There are many different ways to improve one’s listening comprehension when learning a new language. Taking classes on italki is definitely a good one! However, there are also plenty of online resources that students are not always aware of. Among them are movies, trailers, and TV series.


All of these are very useful due to the fact that they are based on visual elements. However, there is one thing that we don’t especially think about, and that is what I will be writing about today: music.


When I was younger and was just beginning to learn languages, I had nothing to help me study besides my teacher, my textbooks, a pen pal and… the radio! Of course, I would just sing along to songs even though I couldn’t understand them. However, one day, my English teacher asked each student to bring in a blank audio cassette tape to class. After a few days, she returned them to us with English music on it. I imagine that she spent a lot of time doing this because she also gave us about twenty pages of English lyrics, along with their French translations. This was our gift for the summer vacation!


When I got home, I spent weeks listening to my teacher’s favorite music (Mary J. Blige, U2, Usher, Fool’s Garden, The Fugees, Whitney Houston, Macy Gray…). And I can honestly tell you that even ten years later, I still remember the lyrics of these songs.


Not only that, but these songs also helped me immensely with English vocabulary and grammar. For example, Usher’s U remind me helped me to remember a verb I had always had trouble with. The specific line that did this was “you remind me of a girl,” which in French is: tu me rappelles une fille or tu me fais penser à une fille.


That is probably the moment when I stopped translating each word from one language to another. I finally stopped thinking about this “of” word (which was always de in my head) and I simply memorized it. When Macy Gray’s world “crumbled” in I Try, I couldn’t help thinking about my mother’s delicious apple crumble (crumble aux pommes) and finally, I understood where this word came from (to crumble: s’émietter, s’effriter). From this song, I also learnt that “babe” could be used as a romantic nickname (and that it wasn’t how you said “pig,” like in the movie Babe le Cochon). Finally, U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday taught me about Ireland’s history.


So, you can now see that music has not only helped me to improve my listening comprehension, but that it has also helped me to learn new vocabulary, to understand complex grammar and to familiarize myself with the cultures of other countries.


Therefore, in this article, I would like to help you become more aware of the many ways that music can aid in your language learning, and I will do so by using a particular French song. This is especially useful because, unlike my young self listening to audio cassettes, you can now access music en un simple clic.


The song I have chosen is called L’hymne de nos campagnes by Tryo. It is about the wonders of biodiversity and states that we should protect it. Despite the fact that it was written in 1998, it is probably more relevant today than ever. This song also compares the very distinct worlds of the city and the great outdoors by looking at their differences.


Si tu es né dans une cité HLM

Je te dédicace ce poème

En espérant qu'au fond de tes yeux ternes

Tu puisses y voir un petit brin d'herbe

Et les mans faut faire la part des choses

Il est grand temps de faire une pause

De troquer cette vie morose

Contre le parfum d'une rose



C'est l'hymne de nos campagnes

De nos rivières, de nos montagnes

De la vie man, du monde animal

Crie-le bien fort, use tes cordes vocales!


Pas de boulot, pas de diplôme

Partout la même odeur de zone

Plus rien n'agite tes neurones

Pas même le shit que tu mets dans tes cônes

Va voir ailleurs, rien ne te retient

Va vite faire quelque chose de tes mains

Ne te retourne pas ici tu n'as rien

Et sois le premier à chanter ce refrain




Assieds-toi près d'une rivière

Ecoute le coulis de l'eau sur la terre

Dis-toi qu'au bout, hé ! il y a la mer

Et que ça, ça n'a rien d'éphémère

Tu comprendras alors que tu n'es rien

Comme celui avant toi, comme celui qui vient

Que le liquide qui coule dans tes mains

Te servira à vivre jusqu'à demain matin !




Assieds-toi près d'un vieux chêne

Et compare-le à la race humaine

L'oxygène et l'ombre qu'il t'amène

Mérite-t-il les coups de hache qui le saigne ?

Lève la tête, regarde ces feuilles

Tu verras peut-être un écureuil

Qui te regarde de tout son orgueil

Sa maison est là, tu es sur le seuil...




Peut-être que je parle pour ne rien dire

Que quand tu m'écoutes tu as envie de rire

Mais si le béton est ton avenir

Dis-toi que c'est la forêt qui fait que tu respires

J'aimerais pour tous les animaux

Que tu captes le message de mes mots

Car un lopin de terre, une tige de roseau

Servira la croissance de tes marmots !




Grammar: the use of the impératif


In this song, the singer uses several verbs conjugated in the impératif that you may have already studied.


Specifically, he uses a number of regular verbs (écouter, comparer, lever, regarder, crier) and two irregular verbs: aller (va) and être (sois).


He also uses three reflexive verbs: s’asseoir (assieds-toi), se dire (dis-toi) and se retourner (ne te retourne pas). The use of these reflexive verbs is very helpful for remembering how to use such verbs the impératif:




  • s’asseoir (assieds-toi)
  • se lever (lève-toi)
  • s’habiller (habille-toi)




  • Il faut qu’on parle; assieds-toi.
  • Lève-toi de bonne heure demain ; nous allons à la pêche.
  • Habille-toi vite ; tu vas manquer le bus de l’école.




  • se retourner (ne te retourne pas)
  • se réveiller (ne te réveille pas)
  • s’inquiéter (ne t’inquiète pas)




  • J’ai l’impression que quelqu’un nous suit; ne te retourne pas et marche plus vite.
  • Ne te réveille pas trop tard demain parce que j’ai besoin de ton aide.
  • Ne t’inquiète pas ; je suis sûre que tu as réussi ton examen.


Finally, there are two verbs that use direct object pronouns: crie-le and compare-le.


  • Crie-le: Here, le refers to the chorus. The singer wants the listener to sing “it” out loud, to shout “it.”
  • Compare-le: Here, le refers to « le chêne » (the oak tree) and the singer wants to compare “it” to the human race.


Slang (argot)


“Pas de boulot, pas de diplôme”:


Boulot is a synonym for work. It can be used either to refer to the workplace or to work in general.




  • Tous les jours, je me lève tôt et vais au boulot à 7h00. (workplace)
  • J’adore mon boulot mais parfois c’est beaucoup de stress. (job, occupation)
  • Aujourd’hui, j’ai trop de boulot. Je ne peux pas sortir. (work)


“Que tu captes le message de mes mots”:


Here, the verb capter means comprendre (to understand). However, it is typically used to talk about your phone signal (formal use). This is why you need to differentiate between these two uses.




  • Je ne capte pas Internet dans ce village de bord de mer. (phone signal)
  • Je ne t’entends pas ! Je suis dans le train et je ne capte rien. Rappelle-moi plus tard. (phone signal)
  • L’examen de philo était trop dur ; j’ai rien capté (understand)
  • La prof d’anglais parle trop vite. Je capte rien à ce qu’elle dit. (understand)


However, be careful because unlike boulot, which is used by the majority of people, capter is mostly used by young people to mean comprendre. Younger people also sometimes use the verb capter like a pronominal verb (se capter). In this case, it means “to see each other.”




  • On se capte quand ?


“Servira la croissance de tes marmots”:


Marmot is a slang word for “child,” much like “kid” in English.   




HLM is short for Habitation à Loyer Modéré.


There are about ten million people who live in HLMs in France. This is considered to be social housing and it is much less expensive than other places to live. They are often known for the types of problems that you can read about in the following verse:


Pas de boulot, pas de diplôme

Partout la même odeur de zone

Plus rien n'agite tes neurones

Pas même le shit que tu mets dans tes cônes


No job, no degree

Everywhere the same smell of rough neighborhood

Nothing can trouble your neurons anymore

Not even the hash you put in your cones


You should note that there are various negative forms here, such as pas, plus rien and pas meme.


Et voilà !


I hope that you liked this introduction and that you start listening to more music in your target language.


For further music about protecting the planet, you might want to listen to Respire by Mickey 3D and Aux arbres citoyens by Yannick Noah. Also, I would love to hear about your experiences with music in the comments below!


A bientôt pour une autre chanson !


Image Sources


Hero Image (CC0)