Since childhood, I’ve loved languages and fantasized about being fluent in at least 7 or 8. The notion of being able to converse in every language was so intriguing. Each language has its own beauty and it fascinates me that there are so many complex systems, sounds and symbols created for communication. So far, I have learned to speak English, French and Cantonese (along with studies in German, Spanish and Indonesian) but I see that I won’t have time to study as many languages as I would like in this lifetime.
Thus in 2008, I had the idea of learning a lullaby, nursery song or simple ballad in another language whenever I am traveling or whenever I meet someone who is willing to teach me. The melodies of lullabies or children’s songs are often very sweet and the lyrics are easy to memorize. Plus, these songs are often part of that culture’s collective consciousness in a nostalgic way. I wanted to learn songs that almost all the people in that culture would know (rather than a modern pop song) and a song that was from a time of innocence (not involving politics, dogma or religion). To begin, I recorded my masseuse in Thailand singing a Thai lullaby and my language tutor in Bali singing an Indonesian nursery rhyme while traveling that winter.
6 Reasons To Learn A Lullaby In Another Language:
1) To Express your love of language and your appreciation for the different tribes in the world.
2) To taste a bit of the diverse linguistic beauty that exists… enjoying the different sounds rolling off the tongue. (without having to study the language)
3) To glimpse into the heart of far-off peoples and lands in a whimsical and sweet way.
4) To share a beautiful gesture of peace and friendship with someone in another culture.
5) To have an innocent and playful way to interact with someone in another culture. (often they will join you in the song)
6) To teach others these songs and continue the oral tradition.
If you wish to share a lullaby or a sweet song that you know accurately in another language:
1) Choose song that is less than 3 minutes (shorten it by a few stanzas if needed).
2) Record yourself singing the song and upload your video or audio file online (e.g. youtube.com or vimeo.com) and email me the link
3) Let me know what language it is in but send the lyrics written as English or French phonetic sounds
*This is your best interpretation of the sounds using English or French spellings.
e.g. Kizhi in Malayalam is spoken somewhat like “Kirree” in English phonetics or “Kiri” in French phonetics
4) If possible, also send the full text of the song in its original language.
*Send as an image or PDF file if the characters cannot be displayed correctly on an English language computer.
Fun Extras if you are able:
1) A short statement about the history or origin of this song.
2) Some links to the song on youtube (done by others) as additional reference.
Note: My email address for this project is: Evolution@littlewoo.org