Friday, April 2, 2010

A Pleasant Discovery

My French is better than Google's translator!

I've been listening to Daniele Balavoine's 1978 hit song, "Le Chanteur".


Interesting how different musical presentation is - I love that he just sticks his hands in his pockets! That bit at the end where he looks like he's undergoing some sort of monstrous transformation? Well, he's saying that he wants to (after achieving great fame) die unhappy but without regrets. (Considering he died in the mid 1980s in a helicopter crash in the deserts of Africa, he probably was unhappy, but in a different way than he meant in the song, I'm sure.)

Anyway, I can pick out some words here and there but wanted a better understanding of the song than my extremely rusty skills could manage. So first I found a good version of the French lyrics (not as easy as one might thing - lots of free lyrics sites out there but they often get lyrics wrong, even in English). 

Here are the first two stanzas (there's a reason you non-French speaking types are getting this):

Je m'présente, je m'appelle Henri
J'voudrais bien réussir ma vie, être aimé
Etre beau gagner de l'argent
Puis surtout être intelligent
Mais pour tout ça il faudrait que j'bosse à plein temps

J'suis chanteur, je chante pour mes copains
J'veux faire des tubes et que ça tourne bien, tourne bien
J'veux écrire une chanson dans le vent
Un air gai, chic et entraînant
Pour faire danser dans les soirées de Monsieur Durand

And here's the Google translation:

I m'présente, my name is Henry  (s/b something like "Let me introduce myself")
J'voudrais do well my life, to be loved (s/b "I want")
Be nice to earn money
Can be especially intelligent
But for all that would have j'bosse full time (s/b work hard, slave away, etc.)

I'm singing, I sing for my friends  (s/b "I'm a singer" - that one is like first month French!)
I Want to tubes and it runs well, runs well  (Idiomatic for "I want to make hit records" - Google gets a pass on that one)
I Want to write a song in the wind
A gay, chic and resulting  (it left out the word 'air', which I think is either a light song or an attitude)
To dance in the evening Mr Durand  (I'm pretty sure this is supposed to be "I will dance at the soirees of M Durand - soiree means 'evening' but is a very common word meaning an 'evening gathering', etc.)

For those who are concerned with the lyrics (that would pretty much be just me), this is pretty ridiculous - this isn't terribly idiomatic French in these two stanzas. The translator should do better than simply plugging in the first dictionary definition it comes to.

And for those who don't give a rat's ass about Europop, let this be a warning about how far to trust Google translator. Even if you use it, make sure you find someone with knowledge of the original language, or who knows what sort of mad scientist activity you'll end up involved in.

5 comments:

Bohemian said...

Well...it is French...and it is 1978...I wouldn't expect much in the way of a musical presentation, things were still mellow yellow.

Blue Llama said...

You would have to be "mellow yellow" to enjoy that! :-)

Anonymous said...

I tried a little translation for you. Sorry my english is not very good.

Let me introduce myself, my name is Henry.
I would like to succeed in my life, to be loved
To be pretty, to earn money
And especially to be intelligent
But for all of that, I would have to have a full time job
I'm a singer, I sing for my friends
I want to make hit records and that it runs well, runs well
I want to write a song in the wind
A happy, chic and exiting melody
To make people dance in the parties of M. Durand
And everywhere in the streets I want people to talk about me
The girls to be naked and running after me
I want theme to admire me, to kill me
To fight for my vertue
For the girls from my old school becoming an idol
I want that every nights, breathless in their bed
They cheats their husbands, in their cursed dreams
Then I'll do some galas
My fans will prostrate in front of me
Some 100,000 people concerts
Where even the all Paris is amazed
And stands up to make the show go on
And everywhere in the streets I want people to talk about me
The girls to be naked and running after me
I want theme to admire me, to kill me
To fight for my vertue
Then when I'll get bored to be their idol
I'll get back to the scene as during the crazy years
I'll make my eyes cry, I'll tell them goodbye
And the year after I'll do it again, and the year after I'll do it again
I'll prostitute myself for the posterity
The new girls from the school will say that I'm a queer
That my eyes stink alcohol, that I would have to stop it
They will burn my aureola, tarnish my past
Then I'll be an old man and waiting for death
I want to die unhappy, to have nothing to regret
I want to die unhappy

Anonymous said...

I forgot this :

Then I'll be an old man and waiting for death
==> I'll search for a god to forgive me everything
I want to die unhappy, to have nothing to regret

Viviana said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for the translation!