French songs that are easy to sing
June 2, 2010 3:37 PM   Subscribe

What are the best French songs to sing along to for learning French?

I teach Junior High (ages 13 - 15) and want to be able to play songs on the guitar which the kids can sing along to. Here are the criteria:

- very hummable melodies
- long notes from time to time
- not too many words
- I will even take good translations of famous English songs

All I need is the name of the artist and the song. I'm aware of a fair amount of French songs but they really aren't that singable for kids this age who don't speak French.

I truly appreciate any great suggestions here.

posted by fantasticninety to Education (35 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man, when I was a kid we used to sing Trois Petits Chats every now and then. That damn song still pops into my head every now and then.

I'm not sure if you're looking for like pop songs or folk songs or what. This is kind of more like a nursery rhyme. Still conforms to your criteria of being hummable and having few words.
posted by tuck_nroll at 3:40 PM on June 2, 2010

Hmm, that might be just a little on the simple side. Otherwise, it's definitely a good choice! I will give it a try for sure!
posted by fantasticninety at 3:45 PM on June 2, 2010

That last post was meant in regards to Trois Petits Chats.
posted by fantasticninety at 3:46 PM on June 2, 2010

La Mer!
posted by padraigin at 3:49 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Les feuilles mortes" perhaps? I remember glomming onto it when I first was learning French.
posted by Bromius at 3:50 PM on June 2, 2010

the Beatles, "Michelle"
posted by radiosilents at 3:54 PM on June 2, 2010

If you're okay with a (G-rated) love song, Françoise Hardy's Tous les garçons et les filles is pretty simple and catchy.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:00 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Jingle bells in french here.
posted by cynicalidealist at 4:03 PM on June 2, 2010

Our French class used Graeme Allwright's translation of 'Little Boxes': Petites boîtes.
posted by Paragon at 4:05 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Comic Strip by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot. (lyrics)
posted by HotPatatta at 4:13 PM on June 2, 2010

A Cause des Garçons (because of boys) is a pretty fun, but sort of simple, pop/techno song by Yelle. The video linked is kind of funny.

Here are lyrics and a translation.
posted by amtho at 4:34 PM on June 2, 2010

Some of the French songs here might work for you. We sang some of them when I was learning French.
posted by gudrun at 4:41 PM on June 2, 2010

We learned La Marseillese in 6th grade - still know it!
posted by radioamy at 5:16 PM on June 2, 2010

Well the only french song that I learned in my first year French class was Champs-elysee. (is this how I spell it?)
posted by dustoff at 5:25 PM on June 2, 2010

I made a post about Claude Francois a while back, I think some of his songs would suit you.
posted by jacalata at 5:33 PM on June 2, 2010

I used Jacques Brel and France Gall when I taught French to seventh and eighth graders.
posted by vkxmai at 5:38 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Okay, this might be totally random but I was just at the Paseo Arts Festival in Oklahoma City and Kyle Dillingham was promoting a CD set called "Il Fait Beau" which is a "French learning system" designed as a musical. They sang some of the songs, and I (who speak/comprehend French well but not natively) really enjoyed them. My friend (who speaks/comprehends no French) didn't really get most of it, but enjoyed the songs and could at least sing along phonetically after a couple of lines. I have no idea how much the set costs or how interesting this sounds to you, since you're not looking for a complete system, but it's such a weird coincidence that I thought I'd share. And the songs (and story) were pretty adorable.
posted by obliquicity at 5:47 PM on June 2, 2010

Well, I'm not sure it's entirely what you're after -- some phrases go by pretty quickly for beginners, though mostly it's slow enough to understand -- but just thinking about it has certainly gotten Carla Bruni's "Quelqu'un m'a dit" stuck in my head. At least the students could probably pick up the chorus relatively easily, and you could play it with just a guitar.
posted by sldownard at 6:01 PM on June 2, 2010

It's certainly for a young audience, but I remember having lots of fun with 'Le Petit Poisson' my freshman year in high school. I just googled it and couldn't find a free mp3, but the lyrics are here.
posted by eenagy at 6:41 PM on June 2, 2010

This is absolutely not what you asked for, but it was so useful to me I have to pass it on. You know those verbs that are conjugated with être instead of avoir? Forget the stadium mnemonic - try this instead, to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy:

Allé, parti, sorti, venu, revenu, rétourné
Arrivé, resté, entré, rentré tombé ne et mort

(then, to 'shave and a haircut - two bits')
Monté, descendu, devenu!

Mon mari est Canadien-français. Sa famille m'adore parce-que je parle français!
posted by workerant at 7:03 PM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Aux Champs-Elysees and there's another Joe Dassin song which works well, Le Petit Pain Au Chocolat. I learned them both in French class as a teenager.
posted by andraste at 8:36 PM on June 2, 2010

anything by the pop group auteur de lucie
posted by bright and shiny at 8:42 PM on June 2, 2010

"Frère Jacques" is a classic. I've had to sing a version of it in every language I've studied. (French, Spanish, Chinese.)

In high school French, we had to sing "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" from Carmen.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:02 PM on June 2, 2010

Pink Martini's Sympathique. I first heard it in Paris, loved it, and tried to track it down only to find it was by an American band. But really earworm material and easy to learn.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:38 PM on June 2, 2010

Un Canadien Errant. One of my favourite canadian folk songs, written about the Acadian expulsion.
posted by sarastro at 9:44 PM on June 2, 2010

Les Cactus by Jacques Dutronc was something I enjoyed. Added Bonus: it kinda rocks.
posted by cheaily at 10:20 PM on June 2, 2010

Maybe Le déserteur from Boris Vian?
Here are the lyrics and the translation.
posted by OrangeCat at 11:29 PM on June 2, 2010

petit poison.
petit poison
nager nager nager

(little fish, little fish, swim, swim, swim) Though now what the tune is now eludes me.

Louie la grenoui

((louie louie))

Apologies for my horrible recall on spelling and grammar conventions, je ne pas parle en francais dans,ce'st possible sept ans. (tell them not to get out of the habit of practicing; language is a pleasantly valuable tool and resource and a shame to let go.

This might be good for younger (I saw it in grade one, but changed schools and it was all different then) but it has like situations where it makes sense to repeat some phrases, it was pretty helpful way back for me, but I always remembered Tu es un ananas. Et tu Parle!
"Nous nous appelons les sqellettes"
(to any mefimusic ppl, challenge?)

Ahah, remembered it; Matt Maxwell!
C'est l'Halloween
posted by infinite intimation at 12:30 AM on June 3, 2010

sorry eenagy; just saw you mentioned petit poison already

"Pe-tit POIson, Pe-tit POIson, NAg('j)eeeee, NAg('j)eeeee, NAg('j)eeeee

Or could teach them to sing
"Hymne à L'amour"amazing cover -Edith Piaf (then make them watch la vie en rose :( .
posted by infinite intimation at 12:40 AM on June 3, 2010

Definitely Frere Jacques! I can't post the link fom my phone but there are plenty of youtube videos of it.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:29 AM on June 3, 2010

Daniel Lanois has done some all-French songs as well as some with mixed English/French lyrics. It shouldn't be too difficult to translate the English bits into French. Under the Stormy Sky, Jolie Louise, Marie Claire, Pour Ton Sourire, and O Marie are the ones I remember (last two are all French).
posted by cereselle at 8:24 AM on June 3, 2010

Un, deux, trois, nous irons au bois, à la claire fontaine; and the rest of the account. Simple, singable (though the kids aren't the best reference), easy to remember.

This one is full of nostalgia, the melody is a long wave that rolls easily: le Sud, de Nino Ferrer.
Traditional celtic stuff, simple lyrics: la jument de Michao, Tri Yann.
Some songs by Belyscendre should fit as well, entends le moulin for example (traditional song; memail me if you can't find it).
posted by Tobu at 10:04 PM on June 11, 2010

Even though my French is fairly basic, I find it easy to sing along to Gerard Lesnorman's La Ballade des Gens Hereux.

Gilles Vigneult's Mon Pays C'est L'Hiver could be good too (if the tune sounds familiar, it's because it was used in the disco-era song From New York to LA).

La Complainte du Partisan is a lovely, melancholy song about the French Resistance. (Leonard Cohen did a well-known version that mixed English and French verses.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:04 AM on June 28, 2010

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