Mama Lisa's World
International Music & Culture
A place for poems, songs, rhymes and traditions from around the world for both kids and grown-ups to enjoy!
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Articles about 'Languages'
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Monique and I have been adding a lot of Drop the Handkerchief Games to Mama Lisa’s World.  This got Monique thinking about the actual meaning of handkerchief in different languages.  Here are some of her thoughts… "I was thinking about the word for handkerchief in some languages and it’s funny what they literally mean. In English,...
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The word "lagniappe" is really fantastic.  It’s a small gift given from a merchant to a customer who’s buying something. "Lagniappe" comes from the Quechua word "yapa". We have some restaurants near us that give dessert as a lagniappe.  It produces a kind of "oooh" effect when you receive it, precisely because you weren’t expecting it...
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"Pumpkin, Pumpkin" is a cute little song that’s sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star".  It’s perfect for October and Halloween. You can watch the video below and read along with the lyrics. Pumpkin, Pumpkin 1. Pumpkin, pumpkin on the ground 2. How’d you get so big and round? ...
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Can you believe that the American song "Yankee Doodle" is the music that played at the start of the revolution that lead to an Imperial Japan? ‘Yankee Doodle" is a song from prerevolutionary America. The British used it to mock the American Colonists. Then the Americans turned around and proudly claimed the song as their...
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Did you ever wonder whether specific proverbs and idiomatic expressions are still used in the English language?  Here I discuss some phrases that begin with the letter "A" and how well-known they are.  These proverbs are specifically about animals.  They can be found on the site The Phrase Finder.  The discussion here is specially from...
Joann wrote asking for help with a song she’s researching for a 90 year old friend.  Here’s her letter: Do you know of a song sung years ago in the USA, but possibly of Welsh in origin with the phrase, "Terunden, teroden"? The lady is in her mid-nineties, she gave more words but didn’t have any idea...
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Wynken, Blynken and Nod is a beloved bedtime poem about sailing in the sky in a wooden shoe and fishing for the stars.  The names "Wynken", "Blynken" and "Nod" represent a child’s sleepy eyes and head.  The wooden shoe symbolizes his bed.  He dreams of the stars while his mother sings him to sleep.  This...
Bob Anderson wrote looking for help with a Swedish childhood rhyme.  Here’s his question: Do you know of a children’s verse my dad (born 1879) used to do with the grandkids?  He would bounce them on his knees, holding their hands, and at the climax, open his knees and drop them down as if to drop...
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"The Swing" is a poem that describes something all kids have thought of while swinging… What if I went really high up on the swing? What would I see? You can read "The Swing" below and listen to a wonderful recording of it. It was recited by a boy named Willy.  MP3 Recording of The Swing The...
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Vanuatu is a country that consists of a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. There’s a kids game that’s played there called, "What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?"  This game is played throughout the English-speaking world. How to play "What’s the Time Mr. Wolf": The kids go around in a circle like a clock. They say: One,...
We are trying to find the lyrics to this lovely traditional song from Sierra Leone.  It’s in the Mende language. If anyone can help with the lyrics and/or a translation, please let us know in the comments below.  We would love to add this song to Mama Lisa’s World! Thanks! -Mama Lisa
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Mama Lisa’s World has been growing fast!  Lately we’ve made a particular push to put up more songs from Africa. Here are some of the more recent African countries we’ve added songs to on Mama Lisa’s World:  Kids Songs and Lullabies of Burkina Faso   Choosing Rhyme from Cabo Verde (Cape Verde)   Kids Songs and Lullabies from Ethiopia   Lullaby from...
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The Star Festival is held in Japan in July.  It’s called Tanabata. Tanabata means "evening of the seventh"… it takes place at night on July 7th every year.  Ayako Egawa wrote about it from Japan: "Tanabata is the Star Festival held on July 7th.  It originated in China.  We hang pretty fancy origami paper on which...
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For all of you who speak Spanish or French and are bringing up your children multilingual, check out Pluribus Linguis to see how one family goes about this ambitious task.  (The site is in French and Spanish.)  Feel free to share your own experiences bringing up multilingual kids in the comments below. Pour vous qui parlez...
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Here’s a wonderful song for preschoolers and kindergartners to learn about the head and face. This song is sung in English in Cameroon, Africa.  It was sung for us by Nyango M. Nambangi. MP3 Recording of I Have a Head I Have a Head I have a head, a head, I have a head,...
John Ziak wrote asking for help with two childhood songs: Lisa, I have been searching for sometime to find a song/nursery rhyme that my grandfather sang to me when I was young.  He passed away 16 years ago and no one in my family can remember any more words than I.  The song originates from Czech or...
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Written by Sadao Mazuka in Japan. The tune to "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" comes from Europe in the 18th century.  It has travelled all over the globe, from France, to the US, to Japan.  Here’s a breakdown of the route it’s taken… 1752 (France) – Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau composed the original tune to "Go Tell Aunt...
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Eric Hill, author of the Spot the Dog children’s books, passed away this week at 86.  Hill created Spot for his young son in 1976.  In 1980, he created the first lift-the-flap book to ever exist called "Where’s Spot?".  He came up with the "lift-the-flap" design after he had seen it on advertising flyers.  What...
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Sadao Mazuka sent us this article about the rainy season of June in Japan… June is a rainy season here in Japan.  The English word “June” gives us a feeling of bright and refreshing air, especially with a word such as, “June-Bride”.  But in Japanese, it’s “6月(Rokugatsu = June)”.  It makes us think of a rather...
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The Persian New Year is celebrated on the first day of Spring.  It’s called Nowruz.  There are many New Year traditions, including throwing grass into a river or lake.  Here’s what Fatima wrote from Iran about some New Year’s traditions: In the last month of the Iranian year people shake up the house (i.e. they clean...
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