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French language and culture – remembering New Year’s Posted by on Jan 1, 2019 in Culture, Music, Vocabulary

Bonne Année 2019! Happy New Year! Le jour de l’an (New Year’s Day)* is a time for looking ahead and for looking back. And looking back over the last year got me thinking about the related vocabulary of memories.

Like English, French has multiple words for remembering. For the most part, they mean the same thing, and while they do have a grammatical difference, it’s a difference that seems to be less and less observed.

Français English
se rappeler to recall
se souvenir de to remember
un souvenir a memory

That differences? It’s that little de … Correct usage includes it with se souvenir de but not with se rappeler … though in actual use you are seeing more and more examples of se rappeler de … just remember that it is technically wrong!

Here is a song all about memories from the Québecois singer Roch Voisine featured on the French TV talk show C à vous.

Tout me ramène à toi (x2)  Everything brings me back to you (x2)
Tout, tout le temps  Everything, all the time
   
Il y a^ des jours qui sont passés  There are days that have gone by
Il y a des nuits qui ont brûlé There are nights that burned
Il y a des mois, des années  Months ago, years
Il y a de l’eau qui a coulé  There is water that flowed
Des ciels^^ qui ont changé  Skies that changed
Il y a des mois, des années  Months ago, years
   
Mais il y a toujours une chanson  But there is still a song
Un parfum dans la maison  A scent in the house
Toujours ce que tu préfères  Always whatever you like
Dans l’air…  In the air …
   
Appelle-moi encore de temps en temps  Call me again from time to time
Rappelle-toi comme on était vivants  Remember how alive we were
Appelle-moi, ça me ferait plaisir  Call me, that would make me happy
Souviens-toi des plus beaux souvenirs  Remember the best memories
   
Tout me ramène à toi (x2)  Everything brings me back to you (x2)
Tout, tout le temps  Everything, all the time
   
Il y a des fronts qui ont soufflé  There are fronts that have blown
Du sable qui a volé  Sand that has flown
Il y a de ça, des années  So many years aga
   
Il y a des pages qu’on a tournées  There are pages that we have turned
Des routes qu’on a tracées  Roads that we have traced
Il y a de ça, des années  So many years ago
   
Mais il y a toujours une chanson  But there is still a song
Un parfum dans la maison  A scent in the house
Toujours ce que tu préfères  Always whatever you like
Dans l’air…  In the air …
   
Appelle-moi encore de temps en temps  Call me again from time to time
Rappelle-toi comme on était vivants  Remember how alive we were
Appelle-moi, ça me ferait plaisir  Call me, that would make me happy
Souviens-toi des plus beaux souvenirs  Remember the best memories

^ Il y a is one of those great French phrases that show up everywhere. It can mean “there is” or “there are” (but don’t confuse it with voilà). This song includes one of my favorite uses in the expression “Il y a de ça, des années”. You could just say “il y a des années” but by adding the ‘de ça’ you reinforce the distance from the now, making ‘il y a de ça, des années” more nostalgic than just “il y a des années
^^ In religion (and astronomy) you will see ciel pluralized as cieux (the heavens).

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* Not to be confused with le Saint-Sylvestre which is New Year’s Eve. 

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels [CC0]

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris