Here’s an Idea! Songs in Other Languages

Singing a familiar tune or chant in another language can enliven a Morning Meeting, be a fun energizer, and help meet the needs of the growing number of second language learners in our classrooms.

Although they sometimes laughed at my poor accent, the children in my class who were native Spanish speakers were very excited whenever I introduced a Spanish version of a song. The native English speakers also loved learning songs in a new language. For both groups, knowing the melody and the meaning of the words made the experience more successful, so I taught Spanish versions of songs we’d already learned in English.

Some songs are easy to translate. For instance, after I taught my class “Head and Shoulders” in English, I “translated” it by simply looking up the Spanish for each word on the internet, so:

Head and shoulders, baby, 1, 2, 3,
Head and shoulders, baby, 1, 2, 3,
Head and shoulders, head and shoulders,
Head and shoulders, baby, 1, 2, 3.

Waist and knees, . . .
Knees and feet, . . .

became:

Cabeza, hombros, bebè, uno, dos, tres,
Cabeza, hombros, bebè, uno, dos, tres,
Cabeza, hombros, cabeza, hombros,
Cabeza, hombros, bebè, uno, dos, tres.

Cintura, piernas, . . .
Piernas, pies, . . .

The internet also has a host of sites that offer already-translated versions of traditional English songs, chants, and rhymes. Some sites also provide audio versions! For example, I found Spanish versions of several of my kindergartners’ favorites at www.mamalisa.com.

Parents, colleagues and friends can also be resources for songs and translations. A friend helped me with this translation of “Hello, My Name Is Joe” (also known as “The Button Factory”):

Hello, my name is Joe,
And I work in a button factory.
I have a dog and a car and a family.
One day my boss came up to me,
And he said, “Joe, are you busy?”
And I said, “No.”
So, he said, “Push this button with your . . . .”

Right hand,
Left hand,
Right foot,
Left foot,
Head . . .

My Spanish version:

Hola, mi nombre es Jose,
Y trabajo para una fabrica de botones.
Tengo un perro y un carro y una familia.
Un dia mi jefe vino a mi,
Y el dijo, “Jose estas ocupado?”
Y yo dije “No”
Entonces, el dijo, “Empuja este boton con tu . . .”

Mano derecha,
Mano izquierda,
Pie derecho,
Pie izquierdo,
Cabeza . . .

(If you’re not familiar with this energizer—or even if you are—check out this video of “The Button Factory” to see how it goes, and our book, Energizers!, for more detailed lyrics and directions.)

Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.

Tags: Language Arts

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