Monday, December 08, 2008


"Il était un petit navire. . . il était un petit navire. . . qui n'avait ja- ja- jamais navigué, qui n'avait ja- ja- jamais navigué, o-hé, o-hé !"

I don't think I actually sang out loud, but I'm not certain I didn't hum the song stuck in an endless loop in my head this morning at the office.

You see, recently le Petit has been absorbed by his book of comptines, or French children's songs, that my husband bought for him when he was less than a month old. Although he likes to flip through the pages and study the pictures by himself, he's happiest when someone sings to him from it. He loves to bring the book over and clamber onto our laps for a private music lesson.

Alas, I'm at a significant disadvantage, since other than Frère Jacques, none of the songs were familiar to me before I had a French child. Now I've more or less memorized Petit Navire (a song about a boat), Promenons-nous dans le bois (a song about a forest and a wolf), Malbrough (about an Englishman who met an unfortunate end in battle in France), and le bon roi Dagobert (about a king with his pants on backwards) to cite just a few of my favorites.

I sing poorly, I get the tune wrong, and my verb conjugation is all over the map. My husband often has to step in and correct me. Le Petit, on the other hand, is an appreciative and patient audience. His attention span is impressive and he seems to be learning a lot. He even chimes in with "Ding Dang Dong!" when he sees the page with Frère Jacques and his brother monks.

Yet I feel like a bit of a fraud. I'm happy to say that help is on the way. My father is on a quest for an American songbook.

In the meantime, if someone can explain to me how exactly a green mouse is supposed to turn into a nice and warm escargot when dropped in oil and water, I would be grateful.

Just for my culture générale, you know.


Isabelle said...

My son used to LOVE the American songs from Barney! I don't know if Barney is still a big hit in the U.S., but he surely did the trick for a toddler raised in French.
(I still have Barney's voice in my head though, more than 10 years afterwards!!!)

Sophie, Inzaburbs said...

Ah, you need to get yourself down to the FNAC right now and get yourself one of those books with the CD stuck in the back. I have three different ones and they were the best investment I ever made. No need to sing, and you can take them along in the car.

silene said...

Delurking after reading along for several months now. I can relate to this post, although I'm in a different "navire" - bilingual francophile living in New York, teaching French to my 14-month old daughter, the Kitten (aka "la minouche"), and sorely lacking in any French "culture d'enfance". We just spent a weekend in Paris visiting all the friends who hadn't met the Kitten yet (yes, across 6 times zones for 4 days with a 14-month old - it seemed like a much better idea back in February when we planned the trip and she was 5 months old, when day and night were interchangeable...) and I bought tons of livres des comptines with CDs. I also bought a 4-volume set called something like "100 chansons pour enfants", which is great but doesn't have the words written out so I have to listen to them a few times to be sure I've got it right before I start singing to her. Our current favorite song is "Savez-vous planter les choux?" which I like because I can add body parts and keep the song going on and on.

I have no idea how he becomes an escargot, but let me know if you find out because I have wondered about that myself...

Now that I'm "out" here I'll try to comment more often - I love reading about your life (I'm a little jealous that I'm not living over there!)

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@Isabelle - Barney may end up being one of those things that pre-parenthood I swore I wouldn't touch with a ten foot stick but end up embracing anyway. Obnoxious, loud plastic toys are another. Yes, that was really me buying an electronic hammer that makes boing, boing, boing noises when pounded on the floor.

@Sophie - I think I will have to get my hands on one of those CD books. I just need to find out if I can listen to it beforehand to see if the cheesy voices will drive me mad. I already gave one CD that was just too annoying away to the other family in the garde partagée. If you have any titles you recommend, I would be grateful...

@silene, thanks for delurking! Wow, 6 time zones for 4 days with a 14 month old, I admire you. That is seriously proving your francophile credentials. Oh, and I sang Savez-vous planter les choux to le Petit just this evening to great success, once my mother-in-law got me going with the melody.

We were at my in-laws this evening when my father-in-law came home from work. Le Petit grabbed their songbook (we have two, naturally) and, looking at him purposefully, toddled up to the couch and dropped it on the cushion as if to say, "Okay, Grandpa, let's get to work!" It was quite cute.

Goddess Babe said...

Barney is a staple in our household. Miss G jumps on her trampoline while singing Barney songs.

Wee Sing has a songbook with 4 CD set that we have. I'll pull the ISBN and email you.

Mom in France said...

I bought this book for Boo and he LOVES it (almost as much as Raffi):

It's great for me too since it came with a CD so I can learn both the words and the tune! :-)

caramama said...

What about Allouette? That's the other French song I know, even if the subject matter of plucking a bird is slightly disturbing. At least it sounds good in French.

Shay said...

Whatever happened to Cadet Rousselle and Colin mon ptit frerot, or am I showing my age?