5 German songs for learners

Listening to songs in the language you’re learning is an effective and enjoyable way to practise your language skills. It can help improve your listening comprehension and your pronunciation and, on top of this, music is catchy! This means that the new words, phrases and structures that you hear within a song may be easier to remember and reuse in your own speaking or writing.

Earlier this year we published a blog article titled ‘Language learning using your favourite songs’, in which we gave you our top tips for using a song to practise your language skills. But there are thousands and thousands of songs which exist throughout the German-speaking world – where do you start with finding ones to listen to which will help you practise your German? In this article, we’ve done the hard work for you! Read on to discover 5 of our recommended songs in German.

1. Griechischer Wein – Udo Jürgens, 1974

Udo Jürgens was an Austrian-Swiss singer and composer who is partly remembered for winning the Eurovision Song Contest for Austria in 1966 with the song Merci, chérie. Many consider him to have played a large role in expanding German-language pop music by bringing in influences from other genres, such as French chanson. Griechischer Wein is one of his most popular songs and versions in a number of different languages have since been recorded, including Bing Crosby’s version which he recorded during one of his last sessions, titled Come Share the Wine.

After listening to the song a few times without reading the lyrics, we recommend following the stages described in our blog article on language learning through songs (see link above). This melancholic song contains not only poetic praises about Greek wine, but is also riddled with examples of relative clauses. Look out for exemplary uses of this, for example in the lines “Kind, das seinen Vater noch nie sah” and “Musik, die fremd und südlich war”. A particularly interesting line is “Wirtshaus, aus dem das Licht noch auf den Gehsteig schien“, as this combines the relative clause with the preposition of location “aus”. We recommend studying the lyrics of the song to find other language points you have been learning about. 

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

2. Ein bißchen Frieden – Nicole, 1982

If any of you are Eurovision fans, perhaps you’ll remember Germany’s winning song from 1982, Ein bißchen Frieden, performed by 17-year-old school student, Nicole. In 2005, the European Broadcasting Union announced Ein bißchen Frieden as one of the 14 most popular Eurovision songs ever, according to the results of their Internet poll. The song was written by Ralph Siegel and Bernd Meinunger and its success led to the recording of versions of it in many different languages. The English version, A Little Peace, reached Number 1 in the UK Charts.

Listen out for similes in this song’s first verse, as they are great examples of phrases of comparison in German. Just consider “wie eine Blume” or “wie ein Feuer” and you can spot the common construction introduced by the adverb “wie”. Another grammatical feature to look out for is the recurrence of embedded clauses beginning with the word “dass”.

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

3. 99 Luftballons – Nena, 1983

We’re sure that many of you will know the 80s hit 99 Red Balloons, which reached Number 1 in the UK and the US Charts, but have you tried listening to its original version in German? It was released in 1983 by German band Nena, who were together between 1981 and 1987. The band is very important to German musical culture, as it was part of the forming of the German New Wave scene (Neue Deutsche Welle). 99 Luftballons was a huge success across Europe, leading to the writing of the English version the year after. Unfortunately, Nena never managed to match the success of 99 Luftballons and the band broke up after the release of its fourth, final and least successful album in 1986. They reunited in 2017 for a public performance of their debut single, Nur geträumt, to mark the 40th anniversary of the band’s first appearance on stage.

The lyrics to 99 Luftballons tell the story of the release of 99 balloons. These are mistaken for UFOs and the reactions of different nations result in a destructive war breaking out. The lyrics to 99 Red Balloons aren’t an exact translation, but carry the same anti-war message.

The song contains a number of interesting language points that you may recognise. For instance, it demonstrates the differences in building the plural form of nouns. For example, the words “Kriegsminister” and “Düsenjäger” remain in the same form when made plural. On the other hand, the nouns “Luftballons” and “Jahre” change in their plural form. Another interesting point is the omission of the personal pronoun in sentences like “Hab’ nen Luftballon gefunden”. This song is also good practice for your numbers in German! Before you look at the lyrics, see if you can count how many times you hear her sing “neunundneunzig” (“ninety-nine”). 

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

4. Mensch Herbert Grönemeyer, 2002

Our next song is the title track of Germany’s best-selling album of all time. Mensch sold over 3 million copies in Germany and thanks to this success and the popularity of his fifth album, 4630 Bochum (1984), Herbert Grönemeyer is often considered one of the most successful German artists.

One prominent language feature of this song is the frequent use of the conjunction “und”. In German, this word is often added to form sentences with multiple dependent clauses. Also, listen out for examples of compound words, such as “Sonnenzeit” or “ozeanblau”.

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

5. Der perfekte Moment… wird heut verpennt – Max Raabe, 2017

Our final song recommendation comes from an artist with a very interesting musical style. Max Raabe founded his Berlin-based Palast Orchester with fellow students in the mid 1980s, while studying opera in Berlin. Together, Raabe and Palast Orchester perform covers of cabaret songs from the Weimar period as well as original songs that merge 1920s and 30s melodies with modern lyrics. As well as this, they have recorded some covers of modern pop songs in a 1920-30s style, including Britney Spears’ Oops!… I Did It Again! The title track of their most recent album, Der perfekte Moment… wird heut verpennt, is a good song for German learners wanting to practise their listening comprehension, where Raabe sings in nice, clear German. 

As you’re listening, it is particularly interesting to take a look at all the idioms the song contains. Most of them are used to describe that the singer will not do anything today, for example, “Heut’ mach’ ich gar nichts/Keinen Finger krumm”. “Was ich heut’ besorgen kann” is especially interesting, because it is a play on the original saying “Was ich heut’ kann besorgen, verschieb’ ich nicht auf morgen”.

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

We hope this article has given you a useful introduction to just a tiny proportion of the huge variety of German music which is out there. One of the songs we have chosen, 99 Luftballons, is already included in our Tune for Tuesday playlist. This is a feature that we introduced earlier this year. Every Tuesday we add another song with the aim of building up a playlist of songs from all over the world and in many different languages to help you develop your language skills and introduce you to some new styles of music. We are going to add these five songs to our new playlist, Tune for Tuesday – German, which will contain only songs in German. You can find this playlist on YouTube and on Spotify by clicking on the links below. And remember to keep up to date with Tune for Tuesday by searching for Coffee Break Languages and Coffee Break German on Facebook.

Tune for Tuesday – German: YouTube playlist | Spotify playlist

What songs in German do you already know and love? Feel free to share some of your favourites with us in the comments to help other German learners discover them!

 

5 Spanish songs for learners

Listening to songs in the language you’re learning is an effective and enjoyable way to practise your language skills. It can help improve your listening comprehension and your pronunciation and, on top of this, music is catchy! This means that the new words, phrases and structures that you hear within a song may be easier to remember and reuse in your own speaking or writing.

Earlier this year we published a blog article titled ‘Language learning using your favourite songs’, in which we gave you our top tips for using a song to practise your language skills. But there are thousands and thousands of songs which exist throughout the Spanish-speaking world – where do you start with finding ones to listen to which will help you practise your Spanish? In this article, we’ve done the hard work for you! Read on to discover 5 of our recommended songs in Spanish.

1. ¡Y viva España! – Manolo Escobar, 1973

Our first song was actually written by a Belgian composer and Belgian lyricist, Leo Caerts and Leo Rozenstraten, and started out as Eviva España, a song about holidaying in Spain, imitating the Spanish pasodoble musical style (the name given to a style of Spanish dance and music often played during bullfights). It seems that the meaning behind “Eviva” in the title is unknown, but when the song was translated into Spanish, this became “Y viva”. Manolo Escobar’s 1973 recording of the Spanish version of the song was extremely successful. Escobar was a very well-known singer, actor and performer of Andalusian copla, a style of Spanish popular song. He began his career in a band with four of his brothers, called Manolo Escobar y sus guitarras.

After listening to the song a few times without reading the lyrics, we recommend following the stages described in our blog article on language learning through songs (see link above). There are many interesting language points to listen out for in this song. Don’t worry if there are some words you don’t recognise, as there are a few unusual pieces of vocabulary, for example, “fandanguillos y alegrías” are styles of Spanish music and dance. Listen out for the many different verb tenses used in the lyrics, including the line which uses both the present perfect and the future tense, “España siempre ha sido y será…” (“Spain has always been and always will be…”). And, of course, you may quickly notice the repeated subjunctive in the chorus “Que viva España” (“Long live Spain”), as this is expressing a desire that something will happen. If you’d like a reminder of how to use the subjunctive in Spanish and some common subjunctive triggers, have a listen to Coffee Break Spanish Season 3 Episode 39

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

2. La Puerta de Alcalá – Ana Belén & Víctor Manuel, 1986 

If you have ever visited Madrid, it is likely that the title of this next song will conjure up images of Madrid’s famous monument of the same name. Inaugurated in 1769, La Puerta de Alcalá is often associated with similar Roman arches such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Brandenburg Gate. Over 200 years later, La Puerta de Alcalá, the song, was written by Bernardo Fuster, Luis Mendo, Miguel Ángel Campos and Francisco Villar, to be performed by Ana Belén and Víctor Manuel. These two Spanish singers were married in 1972 and are often considered symbols of the Spanish Transition to Democracy, with many of their songs expressing strong social and political opinions. Their recording of La Puerta de Alcalá stayed at Number 1 in the Spanish charts for seven weeks and it remains an important song for many Madrileños because of its link with the monument. 

The lyrics are interesting, as they contain several more complex phrases, and each verse of the song refers to a different sociopolitical event that has affected Madrid and its famous monument. Amongst the many language points to look out for within the lyrics, listen out for the refrain “Ahí está, la Puerta de Alcalá” (“There it is, La Puerta de Alcalá”). You can remember this line as a good example of using estar rather than ser to describe the position of something. Learn more about when to use ser and estar in Coffee Break Spanish Season 2 Episode 6.

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

3. En el muelle de San Blás – Maná, 1997

Our next song comes from a Mexican pop rock group formed in 1986, whose name, Maná, comes from the Polynesian term for supernatural energy. They have won 4 Grammy Awards and are extremely popular throughout Latin America and further afield.

Their song En el muelle de San Blás tells the story of Rebeca Méndez Jiménez, who is said to have waited at the pier of San Blás, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, for 41 years for her husband to return from a fishing trip. It is thought that he tragically got caught in a storm out at sea and never returned. One day, she was noticed by Fher Olvera, the lead singer of Maná, who listened to her story and decided to write the song. 

The lyrics are a good challenge for your Spanish comprehension, so we recommend reading them as you listen to the song another time so that you can fully understand the story being told. They also contain many examples of the preterite and the imperfect tenses. You may like to find some of these in the text and think about why that particular tense has been used in that situation. To learn more about when to use these two tenses, join Mark and Kara in Coffee Break Spanish Season 2 Episode 20

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

4. Color esperanza – Diego Torres, 2001

Born in Buenos Aires, Diego Torres is a singer, songwriter, actor and musician who is well known throughout Latin America, the United States and Spain. He is also known for being the son of famous Argentinian film actress, Lolita Torres. His uplifting song, Color esperanza, focuses on hope. In 2003, Torres gave a special performance of it in order to welcome Pope John Paul II to Cuatro Vientos Airport in Madrid. 

Torres sings quite clearly and the lyrics aren’t too complex and, of course, contain many examples of language points you have been learning about. For example, note the interesting phrase in the chorus, “Saber que se puede, querer que se pueda”, which can be used to compare the use of the indicative and the subjunctive. This would be a good example to memorise, to help you remember the structures “saber que + infinitive” and “querer que + subjunctive”. 

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

5. El mismo sol – Alvaro Soler, 2015

This last song was one of the hits of summer 2015 in Spain and across Europe. El mismo sol is the debut single of Spanish-German singer, Alvaro Soler. Following the success of the song, there are now various recordings of it. Soler collaborated with Jennifer Lopez to create a version with the addition of her vocals, and a version in Spanglish, El Mismo Sol (Under The Same Sun), with some lyrics in English. 

The lyrics to this positive, upbeat song focus on the idea of a united world where “no hay fronteras” (“there are no borders”) and where “todos estamos bajo el mismo sol” (“we are all under the same sun”). And also, luckily for us, they are sung nice and clearly! We recommend reading the lyrics and trying to find some useful examples of the language points you have been studying. For example, note the double subjunctive in the first line of the chorus, “Yo quiero que este sea el mundo que conteste”. 

We’d also like to take a moment to admire Soler’s impressive number of languages. It is said that he speaks Catalan, Spanish, German, English, Italian, French and Japanese!

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

We hope this article has given you a useful introduction to just a tiny proportion of the huge variety of Spanish-language music which is out there, across the whole Spanish-speaking world. Two of the songs we have chosen, La Puerta de Alcalá and En el muelle de San Blás, are already included in our Tune for Tuesday playlist. This is a feature that we introduced earlier this year. Every Tuesday we add another song with the aim of building up a playlist of songs from all over the world and in many different languages to help you develop your language skills and introduce you to some new styles of music. We are going to add these five songs to our new playlist, Tune for Tuesday – Spanish, which will contain only songs in Spanish. You can find this playlist on YouTube and on Spotify by clicking on the links below. And remember to keep up to date with Tune for Tuesday by searching for Coffee Break Languages and Coffee Break Spanish on Facebook.

Tune for Tuesday – Spanish: YouTube playlist | Spotify playlist

What songs in Spanish do you already know and love? Feel free to share some of your favourites with us in the comments to help other Spanish learners discover them!

 

5 French songs for learners

Listening to songs in the language you’re learning is an effective and enjoyable way to practise your language skills. It can help improve your listening comprehension and your pronunciation and, on top of this, music is catchy! This means that the new words, phrases and structures that you hear within a song may be easier to remember and reuse in your own speaking or writing.

Earlier this year we published a blog article titled ‘Language learning using your favourite songs’, in which we gave you our top tips for using a song to practise your language skills. But there are thousands and thousands of songs which exist throughout the French-speaking world – where do you start with finding ones to listen to which will help you practise your French? In this article, we’ve done the hard work for you! Read on to discover our 5 recommended songs in French.

1. À la claire fontaine – traditional French song

We’ll start with a song which may be the first that many French children ever heard. À la claire fontaine is a very well-known traditional French song. It is thought that this comptine (nursery rhyme) dates back to the early 17th Century, when it was sung both in France and in what was later to become Quebec, as French settlers were arriving in Canada. 

After listening to the song a few times without looking at the lyrics, we recommend following the stages described in our blog article on language learning through songs (see link above). À la claire fontaine is very useful for French learners, as it contains many different verb tenses, including the passé composé, the imperfect, the future and even the imperfect subjunctive – “fût” in the final verse is the third person singular form of être in the imperfect subjunctive. We’d recommend trying to spot all the tenses you know while reading the lyrics and to help you with any comprehension problems, take a look at an English translation of the text. 

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

2. La mer – Charles Trenet, 1946

We’re sure that many of you will be familiar with this very famous song, which was originally recorded by Roland Gerbeau in 1945 but was made famous by the great Charles Trenet in 1946. Trenet was a very popular French singer-songwriter whose career lasted from the 1930s to the 1990s. Following his recording of La mer, it was translated into many different languages, including, as many of you will know, English (titled Beyond the Sea).

Listen to the song without reading the lyrics first, then we recommend looking at the lyrics and studying them like you would if they were any other reading text: look up new words you don’t know and try to spot specific language points you have been studying. La mer is especially useful for practising adjectives. Take a moment to consider which adjectives precede the noun and which come after it, and note how the adjectives change depending on whether the noun it’s describing is masculine or feminine and singular or plural. For example, compare “ces grands roseaux mouillés” and “ces maisons rouillées”. If you’d like to recap adjective agreement and positioning, join Mark and Anna in Coffee Break French Season 2 Episode 9

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

3. Tous les garçons et les filles – Françoise Hardy, 1962

It is generally thought that Françoise Hardy stood out from the crowd amongst the 1960s French yé-yé pop singers due to the fact that she wrote her own songs and went on to influence the likes of Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan. She rose straight to the top of the charts at the age of 18 with her first record Tous les garçons et les filles, which describes a young person watching with envy the couples around her when she has never known love herself. Hardy later recorded the song in Italian (Quelli della mia età) and in English (Find Me a Boy).

And, luckily for us, the vocabulary used in the lyrics isn’t too tricky, so have a listen and see how much you can understand. As always, listen out for examples of the language points you have been learning about. For example, if you are familiar with the word personne, used to mean ‘no one’, listen out for the repeated phrase “personne ne m’aime”, meaning “no one loves me”.

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

4. Je reviendrai à Montréal – Robert Charlebois, 1976

Je reviendrai à Montréal is one of the most famous songs of musician, composer, author and actor, Robert Charlebois. Originally from Montreal, Quebec, he is thought to have been hugely influential in the development of music both in Quebec and throughout the francophone world, and in 1999 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

The lyrics of some of his songs include many specifically québécois words, which makes them very interesting, but if you try listening to them don’t worry if you struggle to understand what he is singing about! The lyrics of Je reviendrai à Montréal, however, are in a much more standard, universal French. Look out for the example of the future tense in the title and repeated throughout the song, “je reviendrai”, meaning “I will come back”. There are also several uses of avoir besoin de + infinitive/noun, for example, “j’ai besoin de sentir le froid” (“I need to feel the cold”) and “j’ai besoin de cette lumière” (“I need that light”) and an example of the subjunctive trigger sans que + subjunctive. To learn more about the subjunctive and other subjunctive triggers, listen to Coffee Break French Season 3 Episode 16

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

5. Papaoutai – Stromae, 2013

We’re sure that many of you will already know Stromae, Belgian rapper and singer-songwriter whose songs have been a huge success across much of Europe. Paul Van Haver originally chose Opsmaestro as his stage name, but then changed it to Stromae. This name comes from the word maestro and is an example of verlan, a type of French slang which involves swapping round the syllables of a word (mae-stro → stro-mae). His song Papaoutai, Belgium’s best selling single of 2013, refers to the absence of Stromae’s father, Pierre Rutare, during his childhood, before Rutare was killed in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The title comes from “Papa où t’es ?” (“Dad, where are you?”). 

The lyrics contain many examples of different verb tenses, use of the pronouns y and en and many more language points you can look out for. Also note how the repeated question in the chorus “où t’es ?” combines tu and es to make “t’es”, which is very common in informal, spoken French. 

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

We hope this article has given you a useful introduction to just a tiny proportion of the huge variety of French music which is out there, across the whole francophone world. Two of the songs we have chosen, La mer and Papaoutai, are already included in our Tune for Tuesday playlist. This is a feature that we introduced earlier this year. Every Tuesday we add another song to it, with the aim of building up a playlist of songs from all over the world and in many different languages to help you develop your language skills and introduce you to some new styles of music. We are going to add these five songs to our new playlist, Tune for Tuesday – French, which will contain only songs in French. You can find this playlist on YouTube and on Spotify by clicking on the links below. And remember to keep up to date with Tune for Tuesday by searching for Coffee Break Languages and Coffee Break French on Facebook.

Tune for Tuesday – French: YouTube playlist | Spotify playlist

What songs in French do you already know and love? Feel free to share some of your favourites with us in the comments to help other French learners discover them!

 

5 Italian songs for learners

Listening to songs in the language you’re learning is an effective and enjoyable way to practise your language skills. It can help improve your listening comprehension and your pronunciation and, on top of this, music is catchy! This means that the new words, phrases and structures that you hear within a song may be easier to remember and reuse in your own speaking or writing.

Earlier this year we published a blog article titled ‘Language learning using your favourite songs’, in which we gave you our top tips for using a song to practise your language skills. But there are thousands and thousands of songs which exist throughout the Italian-speaking world – where do you start with finding ones to listen to which will help you practise your Italian? In this article, we’ve done the hard work for you! Read on to discover 5 of our recommended songs in Italian.

1. Piove (Ciao, ciao bambina) – Domenico Modugno, 1959

Our first song is by a very important figure in Italian music. Originally from Puglia in Southern Italy, Domenico Modugno is often considered the first Italian cantautore (singer-songwriter). Later in his life, he suffered a severe stroke and was forced to abandon his musical career. He devoted himself to politics and became a member of the Italian Parliament before returning to the music scene for the final few years of his life. Piove (Ciao, ciao bambina) won first prize in the 1959 Festival della Canzone Italiana di Sanremo (Italy’s most popular song contest) and was chosen as Italy’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest in the same year.

Piove (Ciao, ciao bambina) is a love ballad in which he is saying goodbye to his lover as their relationship comes to an end. After listening to the song a few times without reading the lyrics, we recommend following the stages described in our blog article on language learning through songs (see link above). In this song, there are many interesting language points to listen out for within the lyrics. For example, there are many different tenses used throughout the song, including one phrase which uses c’è both in the imperfect and the present: “c’era una volta poi non c’è più”. Why not read through the lyrics and try to spot all the tenses you know?

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

2. Ma il cielo è sempre più blu – Rino Gaetano, 1975

Our next song is by another well-known cantautore, Rino Gaetano, who is often remembered for his satirical songs and ironic humour. Ma il cielo è sempre più blu was one of his most successful songs, in which Gaetano satirically describes Italian society, concluding that despite the diverse ways of life of different social groups and the inequality which exists between them, the sky is always the same for everyone. 

The lyrics follow the same structure throughout the whole song: chi + verb in the third-person singular (lui/leiform. We’d recommend trying to figure out the infinitive of each of these verbs and looking up those you don’t know. To learn more about how to use the word chi, have a listen to Coffee Break Italian Season 2 Episode 25.

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

3. L’isola che non c’è – Edoardo Bennato, 1980

L’isola che non c’è translates literally into English as ‘the island that isn’t there’, but is known amongst Italian speakers as the name of the home of Peter Pan – known by English speakers as Neverland. Edoardo Bennato’s song of this name comes from his very successful 1980 concept album, Sono solo canzonette, based on the world of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Bennato is a very popular and influential Italian singer-songwriter, whose music is often considered to be a creative fusion of various genres – including folk, rock, blues and sometimes even elements of opera. While Bennato is well known for his songs with satirical, ironic lyrics, he has also written several concept albums, including one based on the world of Pinocchio and another based on the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

L’isola che non c’è is about believing in a better world, with no wars or violence. Amongst the many language points to listen out for, there are a couple of examples of use of the pronoun ci with the verbs pensare and credere: “E a pensarci” would translate as “And thinking about it” and “Se ci credi” would translate as “If you believe it”. If you’d like to learn more about the pronoun ci you can listen to Coffee Break Italian Season 2 Episode 36, where it is discussed in more detail. 

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

4. La cura – Franco Battiato, 1996

La cura is another song which is great for Italian learners, as the lyrics are sung very clearly. The song was a collaboration between Sicilian philosopher Manlio Sgalambro, who wrote the lyrics, and Sicilian musician, filmmaker and painter, Franco Battiato. Battiato’s experimental musical style – a fusion of various genres – and his collaboration with Sgalambro on numerous albums made him one of Italy’s most popular artists from the 1970s until today. In 1984, he represented Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest, performing with Italian singer, Alice.

La cura is one of Coffee Break Italian Francesca’s favourite songs because of the beautiful poetry of the lyrics. They also contain many different examples to help you remember how to use the verb proteggere with the structure proteggere qualcuno di qualcosa. Also note how di is combined with each definite article: for example, in the first line, Battiato sings “Ti proteggerò dalle paure delle ipocondrie”. If you’d like to revise this language point, listen to Coffee Break Italian Season 2 Episode 14.

LINKS: Lyrics | English translation

5. A me piace lei – Dente, 2009

For any Italian learners who find the verb piacere a bit tricky to use, our last song contains some great examples to help you. A me piace lei is a song by the ‘Italian king of indie rock’, as he is sometimes referred to. Giuseppe Peveri, known by his stage name, Dente (Italian for ‘tooth’) started his solo career in 2006 and has since become one of Italy’s most popular independent artists.

Why not use some of Dente’s lyrics to help you remember how to use the verb piacere? Notice how the verb changes depending on whether what he likes is singular (eg. “mi piace anche la pausa pranzo”) or plural (eg. “mi piacciono le risate e le stelle filanti”), or whether he’s talking about what the girl he’s singing about likes (eg. “le piace cucinare”). For help with the verb piacere, listen to Coffee Break Italian Season 1 Episode 13.

LINKS: Lyrics

We hope this article has given you a useful introduction to just a tiny proportion of the huge variety of Italian music which is out there. Two of the songs we have chosen, La cura and A me piace lei, are already included in our Tune for Tuesday playlist. This is a feature that we introduced earlier this year. Every Tuesday we add another song to it, with the aim of building up a playlist of songs from all over the world and in many different languages to help you develop your language skills and introduce you to some new styles of music. We are going to add these five songs to our new playlist, Tune for Tuesday – Italian, which will contain only songs in Italian. You can find this playlist on YouTube and on Spotify by clicking on the links below. And remember to keep up to date with Tune for Tuesday by searching for Coffee Break Languages and Coffee Break Italian on Facebook.

Tune for Tuesday – Italian: YouTube playlist | Spotify playlist

What songs in Italian do you already know and love? Feel free to share some of your favourites with us in the comments to help other Italian learners discover them!

 

Learn a language through laughter

Every July in the province of Quebec, Canada, the largest international comedy festival in the world, ‘Juste Pour Rire’, fills the vibrant city of Montreal with laughter. Juste Pour Rire, or ‘Just for laughs’, began as a two-day French-speaking comedy event in 1983 and is now a huge platform for both francophone and other comedians from all over the world.

As language learners, we can gain a lot from watching comedy in the language we’re learning. Humour is a huge part of everyday life all over the world, and being able to understand and make jokes in another language requires a good understanding of both the language and the culture. Stand-up comedy also often includes slang and plays on words, making it a real test for your language skills! This is why, for many people, the first time you understand a joke in another language can feel like a real landmark in your learning.

The Juste Pour Rire festival gets underway today in Montreal and continues for two weeks. To join in the comedy, we thought we’d share some jokes with you in the languages you’re learning.

A Spanish chiste

We’ll begin with un chiste in Spanish:

¿Qué hace el tiburón perezoso que tiene que atrapar la cena?

Translation: “What does the lazy shark do when he has to catch his dinner?”

La respuesta es…
(The answer is…)

¡Nada!

Remember that nada has a double meaning, un doble significado.

nada can be translated as:

1. ‘nothing’
2. ‘he/she/it swims’ (from the verb nadar)

A French blague

Next, we have une blague in French:

Pourquoi le hibou est-il l’animal le plus heureux ?

Translation: “Why is the owl the happiest animal?”

La réponse, c’est…
(The answer is…)

Car sa femme est chouette !

Translation: “Because his wife is chouette!”

Une chouette is another word for ‘owl’, but the adjective chouette translates as ‘great’.

An Italian barzelletta

Now, are you ready for an Italian barzelletta?

Che cosa deve avere un musicista disorientato?

Translation: “What does a confused musician need?”

La risposta è…
(The answer is…)

Un piano!

Un piano also has more than one meaning:

1. ‘a plan’
2. The musical instrument

A German Witz

And unfortunately we decided not to include a German Witz …

… because German jokes are the Wurst!

(Wurst (f) = ‘sausage’)

We hope you’ve enjoyed these chistes, blagues, barzellette, Witze and can see how jokes can really test your knowledge of a language, and are therefore a great way to practise!

Fancy a challenge? Why not try making up a joke in the language you’re learning? If you do, make us laugh by posting it in the comments section below!

Language learning using your favourite songs!

Do you enjoy listening to music? It’s something you can do which doesn’t have to take any time out of your day – you can listen while you’re walking to work or washing the dishes. Wouldn’t it be great, then, if you could use your enjoyment of listening to music to help you with your language skills?

If you’ve already tried listening to songs in the language you’re learning, as good as the song may be, you may have found this a slightly demoralising experience if you’re struggling to understand what the song is about. However, we have to remember that it can be more difficult to understand a language when it is being sung because the sounds of the words and the flow of a phrase are often adapted from what we are used to hearing in spoken language in order to suit the music. So don’t be disheartened! Remember that even when listening to songs in English, it isn’t always easy to pick out every word! This is why songs are a great test for your listening comprehension and good for your pronunciation.

How exactly, then, can you make the most out of a song to benefit your language skills? Read on to find out our top 6 tips!

1. Just listen, with no peeking!

Try listening to the song a few times without looking at the lyrics. Even if you can only pick out the odd word at first, this is a great start, as getting used to the sounds you’re hearing is good practice for your listening skills.

2. Now add the lyrics!

Look up the lyrics online (in the original language, not the English translation!) and listen to the song again while reading through them. This will help you to associate the sounds you’ve heard in the song with written words with which you may already be familiar. This stage is usually quite reassuring, as you realise that you actually do know a lot of the words being sung.

3. Compare with an English translation

For many songs, you can find an English translation of the lyrics by searching online. Compare this to the original lyrics and note down any new vocabulary. The new words you are learning are within context and attached to a tune – often making them easier to remember! If you can’t find a translation of the lyrics, try running them through an online translator – just remember that this often can’t provide a perfect translation, but it should help to give you a rough understanding of the text.

4. Use the lyrics as a reading text

Now you can look through the original lyrics as if it were any other reading text, looking for examples of language points you have been learning about. Try noting them down so you can remember examples of these grammar points being used in context!

5. Cultural knowledge

Look up the artist online to expand your cultural knowledge. When you get the chance to practise your languages with native speakers, it is not only important to have an understanding of their language, but their culture as well. Knowledge of other cultures helps to connect with people better and gives you something interesting to talk about too!

6. Enjoy your listening!

Add the song to your regular listening playlist and enjoy getting to know it! Maybe you’ll even have all the lyrics memorised after a while. Just think how many new words and structures you will have learned!

As you can see, language learning can become a part of other aspects of your everyday life and doesn’t have to only come from specific language learning content. So between your Coffee Break podcasts, why not check out our Tune for Tuesday Spotify and YouTube playlist? Every week we add a new song from around the world to create a multilingual playlist of world music! We’ve embedded the Spotify playlist below or there’s a YouTube link if you prefer.

Access the playlist on YouTube

Which songs do you already know in the language you’re learning? Share your favourites in the comments, we’d be delighted to add some of them to our playlist!

An Introduction to the French of Quebec

Canada has one province whose sole official language is French: Quebec. Although many Quebecers, or Québécois, are bilingual in English and French (or speak another language as their mother tongue), about 85% still speak French as their first language. While Quebec City (la Ville de Québec) is the province’s capital, Montreal (Montréal) is its largest city. Behind Paris, Kinshasa (Republic of Congo) and Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Montreal is the 4th largest French-speaking city in the world.

So, when planning a trip to practise your French, why not consider crossing the Atlantic to discover French-speaking Canada? If you do, not only will you get the chance to discover the beautiful old-town of Quebec and have a taste of some poutine, but you’ll also be greeted by a new accent and many differences in vocabulary from the standard French you may have been learning. Here are four aspects of québécois French which prove that learning another dialect of a language can be a wonderfully enriching experience!

1. Je prends mon déjeuner à 8 heures et mon dîner à 12 h 30

Surprised? Here’s difference number one between French in France and Canadian French:

For the French, their breakfast is le petit déjeuner, lunch is called le déjeuner and dinner is le dîner. French Canadians, however, opt for:

breakfast    le déjeuner
lunch          le dîner
dinner        le souper

So don’t be confused if you understand someone as saying they have lunch as soon as they get out of bed! Note that these words can also be heard in Belgium and Switzerland.

2. Your boyfriend is your buddy and your girlfriend is your blonde!

You may have learned mon petit-ami to mean ‘my boyfriend’ and ma petite-amie to mean ‘my girlfriend’. However, in French Canada, your boyfriend is your chum and your girlfriend is your blonde, regardless of her hair colour!

For example:

Voici mon nouveau chum. – “This is my new boyfriend”.
Voici ma nouvelle blonde. – “This is my new girlfriend”.

Just be aware that, while the word ‘blonde’ doesn’t necessarily have derogatory connotations, it is a slang word which should only be used in informal, conversational contexts.

3. C’est là là !

As you may already know, can be translated as ‘there’ and is used in standard French in contexts such as je l’ai trouvé là (“I found it there”). However, in informal, spoken québécois French, this two-letter word is found at the end of many sentences, often without a translatable meaning!

It is often used for emphasis or to add more emotion to a statement. For example, if you’re getting frustrated at a person who is looking for something which is right in front of their nose, you might say regarde, c’est là là ! While the first would be explaining the position of the object, the second one is almost like a spoken exclamation mark, expressing the speaker’s impatience.

4. Les anglicismes

Finally, in case you’re starting to worry about having to learn a whole new language when travelling to French-speaking Canada, don’t panic – many English words are used too!

In larger cities, like Montreal, French and English merge together and influence one another, sometimes referred to as franglais. Some young Québécois will even start a conversation in French then suddenly change into English and back into French again within a few sentences.

This means that québécois French borrows and adapts many words from English.

Here are some of the most common ones:

English / standard French / québécois French

to check / vérifier / checker
to direct or “be the boss of” / diriger / bosser
cute / mignon / cute (English pronunciation)
anyway / de toute façon / anyway (English pronunciation)
a joke / une blague / une joke (English pronunciation)

Sometimes, it’s almost easier for English speakers to understand what a québécois person is saying than it is for people who speak standard French!

Of course, the idea of travelling to a place with an unfamiliar accent and new vocabulary that you haven’t learned may seem daunting, but we hope you can see how interesting and fun it can be visiting many different countries where the language you’re learning is spoken.

Have you had any experience travelling to a country where the language you’re learning is spoken with an unfamiliar accent and vocabulary? Share your stories in the comments section below!

À tout à l’heure, or à tantôt, as they say in Quebec!