As y’all know, O Internets, I am a big raving fangirl for Quebecois trad music. I am also NOT a native French speaker. And one of the points of vexation of being a fangirl for a genre of music sung in a language I do not properly speak (YET!) is that I desperately, desperately want to sing along with these eminently catchy ditties. Quebec trad is hugely singable–that’s one of the big things I love about it–and participatory as well. The vast majority of the songs are set up in a call-and-response structure, so you can’t help but sing along with them. At least, if you’re me!
But I can’t in fact properly sing along with a lot of the songs yet, because I can’t make head or tail of song lyrics just by listening, not yet. So it helps immensely for me to see written-out lyrics for songs I’m interested in. If I see the words, my brain is better able to understand them as words while I’m listening to the songs. I’ve set lyrics on a lot of the songs in my collection in iTunes, just so that when I listen to them on my phone during my commute, I can look at the lyrics on the screen while I’m listening.
Which means of course that I have to have the lyrics at hand to begin with.
Now, Le Vent du Nord is very, very good about posting not only French lyrics for their songs on their their Bandcamp site (go! GO LISTEN! RIGHT NOW!), but English translations as well. Actual understanding of French, I find, is optional when enjoying Quebec trad–but because I am in fact me, my language geekery is engaged. I can’t properly appreciate this music if I don’t understand the words. Plus I just love languages; I mean, I’m a writer. Words are what I do.
But not all of the bands I’m following have lyrics so readily available. In which case I need to start consulting liner notes of the albums I have physical copies for–such as all of the albums by Genticorum, about whom I have enthused before, and who are arguably now my second favorite Quebec band. <3 Last night I was transcribing lyrics of a few of their songs out of the liner notes for their album Le galarneau, only to discover that aw, crapweasels, a couple of the lines in “Les parties de Grégoire” were not actually included in the notes!
AUGH, I said. Now, with all this listening I’ve been doing to Quebec music, my ear is improving. But I’m still not to the point yet of being able to pick out more than a word or two at a time in unfamiliar lyrics. I recognized “boire” at the end of one line in question, but damned if I could make out the rest, aside from being half-sure that the first word in that line was either “tant” or “quand”.
Google Fu failed me. So it was time to invoke drastic measures: asking the band!
However, this was very easy as I follow all three of the Genticorum boys on Facebook, and one of them even supported my Faerie Blood Kickstarter, and so he very quickly filled me on the line I was missing: “T’en iras-tu sans boire?” Which means, “Will you leave without drinking?”
Language geekery engaged as I realized that “t’en” sounded a lot like “tant” to my ear–and moreover, it took me a few minutes to realize that this sentence had an unfamiliar verb construction in it! “Iras”, I realized, was the future tense, second person informal for “aller”. But there’s that sneaky “t’en” in there too. So I looked up “en aller” on french.about.com and was immediately rewarded with this super-helpful page describing the five verbs in French that mean “to leave”.
Four of these were already familiar to me, since I’d gotten them as vocabulary words in SuperMemo. But I’d been having trouble distinguishing between them, in no small part because SuperMemo gives all its spoken definitions in French, and I hadn’t managed to distinguish the various examples by ear yet. But I hadn’t gotten “s’en aller”! So this page was a huge boon to helping these verbs all suddenly make sense to me.
In conclusion: Quebecois trad music, fun and linguistically educational!
Also, go buy Genticorum’s latest record. Because they’re all excellent musicians and awesome people. Tell them I sent you!
AND OH HEY! For bonus giggles, this YouTube video over here shows a different band performing the same song. This has four additional verses at the beginning that Genticorum’s recorded version lacks, but you can definitely hear the “t’en iras-tu sans boire?” line in there!