petite anglaise

February 9, 2007

Friday project

Filed under: Tadpole sings — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:21 am

After a bumper post-bathtime recording session yesterday, I now have enough Tadpole tracks laid down to launch her musical career. Better get her myspace page up quick smart. In the meantime, however, I’ll be rationing her songs over several Fridays.

The first in the series “il était un petit chat” is a charming song with a sensible message (cats must listen to their parents) which is sung in the archaic past historic tense. A tense never spoken, only written, which my A Level teacher said there was no point actually learning as long as I was able to recognise it.

Almost every French library book Tadpole has brought home from the school library has been written in the past historic tense, however, a fact which I find perplexing. Verb conjugations are tough enough at the best of times (“papa j’ai ouvri la porte!”) without learning tenses which mummy doesn’t even know.



  1. How cute. My French isn’t good enough to understand much except the meows but her obvious enjoyment was a pleasure to listen to. Hope she knows ‘Il etait une Bergere’ as that’s one I was taught and I’d love to hear her version – giggles and all.

    Comment by sablonneuse — February 9, 2007 @ 11:06 am

  2. Re French grammar – to get what I need, I will often play down my French as the majority of fonctionnaires are amazingly helpful to someone making an effort, but obviously not yet fully up to speed with procedures. However, anyone who dares assume I’m just another stupid foreigner, gets a swift dose of conditional subjunctive.

    You must have done your studies a while later than me as I remember having to transpose pieces from perfect to historic. (Can’t anymore though!) As an aside, Have you noticed how many of the books for Tadpole’s age are translated from the English or Dutch original?

    Comment by j — February 9, 2007 @ 11:24 am

  3. A quick Google turns up the words:

    (which I didn’t understand either, but since my French is rubbish that’s not too surprising).

    My bilingual niece (Spanish/English) tends to entertain the Spanish relatives with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which, thinking about it, is also in slightly odd English – “how I wonder”

    Comment by katie — February 9, 2007 @ 11:37 am

  4. *prolonged applause*

    Take a bow, Tadpole. That was a delight to hear.

    Comment by Z — February 9, 2007 @ 11:40 am

  5. My dad recorded my brother and I singing along to nursery rhymes when we were children – the tape was kicking around the house for years and he delighted in playing it at inopportune moments, designed to cause maximum embarrassment.

    I look forward to doing the same when I have a family – recording cute vocals I mean – not deliberately shaming them in front of unsuitable boyfriends of course :)

    Comment by stressqueen — February 9, 2007 @ 12:17 pm

  6. I can’t make it work for some reason but I’m sure she sounds lovely. I used to like singing “Sur le pont d’avignon” when I was at school. Tadpole’s command of two languages puts me to shame but as much as I adore my native language I have to admit (rather reluctantly) that I have no desire to learn another. I think I’m quite representative of my fellow countryman in that respect unfortunately. So when I go to France schoolgirl French comes with me…my father would turn in his grave but there we are!

    Comment by Sue — February 9, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  7. I don’t really know which times you call archaic but in this song it’s mostly ‘Imparfait’, which is still often used in sentences ala ‘T’etais ou ? Qu’est-ce que tu faisais ?’

    To which ‘net addicts answer ‘DTC. Rien’

    As for ‘passe simple’, the ‘Le chat vit une mouche’, it’s now often replaced (in read or written form) by ‘passe compose’.

    ‘Passe simple’ is also used to compose another archaic tense ‘subjonctif passe’: ‘je vis le petit chat’ => ‘il fallait que je le visse’

    You’ll only find it in litterature (in spoken language it becomes ‘il fallait que je le voie’)

    It’s used sometimes in spoken language to give an archaic funny sound (or as an adult pun for some verbs such as ‘savoir’ :)

    Comment by Pierre — February 9, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

  8. My sprog doesn’t talk she sings. Maybe I should start recording her too. She could be the next Regina Spektor!

    Comment by Lux Lisbon — February 9, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

  9. Ah, the past historic. I never bothered to learn it either and never missed it until my daughter needed help with her French homework.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — February 9, 2007 @ 1:01 pm

  10. l-o-v-e the miaows … and she just sounds so cute!

    Comment by belle — February 9, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

  11. awww, that is adorable. i can’t believe how bilingual she is at such a young age! too cute!

    Comment by Rachel — February 9, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

  12. As usual, I’m absolutely charmed :)

    Now I have two reasons to look forward to Fridays – one being the weekend, of course, and the other is to listen to Tadpole’s latest offering!

    Thanks for the smiles :)

    Comment by Kasey — February 9, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  13. so cute!

    can you post a translation, even though it’s fun to listen to without it?

    Comment by franko — February 9, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

  14. Hello Petite! How sweet! I wish it was already next week to hear the next one!!

    But to your information: past historic tense is a so-called “narrative tense”, and quite every child book is written in this tense… And I would say quite every novel too… I think it is a very nice tense, and it’s a shame your teacher said you won’t need it… even if he was right: in your everyday life you definitely WON’T need it!

    Comment by Séverine — February 9, 2007 @ 4:13 pm

  15. aww, that is SO adorable! heh, better get that myspace page up – I’ll bet she’ll have lots of fans :P

    Comment by Dhi — February 9, 2007 @ 4:33 pm

  16. Cute!

    Comment by Sergio — February 9, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  17. lily allen – watch yer back!

    Comment by mad muthas — February 9, 2007 @ 5:37 pm

  18. She’s sooo cute!

    Comment by Victoria — February 9, 2007 @ 5:39 pm

  19. My rooten day was brighten up by Tadpole’s meows…a very masterly interpretation!

    Comment by Momo — February 9, 2007 @ 6:22 pm

  20. now can we have a clip en anglais!! :)

    Comment by dana — February 9, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

  21. a real pleasure !hope to hear another ones soon!

    Comment by marypaule — February 9, 2007 @ 7:15 pm

  22. Does the first verse say that “he was a little cat who didnt listen to mum nor dad”? and was the second something about playing in a cup of milk? Or is my french in need of improvement?

    Comment by Whisper — February 9, 2007 @ 8:39 pm

  23. Thanks to my idiot boss I’ve had a really bad week and a near permanent scowl. But thanks to Tadpole my weekend has started with a happy smile!

    Comment by Nigel — February 9, 2007 @ 8:48 pm

  24. That is adorable. Could only pick out parts of it but I have a feeling that is due to my lack. Kids are the hardest for me to understand. They speak simply but their accents usually throw me for a loop.

    Is a transcript possible?

    Comment by mpcc — February 9, 2007 @ 9:05 pm

  25. C’est vrai, trop de passé historique fait vieillir, mais ne le trouverais vous pas dommage de ne plus comprendre par exemple:

    maman fit caca sur le chat
    maman fit cacou sur Minou?

    take it away Tadpole

    Comment by Penny in Amsterdam — February 9, 2007 @ 9:16 pm

  26. Tadpole is always amusing. Though, I never had any idea what she’s singing. These make me smile & laugh. Just lovely, thanks for sharing with us.

    Comment by Diane — February 9, 2007 @ 9:19 pm

  27. Awwwww! They grow up so fast. That was wonderful. You’ll be so pleased to have it a few years down the road.

    Comment by Sophmom — February 9, 2007 @ 10:05 pm

  28. Absolutely wonderful!!

    For those that are interested..

    Il était un petit chat
    Miaaa-ou, miaaa-ou
    Il était un petit chat
    Qui n’écoutait
    Ni Maman ni Papa

    Un jour dans sa tasse de lait
    Miaaa-ou, miaaa-ou
    Un jour dans sa tasse de lait
    Oh! Il vit une mouche qui buvait !

    Le p’tit chat veut l’attraper…
    Oh! mais la mouche s’est envolée.

    Le p’tit chat fit un grand saut…
    Oh! et chavira la tasse de lait

    La maman est arrivée
    Pan pan, pan pan !
    Et le p’tit chat prit la fessée

    Comment by David in London — February 9, 2007 @ 10:45 pm

  29. The gist of this song is:

    there was once a cat who didn’t listen to mum and dad
    one day there was a fly in his bowl of milk
    cat ill advisedly tried to catch it
    fly flew out of the window
    cat jumped up and fell out of window into a bucket of water
    he came out of the water shivering
    NOW he listens to his mum

    (I left out the miaows)

    ps Tadpole’s version appears to deviate from the one mentioned above towards the end, with no mention of spankings. A politically correct modern version, perhaps?

    Comment by petite — February 9, 2007 @ 10:48 pm

  30. Great tunes! Where’s the link to the myspace page (lol).

    Comment by T-Shirts — February 9, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

  31. Tadpole’s singing is sooooo cute and the giggles are absolutely infectious :D What a way to end the week. I liked it so much that I had to listen twice!

    Thank you both very much.

    Comment by California Reader — February 9, 2007 @ 11:39 pm

  32. Petite, we want our children to be better than us in all ways, to have more opportunities. If this includes using an archaic past tense, well then, Vive la France!

    Comment by anton — February 9, 2007 @ 11:40 pm

  33. Really cute.

    And one should learn and use the passé simple: it’s really a nice tense to hear or read.


    Comment by Adrienhb — February 10, 2007 @ 1:14 am

  34. I have to say that for a first generation immigrant you’re not doing too badly on the language caper.
    But please stop being so massively impressed with the normal development of your (otherwise delightful) child. You’ll create a monster out of your p&j if you don’t. Have another one for gawd’s sake and get some perspective.

    Only joking (i think).

    Comment by andrew — February 10, 2007 @ 1:31 am

  35. Dear Tadpole,

    I have six cavities. I’ve had one root canal. I don’t floss consistently. Your songs are quite sugary, indeed, prompting me to voice my concern for my own dental health. I ask that you not continue to melt my stony, frigid, NY heart with your sugar-sweet, Frenchie-laced chansons, as I am sure to fall prey to yet another cavity. Or a root canal.

    Thank you.


    Comment by Mlle Smith — February 10, 2007 @ 6:27 am

  36. petite, i just had to laugh. i hit play, and my cat harry, who was sitting right by my computer, shot up, his ears perked up like a wild fox’s, frowned, and listened suspiciously at the computer until i turned the volume down. hysterical. guess the cat didn’t like the song about the cat. i, on the other hand, found it SWEET!!!

    Comment by chris — February 10, 2007 @ 10:28 am

  37. We were told the same as you – that there was no point learning to conjugate the passé simple, even though (as I found out later) it is heavily used in literature.

    I guess at school, they are trying to teach you to communicate first and foremost. And people do not communicate using the passé simple!

    Comment by anxious — February 10, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  38. Tadpole is just adorable! You must keep this for her to hear when she is all grown up, it is just lovely! She sings like a little French Shirley Temple!

    Comment by spymum — February 10, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  39. It does sound like she has an admirable grasp of grammar for one so young so may not have to pore over her Bescherelle for years to come like the other kids. Said book is the bible of French grammar, and as such, owning one used to be de rigueur for any pupil years ago. Just the sight of its then orange cover was enough to induce a panic attack in my nerdy, eager to please 10 year-old self. I conjugated my little knee-high socks off every night with it!

    Comment by Ariel — February 10, 2007 @ 1:27 pm

  40. Your A-level French teacher meant, I’m sure, that it wasn’t necessary for YOU to learn the simple past(as a beginning student). Its tone is similar to the avoidance of contractions in English – “can’t” and “isn’t” are rarely used in formal writing, but are necessary in conversation. Virtually all published material uses the simple past unless there’s a specific reason the author wants to sound conversational.

    Comment by Jeff in Pennsylvania — February 10, 2007 @ 1:41 pm

  41. andrew – I challenge any parent not to be massively impressed when their child demonstrates that they have learnt something new. And yes, would love to have a Tadpole #2, there is just the small matter of finding his/her father before my ovaries shrivel up.

    Comment by petite — February 10, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

  42. You’ve got a few years before the shrivelling phase yet P! Don’t worry!


    Comment by Sally Lomax — February 10, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  43. Listened to Tadpole twice to fully appreciate the cuteness of the song – especially the meows. Don’t think I sounded that cute with my childhood renditions of frere jacques!! Can’t wait to hear more…

    Comment by Catkin — February 10, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

  44. That is so cute….Petite, what do you use to record Tadpole? I, too, have a soon-to-be bilingual daughter, and am looking forward to recording her also!

    Comment by carolyn — February 10, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

  45. I’m actually recording using the pre-installed garageband software on the Mac these days, using the internal microphone on my MacBook. Afterwards I take out the bit I want to use and eliminate all the minutes of me saying “no, louder, hey, take your hands out of your mouth”, make it into an mp3 file and upload it to hipcast.

    Before I got the mac I had a microphone plugged into the PC and I used a free recording and editing program called Wavepad.

    Comment by petite — February 10, 2007 @ 7:05 pm

  46. Absolutely right to be massively impressed by her – and may you continue to do so.

    Now, Andrew, a question – do you have any children…?

    Comment by Sarah — February 10, 2007 @ 11:12 pm

  47. That was absolutely adorable! I nearly cried, hearing that. Bravo, mademoiselle Tadpole! : )

    Comment by jules — February 11, 2007 @ 12:14 am

  48. Your daughter sounds incredible, and I adore the story of the song.

    Comment by Morgan — February 11, 2007 @ 12:17 am

  49. Beautiful, just beautiful! You’ll love to listen to this when she is a teenager (& older). The time when they are this precious flies oh so quickly!

    Love to visit your blog!

    We’ll be back soon.

    I’ll just sign this as Georgia Peach longing for Parii!

    Comment by WONDER WOMAN — February 11, 2007 @ 12:59 am

  50. Thanks so much for the translation of the song!

    Comment by Diane — February 11, 2007 @ 2:12 am

  51. My question, then, is if books are written in past historic, and one does not speak past historic, how is one to read such books aloud?

    I have always been confused by that…

    Comment by Emma Catherine — February 11, 2007 @ 5:18 am

  52. A Level French and its teachers have obviously changed. In the far-off days when I took it, we were not excused the passe simple. How would we have understood the literature, the newspapers, and the magazine articles we were expected to read without it? And if one reads anything much in French, how can one not absorb the passe simple. I can only suppose that your langue is firmly in your joue when you call it a tense that “mummy doesn’t even know”.

    Comment by Passante — February 11, 2007 @ 3:52 pm

  53. But when are you going to give us a song. :-)

    Comment by fjl — February 11, 2007 @ 4:38 pm

  54. Passante – well, I can read it obviously, as the shelf of French books looking at me right now can testify, but I would struggle to produce sentences in the passé simple myself, it’s something I can recognise, but never actually learnt by heart.

    Comment by petite — February 11, 2007 @ 7:23 pm

  55. I don’t understand but maybe 3 words in French. (the catholic boarding school the government forced my french-canuck-mohawk-onondaga father to live at actually used to beat him for speaking french and mohawk.)

    But what was obvious in your recording was the pure joy in this baby’s voice. (she hold’s a tune quite well, too!)

    This is the most enjoyable post I’ve come across in 2 weeks.

    Thank you!

    Comment by catnapping — February 11, 2007 @ 9:40 pm

  56. Il fût un temps… when as a child in school in France (about ten years ago) I had to learn every known tense of one verb per day, from a little book called the “Bescherelle” This book is still universally hated by every school kid in the land…

    In ten years living here, the only person known to have used the past simple tense in public (ie. on TV) is the FN leader. Not sure what one should think of that!

    Comment by Greenmantle — February 11, 2007 @ 11:22 pm

  57. I loved King Negrito in the link of the week, even if many of the references pass me by. Of course I might not have bothered with the link if I had realised it said ‘Les Bobos’ not, as my glance seemed to suggest, ‘Les Boobs’.

    Comment by laurence — February 12, 2007 @ 11:27 am

  58. I guess I’m going to have to dig out my old copy of the Grevisse book on French grammar to see what the fuss is about with all these tenses. I don’t remember learning all that when I was at school in Quebec, but then that was a very long time ago.

    Comment by Pierre L — February 12, 2007 @ 1:04 pm

  59. Adorable! In this technological age we must record as much as we can. This is especially true for children as they change so fast. I have been meaning to record all my babies laughing and never have, the smallest one just has a tiny bit of that baby chuckle left and now of course the video camera is broken…..arrgghhh!

    Comment by Helena Frith Powell — February 12, 2007 @ 3:41 pm

  60. I loved the Les Bobos vid too … a reference to a new class that has sprung up everywhere I think…

    Comment by Victoria — February 12, 2007 @ 6:04 pm

  61. Tadpole a une très jolie voix; la preuve? Tout à l’heure, comme j’écoutais cet enregistrement, qui est-ce qui arrive dans mon bureau et me met les pattes sur la cuisse, très intéressé? Beautiminou en personne, Léolo de son vrai nom, le chat d’un de mes oncles en voyage. Léolo aime beaucoup m’entendre chanter; mais là, j’ai une rivale!

    Et voilà, encore : je viens de tenter une expérience, en remettant la chanson. Beautiminou, pour la première fois, est grimpé sur mon bureau – pour l’entendre de plus près! Il se promène entre les deux haut-parleurs! Et maintenant il ronronne… Non mais, it’s a hit! (Je n’ai pas le même succès avec l’histoire des “trois petits minous ayant perdu leurs mitaines”, je vous jure.)

    C’est bien d’encourager votre petite fille à chanter; ce cadeau-là va lui procurer de la joie sa vie durant.

    Comment by Choubine — February 12, 2007 @ 11:24 pm

  62. “Nearly cried” (#47) hum, not sure about that… however I happened to play this to my daughter and she has already requested several repeats & is particularly impressed by “il écoutait sa maman” at the end. I’m sure there’s a business opportunity here for the under ten market !
    How exciting to see a comment from H. Frith Powell, saw the book in WHS, looks fab !

    Comment by Kate — February 13, 2007 @ 8:10 am

  63. I happened to play that recording without realising that our cat was asleep on the futon at the end of the desk. As soon as it started, he woke up, sat bolt upright and looked for the source of the small voice. When he worked out it was the computer, he sat in front of it and pawed at the screen.

    I think Tadpole can take it as a compliment. Although, with cats, you never know….

    Comment by morgalou — February 13, 2007 @ 11:52 am

  64. I enjoyed tadpole’s singing SO MUCH….have really been having a tough time, and decided to just check in to see what you’ve been up to, and i must say my day is brighter for it!

    i took level 1 french lessons at the Alliance Francaise in South Africa and the first book i was told to buy was Bescherelle’s complete guide to conjugating 12 000 French verbs….quite formidable!
    and confusing!!

    wish i could just get someone to practise with more often….

    i will definately be visiting here more often to hear the delightful tadpole!

    Comment by Suzanne — February 13, 2007 @ 1:26 pm

  65. Bescherelle? Isn’t it is the “bible” in schools, as well as the Bled books. DD has Bescherelle Conjugasion. She did have the Bled Junior which has since found a new home (“I’m 11 Mum. I don’t need it any more!”). Could Tadpole be the next Kylie :-)

    Comment by Clare in France — February 13, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

  66. I love the ‘miaow’ at the 49-second mark – Tadpole really hits her stride!

    Comment by Brian — February 14, 2007 @ 10:38 pm

  67. OOH, Andrew (#34)… don’t be so such a grump… every little step a child takes (normal, abnormal, supernormal, whatever)IS a miracle — and petite hasn’t lost her sense of wonder at it all, thank goodness! What a lucky girl tadpole is to have such an adoring mummy, and what a lucky girl petite is to have such an adorable daugher… I’m a single mum of a (now older than tadpole) bilingual daughter too — and these stories press all my nostalgia buttons! Keep them coming!

    Comment by kitikat — February 15, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

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