This is a guest post written by our friend, Lisa Yannucci. Her website, Mama Lisa’s World, is one of our favorites and is the internet’s go-to site for children’s songs and rhymes from around the world.
Parents and teachers often write me asking for suggestions about activities they can perform with kids to stimulate their interest in different cultures.
When I do presentations in classrooms and scout troops, one activity I’ve found that children love is singing Frère Jacques in different languages.
The song Frère Jacques is sung by kids in their native languages all over the globe. And kids everywhere know the tune. That makes it ideal to introduce children to international culture.
You just have to provide them with lyrics to different versions in the original languages with translations into English (or their native language). You can also bring in recordings of the song on your laptop or an iPhone with speakers.
After you hand out the lyrics, you can have the kids sing Frère Jacques in the language they know it in. In the US, we learn it in French so we sing the original version first. Then I provide an English version for the children to sing which is basically a translation of the French. This allows them to understand what the song means in French. After they sing the English version, I have them sing it in a language that’s popular to learn here, like Spanish.
Next, I’ll present the children with the song in a language that’s more difficult to pronounce, like Korean or Chinese. They love to see that language in its non-Roman text because it’s so exotic looking. Below the original text I provide the pronunciation so they can try to sing it. Kids love this! We sing it a couple of times so they can get a sense of pronouncing this new and difficult language.
Finally, if you can record them singing the song and play it back to them, they can hear how good they sound. You can use an iPhone or Android phone, with a portable speaker to do this easily.
I’ve found the children really enjoy this activity, and every time I present it I get the sense that they have a newfound interest in foreign languages and cultures.
Here’s a link to a pdf printout that you can use in your presentation.
Here are some versions of Frère Jacques in different languages:
- Frère Jacques in French with mp3’s
- Martinillo, the Spanish version, with an mp3 recording
- Two Tigers, the Chinese version, with mp3’s
Lisa Yannucci is the publisher of Mama Lisa’s World, the internet’s premier destination for children’s songs from around the globe and for discussions of international culture. It covers the songs of over 125 countries and features a major collection of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes. Lisa also publishes a line of books and apps devoted to global songs and traditions. She lives on Long Island, New York with her husband and two children.