Love and train journeys – Grand Corps Malade (3)

Check out a new translation of Grand Corps Malade’s ‘Chercheur de Phases’


What do love and trains have in common?  Well for French slam poet Grand Corps Malade the answer is plenty! This is my translation of his song ‘Les Voyages en train’ or ‘Train journeys’. Alors, les paroles en anglais:

Train journeys

You could say that love stories were like journeys by train,
And sometimes when I see those travellers I’d like to be one again,
Why do you think so many people wait at the platform gate?
Why do you think we stress so much when we arrive a little late?

The train often pulls away when you least anticipate,
And the love story carries you off from those who commentate,
The commentators are you mates who say goodbye at the station
They watch the train pull away with a look of trepidation
You wave back at them and imagine their comments going round
Some say you’ve made a mistake, that your feet aren’t on the ground,
Each one makes a prediction for how long the trip will last,
Most of them think the train will derail at the first stormy blast.

Real love, it’s no surprise, changes the expression on your face
So, from day one you should carefully choose your place,
A seat by the aisle or next to the window glass,
What do you choose, a love story in first or second class?

In the first few miles you can’t take your eyes from her face,
You barely notice out the window the passing green open space,
You feel light, life is a flower and you’re drinking its nectar
You feel so good that you almost want to kiss the ticket collector,

But the magic only lasts a time, your story’s running out of steam,
You tell yourself you’re in it for nothing, ‘it’s all her fault’, you want to scream
The train’s rumble makes you drunk, you feel sick at each bend,
You’ve gotta get up, walk out and find a way for your heart to mend.

Now the train slows down, it’s already the end of your tale,
And what’s more you’re like a fool, your mates are at the other end of the rail
You say goodbye to the one you’ll now call your ex,
In her address book, she whites out your name in tippex.

So you see that love stories are like journeys by train,
And sometimes when I see those travellers I’d like to be one again,
Why do you think so many people wait at the platform gate?
Why do you think we stress so much when we arrive a little late?

For some Life is all about trying to catch a train,
To feel love and find their energy bubbling up like champagne,
For others the aim is to arrive with time to spare,
To have a safe trip and live life without care.

It is easy to catch a train but make sure you pick well,
I got into two or three but not the right carriage, I could tell,
For trains are temperamental, some you try to reach but fail,
And I don’t always think it’s possible on Network Rail

For some the trains are always on strike or so it seems,
And their love stories only exist in their dreams,
Others jump on the first train without paying attention,
But, of course, they get off disappointed at the next station,
Still others stress about commitment as they’re over-emotive,
For them it’s too risky to hold on to the locomotive,
And there are the adventurers who take trip after trip,
Once one story is finished onto the next page they flip,

I suffered for months after my only real journey,
We both agreed to leave, but she agreed more than me,
Since then, I hang out on the platform, watch the trains pull away
Some doors open, but for now it’s on the platform I’ll stay

It seems that train journeys end badly, more often than not,
If that’s the case for you hang on, don’t tie your heart in a knot,
Because one thing is certain there’ll always be a termin-us,
Now you’ve been warned – next time you can take the bus.

Check out the original video, you’ll see the ‘tippex moment’, lots of running for trains, some action in the loo and Grand Corps Malade taking the bus .

I like how the whole slam works with one simple metaphor that’s expanded throughout. It took a while to make the English lyrics even half as good as the French. I’ve kept the original rhyme scheme, and the same number of lines, and have only played around with the metaphors when it was necessary – it’s pretty true to the original.

The French lyrics (or ‘paroles’) can be found here:

I think this is a really typical French song – they are so proud of their super-quick TGV trains, and unlike in the UK where most users of trains are commuters, most French train travellers are recreational, weekend trips and the like.  If this was a British slammer I think there would have to have been much more about engineering works, ‘leaves on the line’ and delays!  It would certainly be less optimistic.

 If you’re a Grand Corps Malade fan (do they exist in the English-speaking world?) and have got a favourite song you would love to see translated, let me know.


41 Responses

  1. wow thanks, this is great – you even got the translation to rhyme too! my french isn’t that good but i’ve always thought that the end of “ça peut chémar” sounded awesome. anyway i’d love to see more!

  2. You did a GREAT job with your translation!!! I’m a “Grand Corps Malade fan” (or should I say a “Grand Corps Malade-aholic”?), but the translation you made is really impressive! Although being a French native speaking, I got on your website at random, attracted by your so-called translation, but adored it! Go on with the other songs, if it can help English speaking world to discover one of our prometting talented slammer/poet/singer!

  3. You did a great job ! i’m a French English student ! and i can say that the words you choose in english are as good as those in french ! i’m really impressed ! keep it up!

  4. Your translation is really good, there’s no doubt. I like the fact you translated it to show it to english-speakers, that’s a good idea. But there’s something that bothers me in what you said in the last stanza of your comments. I’m a french, I live still in France but I also know very well British countries and U.S.A as the people in those countries, so I don’t think like a narrow-minded french. Sure the TGV is a famous train but I can tell you that we’re not that proud of it. I’m sure that Grand Corps Malade didn’t want to show off whit that, maybe other strangers (for us) see that way too, wich we can totally understand but I have to disagree with this thought because I know it wasn’t the intention, he’s not the “showing off type” of guy. I hope you’ll understand and think about it. I would like to thank you for the translation, it was a good job and thank for reading me.

  5. Thank you for translating the song, I LOVE IT. i only know french at a medium level, so i couldn’t understand all the lyrics. THANK YOU. you made my day

  6. Thank you so much for translating this song….

  7. This is absolutely incredible! Perfect! Thank you so much!

  8. Fantastic job on the translation! It’s so difficult to translate french songs into english because often times it doesn’t do it justice. Thanks a bunch.

  9. Hi! I got this page from wikipedia Grand Corps Malade page. I really like your translation 😉
    I have been learning French for almost two years but I couldn’t hear what GCM was singing… not even to understand the text… Really thank you for translating them in English so i can get what the song means. Keep it up!

    ps I am a GCM fan from Hong Kong. I first found their CD in Singapore.

  10. I am a native French speaker and I really wasn’t expecting such a good translations. You were indeed able to keep most of the rhythm and mood of the story. Good job. I would like to see you translate the song “Rencontres” keep up the good work!

  11. This really is awesome! I’m studying French so I understood the original, but when I wanted to share it with my English friends I could only get the idea across, it didn’t rhyme at all – now they can enjoy it as much as me!! Thankyou 🙂

  12. Very good indeed. Just to note, I don’t think GCM refers to the TGV whatsoever. On the contrary, being from the Paris suburb, he’s more likely refering to the RER and local trains that indeed have “a next station” (TGVs almost never stop). Anyway, your translation was really good.
    One thing I can add is that the original lyrics that you translated as “It’s possible on Network Rail” are “Avec la SNCF, c’est possible” and it was the motto of the company in their adverts throughout the 90’s. I’m afraid this reference is lost in any translation…

    • I didn’t know this. Some things are impossible to translate!

  13. Merci de ce texte – c’etait genial – beau !!!
    Je voudrais vraiment voir une version anglaise du poeme Rencontres, qui est mon favori, une belle histoire imaginative

  14. Fantastic work on the translation !

    I speak fluent French and you did fantastically in terms of retaining rhyme and meaning simultaneously. Only a few little niggly things for me though, such as your translation of

    “Le ronronnement du train te saoule et chaque virage t’écoeure”

    In this context, the verb “saouler” means “to annoy” rather than “to make drunk”.

    Apart from that though, fantastic ! 🙂

    • Thanks Tim – I fixed this after your suggestion. Cheers

    • I’m French and i agree with you. It means “to annoy” 🙂

  15. Hey Fabien,

    Today is a Sunday, I’m writing you from Paris 10ème and I’ve been listening to your lyrics since I woke up. I’m hiding behind my English to express how much I appreciate you. Today we lost an hour, but listening to your slam makes me feel like I’ve won five.
    When I first listened to this song, it was two years ago and I was just off of a train. What a journey, and what a train, a kind of mix of the Orient-Express and the TGV. You can’t imagine how these lyrics overturned me. Especially this one :” on s’est quittés d’un commun accord, mais elle était pus d’accord que moi”.
    Your lyrics help me step back from my daily “train-train”, relativize on every little concern that I may have, they make me want to change the face of the world, they make me want to turn from a Hedge Fund analyst to a writer. To make it brief, your lyrics make me “kiffer”.

    Please keep on invading us with your slam and your poetry.

  16. Hi there. Your translation skills are certainly sky high. I really liked how you were able to make the lyrics rhyme in English too. I got a request for a translation of ‘Saint-Denis’. I’d be thrilled to see what you can come up with. Good luck and all the best, mec.

  17. I’m a fan of “GRAND CORPS MALADE” you really did great job to trahe lyrics , I’m from morocco I wanna say that here Grand Corps Malade have his fans , & I’m One of them
    I wanna say to him :” you’re still young , you can DO much more and get more success Coz you’re The Best
    So Keap on
    & as liverpool fans said ” YOU WILL NEVER WALK ALONE” cause we’re bihind you …..
    From : Taza , Morocco

  18. I’m Russian student and I am learning foreign languages a lot. I am fond of Grand Corps Malade, I know all his lyrics by heart.
    I’d like to thank the author, who has translated “Le voyage en train”. I think that was very difficult to save the style of Fabien, but that was done! Great!

  19. Oh, that’s GREAT you made it rhyme and it holds a lot of the original charm :O) Danke mucho bien!

  20. Hi, thanks for this translation! I would love to have the translation of “comme une évidence” and “ça peut chémar”! If you could help me, that would be great! merci x

    • translation for comme une evidence is below 😀

  21. Hi Chubba,
    Ca peut chémar. its french argo for “ca peut marché”, nearly that can be true 🙂

    Thanks for this translation of this wonderful artist !
    Since long time I want to show some this french poetic singer in France to foreign friends. Thanks to you they discover it.

    Merci pour la traduction de ce merveuilleux artist!
    Depuis longtemps je voulais faire découvrir ce chanteur poete francais à des amis étrangés. grace à toi, ils ont pu découvrir.

    A bientot


  22. Thank you, amazing translation!

  23. Nice! The translation is really good!

  24. VERY good, its quite cool how you have kept the rhyme patern as well. really well done!

  25. Love the translation, I find it soo frustrating when you trying to translate a song for your friends but you never can explain it proply, this is as close to perfection as you can get.

  26. Hey i’m studying translation and u inspired me to translate “comme une evidence”. It’s not the most faithful translation but i did my best. Here’s my version:

    I’ve been thinking from time,
    About all these words and affection that could be put in rhymes
    Something slightly different that would be about her
    I must admit that she has changed my day-to-day life into utter disorder.

    But I have a big concern; I fear what my friends will say
    I’m afraid they’ll think I’m weak, that they’ll call me names
    It’s this misogynistic arrogance to think that all pride heads off
    When you open up you heart, but this time I’m ready for the face off.

    I have another problem nonetheless
    It’s that a love poem needs to be totally flawless
    So for the next three verses I’m bringing out the arsenal
    If I write about a poem about her, it just can’t be normal

    She needs no average poem, I’m nervous and my sweat’s pouring like rain
    I’m done seeking attention with my journeys by train
    And it’s not as obvious; so this might be kind of tricky
    How do you describe what you feel when you live with a fairy?

    I must admit that her eyes have met no equal,
    Sometimes green, sometimes yellow, and I think at night they even go opal
    So when I look into them, I lose my bearings and my feet get taken off the grass
    I get lost so deep, and I purposely forget my compass

    Since I’ve met her, I’m in this incredible spot
    I often tell myself I’m lucky she liked me, if not
    I would have never known a laugh could make the world stop
    I would have never known that my day could sport her gaze as a cloth

    I’m not sure what’s going on, nothing seems to make sense
    Since she’s come into my life nothing has changed, yet it’s all so different
    She brings in so much chaos, and so much stability
    What I prefer is her strength, but better yet it’s her vulnerability.

    This is not just another couple of verses, it’s something more
    Sometimes she loves my words, but this time my words seem to love her more
    She’s in my head like a melody to my dancing wants
    Our story is not written but yet seems so evident.

    I have rediscovered to warmth of feelings
    And if you tell me I’d be better off living without them you must be lying
    So I put them in words, and too bad if my friends keep talking
    I really don’t care because in my room there is a mermaid sleeping

    I had a wild life that she has come to shatter
    I discovered a simple joy, that of just being with her
    We don’t care about demons from the past, they don’t scare us
    And if one day I could be a couple, I would choose to be the two of us

    We share smiles and sighs and drown in our hilarities
    We open ourselves up to till we blush and feed on our memories
    The future has set its traps, but they don’t scare us
    And if one day I could be a couple, I would choose to be the two of us.

    So if it’s true that words interpret what our souls say
    Mine have laid their speech to show me the way
    I’ve left the platform for a special train moving towards a new landmass
    We are flying high above the sea at a 1000 mph in comfort class.

    So if it’s true that words interpret what our souls say
    Mine have laid their speech to show me the way
    I’ve left the platform for a special train moving towards a new landmass
    We are flying high above the sea at a 1000 mph in comfort class.

  27. Hey, and yes I’m totally a fan of Grand Corps Malade (my friends don’t get it, but I LOVE his work). Could you translate “J’ai oublie” for me? Thanks a lot! I love how you translated Voyages en Trains.

  28. can you please translate Grand Corps Malade – J’Ecris A L’Oral i love it and i think i might be a fan but im not sure yet 🙂

  29. Génial! C’est tout ce que je peux vous dire! ^_^ Vous avez bien fait!! Merci pour ceci!! Est-ce que c’est possible de faire les slams suivants:

    -Midi 20
    -Les Rencontres
    -J’écris à l’oral

    S’ils sont déjà faits, pouvez-vous m’envoyez l’adresse s’il-vous-plaît?

    Merci encore! Continuez le beau travail!!

  30. Great!
    In French is another story of course. (-:D try to learn, it’s worth!
    (I’m not french by the way)

  31. Yes there are some fans in the English speaking world. I spent some time in West Africa and a friend of mine gave me the lyrics in French which I brought back to the U.S. with me. I came across them the other day and it was difficult for me to understand all of it- thanks for your translation, it flows nicely!

  32. Thanks a lot the translation is perfect, u cant imagine the number of time i ve been trying to translate that slam… Anyway thanks again

  33. Hey, super-great!) I love the song in french and i loved ur translation, it’s wonderful! Tnx a lot!
    If ur offer still stands then i’d really loved to see Romeo kiffe Juliette translated)

    • Thank you so much everyone for your very kind words and suggestions! It’s great to see that so many people appreciate Grand Corps Malade’s work and modern day poetry. Keep spreading the word! x

  34. Great Post, Thx!

  35. Hey this subject is extremely concerning. Keep it going friend !

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