Posted on by Peter Editor

"Non, je ne regrette rien" - Learning French With a Song...

Our June 2013 entry about the Spanish song "La Paloma" has been one of our most read blogs for several months now. Here is the part of our November 2012 blog again, which had suggested Edith Piaf's famous "Non, je ne regrette rien" as a wonderful song to learn and practice French with.

Listening to foreign songs is an excellent way to memorize key phrases and expressions – and having fun doing it. Sometimes, you may even start humming and repeating the refrains without exactly knowing the meaning. In an earlier blog post - 6 Tips for Learning a Foreign Language - we had suggested listening to songs as tip #4, as listening to music and songs can also fuel your enthusiasm for learning a new language. Lifehacker also has several posts about music and lyrics training for learning a foreign language.

Edith PiafNon, je ne regrette rien...

Many may remember Edith Piaf's famous song: “Non, je ne regrette rien.” You can hear her on this YouTube clip. English translations of the song, (even if they are not always correct) are easy to find, e.g. here.

It's no mystery why many people make listening to foreign songs part of their language learning practice:

  • The repetition of the refrain, especially with an “ear-worm” melody, anchors key words in your memory.
  • Key constructions become obvious and you can remember them readily. For example, the phrase “je ne regrette rien” makes it easy to see how negations are constructed in French: ne...rien or ne...pas, or to pick up on the (neither-nor) construction.
  • From song lyrics such as “je n'ai plus besoin d'eux” (I don't need them anymore), you can derive related key phrases such as “j'ai besoin” or “je n'ai pas besoin.”
  • And, you may learn some new vocabulary that your typical language course may lack, e.g. “balayé” (swept, “broomed” away), “chagrins” (sorrows), “je me fous” (I don't care).
  • Moreover, songs exaggerate and stress the sounds of some words and thus make them easier to understand and imitate.

While Edith Piaf's "Non je regrette rien" may be particularly memorable and instructional, there are many other French songs and lyrics you can find on the Internet. 

For example Joe Dassin's song "Si tu n'existais pas..." is another favorite of ours for learning French with a song and the topic of this post.

Postscript: I recently came a across Sidney's post Learning through song made easy, which suggests four steps to improve both your listening and speaking (maybe even singing!) skills. It's fun AND effective and it not only works for Italian, but for French and other languages as well!