La Vie en Rose – Edith Piaf / French Lyrics and English Translation

La Vie en Rose is one of Edith Piaf’s most famous and beloved songs. It’s a song about finding a new love after a trying time, and many people saw it as an anthem of hope as it was released shortly after the end of World War 2. French lyrics and English translation after the jump.

Vocabulary and explanation of the translation and phrases will follow the video and translation. My apologies if the video doesn’t work – you can watch it on YouTube but unfortunately it has become very difficult to embed videos with copyrighted content. I have also embedded the song on iTunes – if you purchase through this link a small portion of the sale will go to support the translations that I do on this blog. Thank you!




French English
Des yeux qui font baisser les miens
Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche
Voila le portrait sans retouches
De l’homme auquel j’appartiens

Quand il me prend dans ses bras
Il me parle l’a tout bas
Je vois la vie en rose

Il me dit des mots d’amour
Des mots de tous les jours
Et ça m’ fait quelque chose

Il est entré dans mon coeur
Une part de bonheur
Dont je connais la cause

C’est lui pour moi
Moi pour lui dans la vie
Il me l’a dit, l’a jure pour la vie

Et, dès que je l’aperçois
Alors je sens en moi
Mon coeur qui bat

Des nuits d’amour à plus en finir
Un grand bonheur qui prend sa place
Les ennuis, les chagrins, s’effacent
Heureux, heureux à mourir

Quand il me prend dans ses bras
Il me parle tout bas
Je vois la vie en rose

Il me dit des mots d’amour
Des mots de tout les jours
Et ça m’ fait quelque chose

Il est entré dans mon coeur
Une part de bonheur
Dont je connais la cause

C’est lui pour moi
Moi pour lui dans la vie
Il me l’a dit, l’a jure pour la vie

Et, dès que je l’apercois
Alors je sens en moi
Mon coeur qui bat

Lalalala, lalalala
La, la, la, la

A gaze that make me lower my own
A laugh that is lost on his lips –
That is the unretouched portrait
Of the man to whom I belong

When he takes me into his arms
He speaks to me softly
And I see life through rose-colored glasses

He speaks words of love to me
They are every day words
And they do something to me

He has entered into my heart
A bit of happiness
That I know the cause of

It’s only him for me
And me for him, for life
He told me, he swore to me, for life

As soon as I notice him
I feel inside me
My heart beating

Endless nights of love
Bring great happiness
The pain and bothers fade away
Happy, so happy I could die

When he takes me into his arms
He speaks to me softly
And I see life through rose-colored glasses

He speaks words of love to me
They are every day words
And they do something to me

He has entered into my heart
A bit of happiness
That I know the cause of

It’s only him for me
And me for him, for life
He told me, he swore to me, for life

As soon as I notice him
I feel inside me
My heart beating

Lalalala, lalalala
La, la, la, la




Vocabulary and Explanation:

The great thing about this song is that it uses relatively simple vocabulary to convey the very deep and heartfelt experience of new love. This song captures so many of the small gestures that we associate with falling in love: feeling your heart race as soon as you spot your new love, looking away when they look at you, etc.

baisser: to lower

Des yeux qui font baisser les miens: literally “eyes that make me lower my own”
I’ve chosen to translate that as “a gaze that makes me lower my own” because in the context she is talking about the way he looks at her, rather than his actual eyes. I think we all know the feeling: when someone you really like looks at you and you look away because it’s just too uncomfortable to hold their gaze (even though you want to).


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Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche – this is a tough line to translate.
un rire: a laugh
se perdre: to lose itself (oneself)
la bouche: mouth

I’ve chosen to translate this as “a laugh that is lost on his lips;” literally it would be translated “a laugh that loses itself on his lips.” I think that she is referring to the moment when someone laughs a short, fleeting laugh that seems to dance across their lips.

retouche: a correction, amendment, or as we would translate it for a photo “retouching”.

tout bas: literally “all low” but in this context it means “softly” or “quietly”.

OK and now for the chorus/title – how to best translate “la vie en rose”? We use this phrase occasionally in English, and my preference would be to leave it in French since there isn’t a saying in English that is as elegant. However we do have the saying “to see life through rose-colored glasses.” I feel that this sounds a bit awkward, and not nearly as nice as saying “I see la vie en rose,” which would literally translate as “I see life in pink” or “I see life in rosy-hues.”

Il me dit: He speaks to me or he tells me
les mots d’amour, les mots de tous les jours: words of love, everyday words
Here Édith is telling us that her love whispers sweet nothings to her, but also every day words. I like the way she pairs these two lines. By coupling them she seems to be suggesting that both words of love and everyday words are equally precious when they come from the man she loves. How romantic is that?

jurer: to promise, to swear

dès que je l’aperçois: From the moment I perceive him (am aware of him)
Dès que (time): When (time), or as soon as

Dès translates as “from” in the sense that it marks the beginning of a period of time. Dès que means “as soon as” (in French you can also say “aussitôt que”).

à plus finir: endless
I believe this is a shortened version of the more correct: à n’en plus finir, which means “endless”. Often in songs some syllables are dropped (I’m sure you can think of many examples of this in English songs as well.)

s’effacer: to fade

What do you think of this translation? Do you have any additional questions? Leave them in the comments below! Thank you. 🙂

16 Comments

  1. enna

    Love what you have done – the translation on the video and the write-up below.;I appreciate the work you put into it. But It surely elevated my appreciation for the song..

    Notwithstanding my lack of understanding of the meaning of the song, ( my French is elementary) La Vie en Rose is my favorite French song. I love all the artists who sing this song, including Mirelle Mathieu but Edith Plaff’s interpretation is simply heavenly..

    With better understanding of the song, I can now sing this with more feelings. Ha! ha!

    Thank you very much.

    • Michael Rondas

      Thank you so very much for your translation and interpretation and most of all for the passion you put into this.

      I am returning from a funeral of my grandmother during which my godmother (her daughter) sang this song. She sang it because it was the song that played when my grandmother met my grandfather.

      I have always felt this was one of the greatest love songs of all time. You can only imagine that today has solidified this feeling in stone.

      Having Dutch as my mother tongue, French as second and English as third language you for ever find yourself in analysing language and looking for a deeper or true meaning behind words. Simply because when you learn a language, it teaches you literal translations only get you so far; in fact it is all about the art of interpretation and you did it wonderfully well. True art in my humble opinion.

      You may have written this many years ago, but I hope that so many years later these words of appreciation for the love of language still reach you.

      Mike

  2. Salma

    Very lovely translation ,, much better than the English version .. I am totally in love with this song and I enjoyed the way that you translate it cuz it’s so romantic
    Thank you very much
    Best translation ever

  3. Rob

    Nicely done thank you. My French is rusty and this helped greatly. It also make much sense as I can still translate a piece of this I think your explanations are great and reinforce the subtleties within

  4. Edi

    Fantastique!

    French to english translation deosnt do justice to the subtleties of the language, but such a beautiful song. Thanks for the translation

  5. TSmith

    That was the best translation/understanding I have ever read of a song that is not in English. I really appreciate the time you took to break down the different parts and explain them. Thank you for doing so.

  6. David Cottam

    I found your translation and discussion of the nuances in the poem perfect. I am trying to memorise the words in French because they have a simplicity and emotional directness that is very touching.
    Thanks for your insights

  7. Roland Michael Soucy

    Bravo, that song has always touched my heart, when I hear it I’m reminded of my Mother humming and singing along with it with her best British forced french accent,ahh the memories of love even tho I was but a wee young boy when we were stationed in France in 61 62 63 I still recall it and my heart once again transports me back,my Mother was English and survived hitlers bombings of liverpool one sister was not so lucky and was killed with her husband and children when the bombs fell on the church they were seeking shelter in,so thank you ever so much on behalf of my Mother and all the people’s who were and forevermore Will be the “Greatest generation” and of course the incomparable Edit Piaf I go to listen to it again, and again and again.

  8. Jerry Braunstein

    Yes, leave la Vie en rose in French. Seeing life through rose colored glasses connotes hopeful pessimism — seeing life better than it really is. There is another possible translation “coming up roses” ( I see life coming up roses ) from Ethel Merman’s signature song in the 1959 Broadway musical, Gypsy, lyrics by Sondheim whose notes reveal his intent was to convey a sense of exuberant optimism – certainly expressed in her performances, not dissimilar to Piaf’s. I believe the matter depends on the intent of the lyricist – which adds a mysterious note to a mystical, enchanting song.

  9. Miracular

    A couple of small suggestions . . .

    First stanza:
    • “Eyes that make me lower mine” [better meter; physical eyes are more in keeping with the idea of a portrait and perhaps elicit a stronger, more direct experience in the listener because they’re less conceptual]
    • “A laugh that loses itself on his lips” [not as good a meter, but more poetic and more evocative for the listener, closer to the actual sense of the French]
    • “Of the man I belong to” [“I belong to” instead of “to whom I belong”; although the latter may be traditionally “correct” (although linguists now disagree about the notion of the “dangling preposition” convention), the vernacular is more in keeping with the idea of the “everyday words” that are likely used by both characters]

    Second stanza:
    • “When he takes me in his arms” (“in his arms” instead of “into his arms”; “in” is idiomatic here; it’s also more poetic that way)

    Other:
    • “everyday words” instead of “every day words” (here, “every” and “day” get fused into an adjective)
    • “And it does something to me” instead of “And they do something to me” (here, would use the vaguer “it” that refers to the whole of the experience, rather than to just the speaking of the words or to the words themselves)—again, more poetic and evocative since it has the listener do a “transderivational search” of his or her own experience and thus produces a kind of altered state as desired
    • “It’s him for me and me for him” [instead of “It’s only him for me and me for him” (the language structure is similar to that of “All for one and one for all” and expresses allegiance in a slightly stronger way without the extra word)]

  10. Nat

    I saw one of my friends post this line:
    Il me dit des mots d’amour
    Des mots de tous les jours
    Et ça me fait quelque chose
    I had no idea what it meant, and found my way to your beautiful translation, so I just wanted to say
    Thanks for your work!

  11. Sarah

    Thank you for this. A lovely explanation and well explained. I have enjoyed trying to understand the words and your explanation and translation enhances the song and performance.

  12. Marie Walsh

    I sing this song in French with only half an understanding of the words but it moved me nonetheless, never really knowing why. Having read your translation, I see now what I could not explain, that I am capable of feeling such passion. What a revelation! And so liberating! Thanks.

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