My new favorite song is “Nostalgie” offof the ‘Cirque du Soliel’ “O” CD. My friend, who claims to be fluent in french says it’s not french. Can anyone confirm or deny? Also can anyone translate? Many thanks.

Cirque du Soliel is Canadian, correct? Canadian French is noticeably different from the French spoken in France, to the extent that someone from France may not understand someone from Quebec at all, even though both are speaking French. Maybe that’s what your friend means. On the other hand, maybe his French isn’t as good as he wants you to think :wink:

Or he could just be snotty, like some of the Brit English teachers over here. At the merest suggestion that someone could study under a USAian, Canadian or (horrors!) Australian, they look down their noses with a derisive snort and say, “That’s not English!”


Do you have a link to the lyrics?

The word “nostalgie” is French, although it could be a word in some other language too.

Perhaps the song is in a highly dialectized version of French, or contains a lot of slang or argot.

It has been my experience that written French-Canadian French is not hugely different from France French - not different enough to make it difficult or impossible for a native of one French to understand the other (in writing; the accents are very different when speaking).

I am really curious to see those lyrics - if you find them, please post a link.

I found them:

Your friend is right - they aren’t French - but I don’t know what they are.

French can be…nutty at times. But not THAT nutty:D!! When I first read this, I thought Esperanto (of which I know next to nothing). Could be a mix of Eastern Europe and some other language.

Missbunny says:

It could be next to impossible for people from other Francophone countries to decipher texts written by some French Canadians, although the general quality of what is produced in the printed media (like La Presse and Le Devoir, for example) should pose very few problems for people “on the other side of the pond”.

Of course, you also have those who make it a point to create difficulties where none, in fact, exist. This applies to bothe the written and the spoken language. Waiters in some Parisian cafés and restaurants are notable for this.

I first thought maybe Creole which I can understand spoken but written is beyond my patience. Is it an African language?

Actually I heard a sample of Canadian French from a CDROM encyclopedia and was interested to note that the Canadian
version of the language sounds a bit ‘flatter’. I don’t remember the linguistic term, but it sounded a little like
American in the upper Midwest, e.g. MN, ND, WI, etc.

Though I realize that the Upper Midwest, besides not even
abutting on Quebec and having a completely different ethnic history, still keep in mind that French Canadians are not
‘ghettoized’ in PQ and may be found scattered all over. I had a Francophone coworker once who came from Saskatchewan.
The possibility is remote, but perhaps there was some
cross-border influence?

I think it’s Esperanto.

The Romance roots and the simplicity suggest that to me.

Although I have not heard any of the music off of “O”, the soundtrack for Saltimbanco featured several songs that, although they sounded like language were actually just “sounds” (for lack of better term)created by the vocalists.

Ran a search for a couple of the longer words in the lyrics.
It appears to be a New Zealand language. Maori?

I’m also getting hits on Japanese.

However, more of the words on the .nz pages seem to match. :stuck_out_tongue:

I live in Québec and I know for sure that there aren’t that much difference between Québec’s French and France’s French. Of course, there are some oddities, but nothing that a 2 sec. reflexion won’t do…

Urban legend; people from France and people from Quebec can understand each other just fine. There’s an accent difference, but it’s equivalent to someone from California conversing with an Australian; you may think they sound funny but you know what they’re saying.

Javaman is correct in that Canadian French is flatter and sort of mumbled in comparison to continental French. I don’t know if it’s cross-border difference, but it seems to be the case. French in France is a bit more clearly enunciated.

Quebec slang is called joual and a Quebecois could deliberately leave a Frenchman in the dust if he wanted to really go heavy on the slang, just as a Scot could leave us all scratching our heads if he really went heavy on the Scots, but in normal conversation I’m sure Francophones all over la monde comprends each other just fine.

As a linguist, I looked at the lyrics, and I would have to say they are nothing but made-up language. Syllables that sound nice when sung. Seemed like some deliberate imitation of Haitian creole and African languages, with a bit of Japanese thrown in. But meaningless.

The Talking Heads did a song like that, “I Zimbra” from Fear of Music (1979). They took the words from a poem by Hugo Ball, a Dada performance artist in 1917 at Zürich’s Cabaret Voltaire:

*gadji beri bimba glandridi laula lonni cadori
gadjama gramma berida bimbala glandri galassassa laulitalomini
gadji beri bin blassa glassala laula lonni cadorsu sassala bim
gadjama tuffm i zimzalla binban gligla wowolimai bin beri ban
o katalominai rhinozerossola hopsamen laulitalomini hoooo
gadjama rhinozerossola hopsamen
bluku terullala blaulala loooo

zimzim urullala zimzim urullala zimzim zanzibar zimzalla zam
elifantolim brussala bulomen brussala bulomen tromtata
velo da bang band affalo purzamai affalo purzamai lengado tor
gadjama bimbalo glandridi glassala zingtata pimpalo ögrögöööö
viola laxato viola zimbrabim viola uli paluji malooo

tuffm im zimbrabim negramai bumbalo negramai
bumbalo tuffm i zim
gadjama bimbala oo beri gadjama gaga di gadjama affalo pinx
gaga di bumbalo bumbalo gadjamen
gaga di bling blong
gaga blung*

Now, what could have been going through Hugo Ball’s mind when he came up with that, God only knows. The Talking Heads song was very much edited down from this. The backing track was driven by a heavy conga drum beat. Deliberate artistic “primitivism”?

In 1979, David Bowie also cribbed from Hugo Ball when he appeared on Saturday Night Live: He stood rigid while two assistants gripped his arms and carried him forward to the front of the stage, then when he was done singing they carried him back again. In those days, Bowie, Talking Heads, Fripp, and others were in a clique formed around the nexus of Brian Eno, and they shared a lot of the same artistic ideas.

Another french-speaker weighing in:
As other posters have said, the posted lyrics are obviously not french. I think that in most Cirque du Soleil productions (at least the ones I’ve seen) the singing is vocalizing with no real “words”.

Another recorded example of this would be albums by the Cocteau Twins.

I don’t speak it or read it, but when I saw the lyrics, my first guess was Provençal (a/k/a langue d’oc or Occitan), which is spoken in southern France. This was the language of the Medieval troubadours, with which the Circque du Soliel may well feel a kinship.

I put the text throught the Xerox language identifier. It’s guess was Catalan, a language spoken in eastern Spain, in a region adjacent to the area where Provençal is spoken. The Xerox program recognizes 47 languages, but Provencal is not among them. The two languages are so similar that it was not until the early 1900s that Catalan was recognized as a separate language by linguists.

Are there any Provençal speakers out there to confim my guess?

Curiouser and curiouser. Thanks to all for the help.
Anxiously awaiting an answer to bibliphage’s theory!

Doubt this is Occitan, I must concur it looks made up on a latin bas. Why not try going to the sci.lang usenet newsgroup and asking there, real live linguists still hang out there.


pretty weird stuff there. i also think it’s a made-up language. it almost looks to me like a cross with between a finno-ugric language (finnish, estonian or hungarian) and spanish. it’s just that the words are too short over all to be the former, and there’s too many non-latinate words to be the latter.

it’s pretty interesting to analyze. for example, you have the morpheme “kura” and the endings -ina and -ia. So you get


it almost looks like this could be a synthetic language (one in which nouns are declined – in other words, instead of having prepositions and such, nouns get endings that indicate information like under,over, with, etc…) but this is the only word that changes like this, and the shortness of the words would indicate an analytic language (like spanish.)

but that’s assuming this word is a noun. it could be a verb, and those could be personal endings. so you can just throw the above out the window.

anyhow, more random thoughts to confuse everyone.