French Language Blog

On a wing and a prayer Posted by on Jul 31, 2018 in Culture, Music, Vocabulary

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about contemporary musicals in France. One of the songs featured got me thinking about the word ailes (wings) and all the things that fly – or don’t! – with wings.

Aile (wing)

Before we get to the song, a few examples of the different ways the word aile can be used (along with some useful vocabulary for things that have ailes).

une aile
a wing
to fly

Les avions ont des ailes.** [Planes have wings.]

Les oiseaux ont des ailes aussi. [Birds have wings too.]

Un bâtiment peut avoir une (ou même plusieurs) aile(s).  [A building can have a (or even a few) wing(s).]

J’aime bien voler en avion. [I love flying in planes.]

Je sais ce que je laisse  I know what I leave (behind)
C’est à contre cœur  Unwillingly (lit. against my heart)
Mais un ailleurs m’appelle envers et contre tout  But another place (lit. elsewhere) calls towards and against all
Je sais ceux que je blesse, je vois leur douleur  I know who I’m hurting, I see their pain
Mais j’en ferais une force qui me suivra partout But I will use that as a power to follow me everywhere
Comme un pont-levis qui s’ouvre à la vie  Like a draw bridge that opens on to life
On ne va loin que jusqu’au bout  We only go far if we go all the way
Bien plus qu’un pari, et même un défi  Much more than a bet, and even (more than) a dare
Si je reviens ce sera debout If I come back (make it back) it will be standing (upright)
Mais il faut s’en aller quand il le faut  But you have to go when you have to
Croire en son étoile pour toucher le ciel  Believe in your (lit. his/her) star to touch the sky
Et moi je veux voler, voler plus haut  And I want to fly, fly higher
De mes propres ailes, voler  On my own wings, fly
De mes propres ailes On my own wings
De mes propres ailes, voler  On my own wings, fly
De mes propres ailes On my own wings
Je sais que la jeunesse est faite d’erreurs  I know that youth is made of errors/mistakes
Qu’on en paye un jour les revers et contrecoups  That we pay for one day in reversals and backlash
Mais à quoi sert qu’on naisse, à quoi sert qu’on meurt  But what good is being born, what point in dying
Sans avoir vécu ses* rêves, même les plus fous Without having lived your dreams, even the most insane/craziest
Quand un pont-levis vous ouvre à l’envie  When a drawbridge opens you to desire
On ne va loin que jusqu’au bout  You only go far if you go all the way
Qu’importe ce qu’on dit No matter what others say
Et de tous les avis  And all the opinions
Je ne crains rien, plus rien du tout I’m not afraid of anything, no, nothing
Refrain Chorus
Sans vous oublier(er) Without forgetting you
Sans ne jamais rien regretter  With no regrets
Partir pour tout commencer  Leave so that everything can begin
Oh oh  Oh oh
Sans vous oublier(er) Without forgetting you
Sans ne jamais me retourner  And never turning back
Partir là où tout peut arriver Go to where anything can happen
Oh oh  Oh oh
Refrain Chorus
Oh oh Oh oh
De mes propres ailes, voler  With my own wings, fly
Pour toucher le ciel To touch sky

ses generally means his/hers in the plural. In English, in this specific case, we would be more likely to say your or yours. Its really a stylistic choice of translation.
** Can you hear the similarity between the word aile(s) and elle(s)? I’m reading a great book right now that I got last summer in France called Un avion sans elle. The title, which means A plane without her, is a play on Un avion sans ailes (A plane without wings).


Image of airplane from [CC0 license].

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.