Raising multicultural and multilingual children is not a very easy task and translating favorite rhymes into other language isn’t easy either.
Beside always wondering with what identity the children will end up, whether they will be culturally confused, how to make parenting styles of spouses match and work for the best of the family, there are so many little issues that arise every day.
One of the things I always wondered about since I started learning languages is how to translate and adapt songs, poems, nursery rhymes, favorite stories and fairy tales into different languages. I love translating and interpreting hence I never stop!
While working as a kindergarten ESL teacher I found it easy and more fun to try and translate children’s favorite nursery rhymes and simple songs into English. It always worked well and children enjoyed singing along the familiar tunes.
Now that I have my own children I try doing the same for them.
Here is an example of a song I translated for my students from Chinese into English and which my older daughter sings for her own sister:
Lian zhi xiao wa wa ya
Zhen de da dien hua ya
Wei wei wei ni za na li ya
Ei ei ei wo zai you er yuan
Two little children
Talking on the phone
Hello hello where are you?
Hello hello I’m at my school
It’s and easy easy and catchy tune.
Here’s another rhyme which I translated for my baby yoga and English fun class:
It’s raining it’s raining
Come out and let’s play
Xiao yu xiao yu
Lai yi qi wan
I used this rhyme to play a rain game, and the 1.5-2.5 year olds loved it!
In my humble opinion, and experience, it is not very hard to adapt popular songs and nursery rhymes to a foreign language. It doesn’t mean to forget common for the language and culture own nursery rhymes.
Try it and let me know how it goes!
Varya blogs at Creative World of Varya. She is a mom to 2 girls, early development specialist, baby massage and perinatal fitness instructor, breastfeeding consultant. Varya has been living in China for the past 12 years working and raising her multicultural family.
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15 thoughts on “Friday Sharing: Translating favorite rhymes into other languages”
Love the idea and I also translate songs into Polish, or translate them for my husband into German. I have recently translated a song from Dutch into Polish and my girl loved it! What a great post, Varya, thank you! I also write my own nursery rhymes and songs, although I must say they pretty much write themselves!
Thanks Olga! The idea is not new and it is so natural! We should record our musings and share!!!!
This is such a great idea Varya! Thank you for sharing some of your translations here!
You are welcome! And thank you for reading!
hi ,dear ..thanks for sharing your excellent ideas .
Thank you dear Joy!
You are very creative. I always sing a Russian lullaby to my daughter. She can sing it back to me, but she doesn’t understand the words. Perhaps I can try to rhyme it in English and see how it goes 🙂
Have you tried yet? I’m curious how she reacted!
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Varya what a great post, and a wonderful idea. I have yet to translate my son’s favorite nursery rhymes into Spanish. Thanks for the idea! Thank you for submitting this post to last month’s multilingual carnival! http://discoveringtheworldthroughmysonseyes.blogspot.com/2013/10/raising-multilingual-children-blogging.html
Thank you! Hope both of you enjoy it!
Love your blog! I’m so happy you included Chinese. My own daughter is learning so much from the ayi. She is becoming quite comfortable in both languages. A few corrections and then you can totally delete my comment: When you write “Lian zhi xiao wa wa ya” it’s actually “Liang ge xiao wa wa ya.” The pinyin of “two” is “liang” and “ge” is the appropriate measure word for children. “Zhi” is usually reserved for animals for example.
Also in “Xiao yu xiao yu“， it’s actually “Xia yu xia yu”. “Xia” means fall and “yu” is rain so it’s literally falling rain, for “it’s raining”. “Xiao” means small which makes the phrase a bit poetic but not right for this intended meaning. Can’t wait to explore more of your blog!
Thank you, Vanessa! What a sweet comment! I just want to add that the words are given word by word from “children’s” language/sleng of a sort. I often here “zhi” used instead of “ge” and in the word rain while as you pointed out it is “xia yu” somehow often sung as “xia-o” or ” xiao”. Thank you again for stopping by and commenting!!!
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