Birthday” song in French.

For starters, there are actually several different versions of the song.

This means that there are many different French lessons to be learned from it.

For example, some of the versions are great for practicing French pronunciation of difficult letter combinations.

Others are a fantastic way to brush up on different grammar lessons.

Lastly, just about all of the versions expose you to useful vocabulary. With this in mind, let’s get to celebrating with the various French “Happy Birthday” songs!

Celebrate Good Times! The “Happy Birthday” Song in French

Version #1: “Joyeux anniversaire”

“Joyeux anniversaire” is the simplest and probably most commonly sung version of the French “Happy Birthday” song, and therefore the perfect one with which to start learning.

It is extremely similar to its English counterpart, with the same basic structure and tune. The lyrics and their translation are as follows:

Joyeux anniversaire
Joyeux anniversaire
Joyeux anniversaire (nom de la personne fêtée)
Joyeux anniversaire

Happy birthday
Happy birthday
Happy birthday (name of the person being celebrated)
Happy birthday

It is worth mentioning that joyeux can be used in place of “joyful,” “merry” or “cheerful” in addition to “happy,” depending on the context. We should also note that occasionally French speakers substitute bon (good) for joyeux in this version.

It is equally worth briefly explaining the use of anniversaire (birthday). While it is most commonly used to talk about one’s birthday, it can also be used to denote “anniversary” if you turn it into a phrase with context.

For example, you can say “notre anniversaire de marriage” (our wedding anniversary) or “l’anniversaire de la Bataille de Waterloo” (the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo).

In regards to pronunciation, this song can help you practice sounds that the letter combinations eux and oy make in French, as in the word joyeux. Both sounds can be a bit tougher for language learners, so pay special attention to them.

You will also need to form a liaison between the words joyeux and anniversaire, which is a great way for French learners to develop this habit.

Essentially, a liaison is when you pronounce the ending consonant of one word immediately before the following word’s vowel sound.

Like anything else you wish to say in French, you should practice liaisons by listening to native speakers, whether in live conversation or through media. This isn’t just for singing a song correctly—it’s about improving your French speaking skills as a whole.

Luckily, there are plenty of French audio and video clips online you can practice with. There’s also the language learning program FluentU and its library of French videos. Each of its clips come with interactive subtitles that explain the vocabulary used, and quizzes are included that let you practice your pronunciation.

Version #2: “Joyeux anniversaire, heureux anniversaire”

This French version of “Happy Birthday” is one of the two with more in-depth lyrics.

The tune is the same traditional one we all know and love, and the song and its translation go as follows:

Joyeux anniversaire
Heureux anniversaire
Tous nos vœux sont sincères
Pour ton anniversaire
Tes amis aujourd’hui
Se sont tous réunis
Ton bonheur on l’espère
Pour ton anniversaire

Joyful birthday
Happy birthday
All of our most sincere wishes
For your birthday
Your friends today
Are all gathered
We wish for happiness
For your birthday

This version is a great way to continue practicing French liaisons, as you will need to make them when you say joyeux anniversaire (joyful birthday), heureux anniversaire (happy birthday), ton anniversaire (your birthday) and tes amis (your friends).

Aside from liaisons, you will also find yourself exposed to a lot of French possessives like nos vœux (our wishes), ton anniversaire (your birthday), tes amis (your friends) and ton bonheur (your happiness).

To listen to the lyrics, try YouTuber incognitoct’s video and learn some good pronunciation.

Version #3: Bon anniversaire, nox vœux les plus sincères”

Though it may look similar to the above version, this “Happy Birthday” song has some very different lyrics.

The song contains the following lyrics and translation:

Bon anniversaire, nos vœux les plus sincères
Que ces quelques fleurs vous apportent le bonheur
Que l’année entière vous soit douce et légère
Et que l’an fini, nous soyons tous réunis
Pour chanter en choeur “Bon anniversaire”

Happy birthday, our most sincere wishes
That these few flowers will bring you happiness
That the entire year will be sweet and light for you
And that at the end of the year, we will all be gathered
To sing together “Happy birthday”

First off, this song gives you a great guide to the pronunciation of words with –ère like sincères (sincere), entière (entire) and légère (light).

Secondly, you will start to get an idea of when and how to use the subjunctive tense, which is typically the most difficult one for learners.

For example, vous soit douce et legère (it will be sweet and light for you) and nous soyons tous réunis (we will all be reunited) both contain the subjunctive form of être (to be).

Lastly, you will learn some very useful vocabulary like apporter (to carry), le bonheur (happiness) and les vœux (wishes).

You can listen to the song on YouTuber claycrazyr2’s video to get an idea of the tune.

Version #4: Bonne fête à toi”

This final version is sung to the traditional birthday tune and is actually the québécois (Quebec) French “Happy Birthday” song.

It is very basic and goes as follows:

Bonne fête à toi
Bonne fête à toi
Bonne fête à (nom de la personne fêtée)
Bonne fête à toi

Good party for you
Good party for you
Good party for (name of the person being celebrated)
Good party for you

First off, this version is great for gaining exposure to québécois French, which is a good idea, as it has over six million speakers and is an important part of the language not to be overlooked.

Secondly, it is worth noting why one uses bonne fête (good party), rather than bon like in bon anniversaire (good birthday).

The reason is simple: You must remember to make your adjective (in this case, bon) agree with the gender it is describing. Here, anniversaire is masculine and fête is feminine, so you must change bon accordingly. This is a great reminder for learners!

Lastly, it is important to note that fête can be used to denote “party,” “festival” or “holiday” depending on the context. For example, you say la fête de la Toussaint (All Saint’s Day).

Bonus Birthday Words & Phrases

To wrap things up, take a look at the following useful birthday words and phrases.

Felicitations ! — Congratulations!

Quel age avez-vous ? / Quel age as-tu ? — How old are you? (formal/informal)

C’est quand vôtre anniversaire ? — When is your birthday?

Meilleurs vœux ! — Best wishes!

L’invitation — the invitation

La gâteau — the cake

Le cadeau — the present

Célebrer — to celebrate

Fêter — to party

 

With this knowledge, you’re now ready to attend a French birthday party or just sing when the lights go out. Let the good times roll!


Camille Turner is an experienced freelance writer and ESL teacher.

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