Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chinese nursery rhymes!

Over the last few months I have been learning some Chinese nursery rhymes (童谣 tóng​ yáo) ​and children's songs to sing to Liam. Obviously it has taken some time since I have not blogged for many months!

Here are a few favorites, with my attempt at making translations that are fairly accurate and (occasionally) rhyme in English:

小白兔 Little White Bunny
This is the first rhyme I said to Liam in Chinese. I found it online and thought it was cute. Liam's reaction was that of mild distractedness.

xiǎo bái tù, bái yòu bái,

liǎng zhī ěr duo shù qĭ lái,

ài chī luó bo ài chī cài,

bèng bèng tiào tiào zhēn kě ài.  

Little white bunny, oh so white
Two little ears that stand upright
He'll eat carrots, veggies too
Jumping, hopping, cute-a-lee-doo!
(I know, "cute-a-lee-doo" is not a real word.)

摇到外婆桥 Grandma's Bridge
This is kind of a Chinese "row your boat" song. The verse below is just one of the many versions/verses.

yáo a yáo, yáo a yáo

chuán'er yáo dào wài pó qiáo

wài pó shuō hǎo bǎo bao

wài pó gěi wǒ yī kuài gāo

Row-a-row, row-a-row
To Grandma's Bridge our boat will go
Grandma says, good baby
Grandma gives some cake to me.

三轮车 Tricycle
Not the tricycle in the "Big Wheels" sense, more of a three-wheeled bike with a big platform on the back, usually piled high with vegetables, scrap iron, pig carcasses, etc.

三轮车 跑的快
sān lún chē páo de kuài

shàng miàn zuò ge lǎo tài tai

yào wǔ máo gěi yī kuài

nǐ shuō qí guài bù qí guài


The tricycle is real speedy
Ridden by an old lady
Asked for a nickel, got a buck
Isn't that just my luck?
(I played it kind of loose with this translation. The last line is more like "Isn't that weird?")

卖油条 Selling donuts
Chinese street donuts are not like Krispy Kremes. They are stretched out pieces of dough thrown into a pot of boiling oil, best enjoyed hot and dunked in a bowl of fresh soy milk. Yum!

街头巷尾 卖油条
jiē tóu xiàng wěi mài yóu tiáo

卖来卖去 卖不了
mài lái mài qù mài bú diào

huā lā lā lā lā lā

biàn chéng lǎo yóu tiáo

Selling donuts all over town
They sell and sell but never run out
La la la la la la
They become old donuts.
(I couldn't think of a good way to rhyme this.)

數字歌 Counting Song (shù zì gē)
This is a nice little song that teaches you to count to ten. Kind of like "One, two, Freddie's coming for you..." from Nightmare on Elm Street, but not scary.

yī ér sǎn, pà shàng shān

sì wǔ liù, fān gēn tou

qī bā jiǔ, pāi pí qiú

Shēn chū liǎng zhī shǒu

shí gè shǒu zhǐ tou

1,2,3, climb the mountain
4,5,6, do a somersault
7,8,9, bounce a ball
Put out your two hands
Ten fingers!
(No way this can rhyme without changing the meaning entirely)

That's it for now. See you in another six months!


Susan Moger said...

Fun! I like Grandma's Bridge! And your deft rhyme in Little White Bunny. How about a picture of you singing & Liam listening!!! Is there a Chinese Mother Goose equivalent (a collection of fun children's rhymes?)

Susan Moger said...

You proably need to update your description of self as 30-something etc.Just saying...

Siew Gin Mills said...

yao a yao.. is not row, is it? It's more of a rocking action. rock a rock? Like rock a bye baby, maybe? And what is that cute-a-lee-doo suppose to do?

Unknown said...

Hi Ben,
Great to see you're still as passionate about Mandarin as you were back at Bard 20 years ago. Not an easy skill to keep up (I should know). Well done.
Btw Lisa Raphals and her husband moved to Singapore a couple years ago. I went down there to meet up with her - our first face time in almost 20 years...
From Malaysia, all the best,
Martin K.

Patty said...

May I ask from which book these rhymes are? I am looking for such a book for a friend's child. Thanks.

Mahesh MSA said...

Thanks for the nice blog. It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for.
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