- - this song has sheet music
- Midi - this song has a Midi tune
- MP3 - this song has an MP3 recording
- - this song has a Video recording
The Languages of South Africa
There are approximately 25 different languages spoken in South Africa, 11 of which are official: isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, siSwati, Sesotho, Sepedi, Setswana (Tswana), Tshivenda, Xitsonga, English and Afrikaans.
About the Afrikaans Language
Afrikaans is one of the major languages of South Africa. It is based on Zuid-Hollands, a dialect spoken by the earliest Dutch settlers. Its vocabulary has been enhanced by borrowings from various other European and African languages and its grammar has been simplified.
About The Nursery Rhymes
Many of the nursery rhymes listed on this page correspond to similar rhymes in the English Mother Goose tradition. My friend and correspondent, Marietjie Herselman, an Afrikaans speaking mother of three, has commented:
"I can't say for sure whether these rhymes have been passed on for a few generations but I can tell you that they have been around since I was a baby and my mother knew them. You'll find them in almost every nursery rhyme book in Afrikaans and all the kids know them... they are very popular in Afrikaans."
- There are many variations in different languages of "mother" and "father". These are formal words that people use when referring to their parents. But most words used to address our parents directly are less formal. In the US, most people don’t say "mother’ and "father" when talking to their parents. Even when I was a kid... Read more »
- Here Come Our Mothers Bring Us Presents is a traditional Zulu children's song that's sung by Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Here are the lyrics with the Zulu part phonetically written... Here come our mothers, bringing us presents Ngci bo, Ngci bo, Nampayano mame * We can see apples, we can see bananas... Read more »
- Caryl wrote: Lisa, What a wonderfully rich site you have! I came across it while searching for the lyrics to a song that I heard at a children’s school in South Africa. I was wondering if you knew about this song. It’s a counting song about calabashes. The lyrics that I remember talked about having... Read more »
- Frances Turnbull from Musicaliti saw my post about British traditions and wrote to me about an interesting African one. Here’s what she said: Thanks for this – so easy to take it all for granted! It also reminded me of an African tradition that my dad adopted when we lived in South Africa. In Africa... Read more »
- Rose wrote me asking about the Afrikaans version of Brahms’ Lullaby that’s sung in South Africa… Dear Lisa, When I was a baby in Joburg, my mom used to sing a Brahms lullaby… Slaap my kindkie slaap sag, onder rose fannaag, iers die armpies on my neck, en dan warmpies toe gedek, more frieg as God vill, word my kindkie ge vek Sorry... Read more »
- Emanuela wrote to me asking about an Afrikaans song: Hello Lisa, I'm looking for the full lyrics to the little tune “Ek borsel my tande...” I've been singing it to my niece to encourage her to brush her little teeth, but I only know I tiny part of it. I'm wondering whether you might know... Read more »
- This is a protest song and it is traditionally sung at funerals. It was important during the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Senzenina means “What have we done” with the implication “what did we do to deserve this?” (Also spelled “senzeni na”.) Here you can see the original lyrics, with an English translation... Read more »
- Miriam Makeba sadly passed away this month. She was 76 years old. Makeba was a wonderful singer from South Africa. She was born in Johannesburg in 1932. She started singing in a choir as a child and by the age of 22 she was a professional singer. In 1959, she... Read more »
- Shirley emailed me looking for different versions of The Itsy Bitsy Spider. Here’s what she wrote: I am desperately seeking 3-4-5 versions (songs) of Itsy Bitsy Spider for an around the world float. Shame on me I left that chore until last and now I am having trouble. I’ve gotten English and Spanish. Please... Read more »
- Heather was nice enough to send me a few recordings of some American children’s songs that she did. She sent me mp3’s of the following songs: I’m Popeye the Sailor Man (Spoof) Don’t Put Your Trash in My Backyard/Fish and Chips and Vinegar Animal Fair Home on the Range/Oh Give Me a Home (the regular song and a... Read more »