Improve your French pronunciation with Francis Cabrel!

Francis Cabrel is a French singer-songwriter and guitarist who rose to fame in the 80s. I first heard his songs when I was living in a remote area of Québec, and even now when I hear him sing I am transported back to that time and place, the farmhouse in the deep snow in the middle of the Canadian winter. His songs have a haunting, poetic quality that linger long in the mind, and are very popular both in France and Canada.

But more importantly for language-learning, he pronounces his words very clearly and quite slowly, so they are useful for improving your pronunciation of French words and your listening skills. Try listening to some of his songs on YouTube and see if you can pick out the words. The more you listen, the more the individual words will start to pop out of the stream of sound, and it can be quite exciting and rewarding when you realize you can “hear” the words and understand them! You might like to try singing along. The rhymes within the songs will also help you learn the correct pronunciation of the words, like rien rhyming with gardien, and aujourd’hui rhyming with nuits.

Here is a Youtube video of one of his most popular songs, Je l’aime à mourir, with the lyrics and English translation, to get you started:

 

 

Je l’aime à mourir
I love her so much I could die

Moi, je n’étais rien,
I used to be nothing,
Mais voilà qu’aujourd’hui
But here I am now
Je suis le gardien
Watching over
Du sommeil de ses nuits.
The sleep of her nights.
Je l’aime à mourir
I love her so much I could die.

Vous pouvez détruire
You can destroy
Tout ce qu’il vous plaira,
Anything you want,
Elle n’a qu’à ouvrir
She only needs to open
L’espace de ses bras,
The span of her arms
Pour tout reconstruire
To rebuild everything
Pour tout reconstruire
To rebuild everything
Je l’aime à mourir.
I love her so much I could die.

Elle a gommé les chiffres
She’s erased the numbers
Des horloges du quartier,
On the clocks around here,
Elle a fait de ma vie
She’s made of my life
Des cocottes en papier,
Paper hens,
Des éclats de rire.
And roars of laughter.
Elle a bâti des ponts
She’s built bridges
Entre nous et le ciel,
Between us and Heaven,
Et nous les traversons
And we go across them
A chaque fois qu’elle
Each time she
Ne veut pas dormir
Doesn’t want to sleep
Ne veut pas dormir
Doesn’t want to sleep
Je l’aime à mourir.
I love her so much I could die.

Elle a dû faire toutes les guerres
She must’ve fought all the wars
Pour être si forte aujourd’hui,
To be as strong as she is today,
Elle a dû faire toutes les guerres
She must’ve fought all the wars
De la vie, et l’amour aussi.
Of life, and love too.

Elle vit de son mieux
She does her best to live
Son rêve d’opaline
Her opaline dream
Elle danse au milieu
She dances in the middle of
Des forêts qu’elle dessine.
The forests she draws.
Je l’aime à mourir.
I love her so much I could die.
Elle porte des rubans
She wears ribbons
Qu’elle laisse s’envoler,
And then lets them go,
Elle me chante souvent
She sings to me often
Que j’ai tort d’essayer
That it’s wrong for me to try
De les retenir,
To hold them back
De les retenir.
To hold them back.
Je l’aime à mourir.
I love her so much I could die.

Pour monter dans sa grotte
To climb up into her cave
Cachée sous les toits,
Hidden in a garret,
Je dois clouer des notes
I must nail notes
A mes sabots de bois.
To my wooden clogs.
Je l’aime à mourir.
I love her so much I could die.
Je dois juste m’asseoir,
I just have to sit down,
Je ne dois pas parler.
I must not speak.
Je ne dois rien vouloir,
I must not wish for anything,
Je dois juste essayer
I must simply try
De lui appartenir,
To belong to her,
De lui appartenir.
To belong to her.
Je l’aime à mourir.
I love her so much I could die.

Elle a dû faire toutes les guerres
She must’ve fought all the wars
Pour être si forte aujourd’hui,
To be as strong as she is today,
Elle a dû faire toutes les guerres
She must’ve fought all the wars
De la vie, et l’amour aussi.
Of life, and love too.

Moi je n’étais rien
I used to be nothing
Mais voilà qu’aujourd’hui,
But here I am now
Je suis le gardien
Watching over
Du sommeil de ses nuits.
The sleep of her nights.
Je l’aime à mourir.
I love her so much I could die.
Vous pouvez détruire
You can destroy
Tout ce qu’il vous plaira,
Anything you want,
Elle n’a qu’à ouvrir
She only needs to open
L’espace de ses bras,
The span of her arms,
Pour tout reconstruire,
To rebuild everything,
Pour tout reconstruire.
To rebuild everything.
Je l’aime à mourir.
I love her so much I could die.

Other songs by Francis Cabrel include Elle écoute pousser les fleurs (She listens to the flowers growing), La fille qui m’accompagne, (The girl who walks beside me), and C’était l’hiver (It was Winter). I hope you enjoy listening to Francis Cabrel as much as I do. I am sure your French will improve by it!