"Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature can not do without." ~Confucius

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Frere Jacques" - One song, many languages...

I love this book (below) from our dear family in Illingen, Germany as well as the other few German song books they have given to me during their precious visits to us (Does anyone else out there like Biene Maja?).

One song in this book is the ever-popular, "Are You Sleeping?" or "Frere Jacques" or however you know it...  It's such a great song for young voices and the simplicity of the melody allows for a little more expansion in some other areas... like languages!

If you don't know this melody or are having a temporary case of amnesia, here is a link to the melody to refresh you: Go Here and click "Listen to this Song"

The English words are:
Are you sleeping, are you sleeping 
Brother John, brother John? 
Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing, 
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong. 

You can teach the song in English first adding in some motions like laying head to the side for "sleeping"

and having "bells" of any type for the "Ding Dang Dong" section.

My boys sing more willingly if they have some animals to "sing" with them.... or act as an audience....

Anyway - After they have the idea of the song down, incorporate other languages as you'd like. Today we did German, but we have done the French and Spanish versions too.... and I found a Swahili one that looks fun! :-)

So, below are a few language options for your multi-lingual learning purposes. And, you'll probably be amazed at how well your kids can speak the various words.... They're amazing little creatures, really...

I started out writing the phonetic equivalents too, but alas, it was a bit difficult to communicate. You can always cut and paste into an online translator and hear the pronunciations for yourself if you need it.

Make sure you keep the same motions/instruments with the international versions so the kids connect that the different text still means (roughly) the same thing.

French: Frere Jacques
Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques,
Dormez-vous, Dormez-vou?
Sonnez les matines, Sonnez les matines,
Din, dan, don; Din, dan, don.

German: Bruder Jakob 
Bruder Jakob, Bruder Jakob
Schlafst du noch? Schalfst du noch?  
Horst du nicht die Glocken, Horst du night die Glocken 
Ding, dang, dong; Ding dang dong 

Spanish: Fray Felipe 
Fray Felipe, Fray Felipe,
Duermes tu, Duermes tu?
Suenan las campanas, Suenan las campanas,
Ding, dang, dong; Ding, dang dong.

Swahili: Eh Yakobo 
Eh Yakobo, Eh Yakobo,
Walala, Walala?
Amka twende shule, Anka twende shule,
Haya njoo, Haya njoo.

Pig latin: r-ay ou-yay leeping-say? 
Just kidding....

Have fun!

Disclaimer.... Please forgive the imperfections in correct punctuation and accent markings... this is not meant to be a textbook-perfect rendering of each language, but enough so you have the idea of the phonetics of the words. Thanks. :-)  


  1. Hi, Marji! I am brand new to your blog and wanted to leave a comment to tell you how much I am enjoying it. I especially LOVE that you have a couple posts tagged as 'international'. I'm an overseas American and raising my three young children internationally. Having some chants/songs to do with them that reflect multiple countries really resonates with them. Thank you so very much. (And, I love your blog and the idea behind it so much, I'm including it in my favorite blogs this month! Hope you don't mind! Here's the link: http://www.anewbohemia.com/p/site-roll-august-2011_01.html#.T1t9DJi0o20)

  2. Thanks Shelby! I'm heading over to check out your blog right now! :-)