petite anglaise

January 26, 2008


Filed under: Tadpole sings — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:18 am

Tadpole has a Chinese classmate called Evelyne. Evelyne didn’t start the moyenne section in September with the rest of the class. Her name was on the register from day one, but she only arrived shortly after the Christmas holidays.

Every schoolday, when I stumble down the hill to drop off Tadpole, jeans and a jumper hastily thrown on over my silk nuisette, bed hair crying out for a comb, we are greeted by the same sorry sight. Evelyne, crying inconsolably in the arms of Tadpole’s teacher, her eyes tightly closed as though she wants to make the world, or herself, disappear.

“Why is Evelyne so sad?” I ask Tadpole.

“Well,” Tadpole replies. “La Maîtresse says that she was nice in China and she doesn’t want to visit Paris. She doesn’t know how to speak French. She speaks always Chinese and she doesn’t understand us.”

“Perhaps you could try saying some words to her in Chinese,” I suggest. “It might make her feel better if she sees you are being friendly…”

Tadpole has been attending a Chinese class after school once a week since September. It’s a very informal affair, where she seems to eat more Chinese sweets than anything else, but that’s fine by me, because it’s just supposed to be a fun activity, and a way of helping her to understand the culture of many of the children in her class. Aside from being able to say “hello”, “goodbye” or “thank you”, she doesn’t seem to have retained a great deal, so far. I’m grateful for those few words, however, when we take a seat in one of our favourite Belleville haunts and Tadpole mounts a charm offensive on our unsuspecting Chinese waiter. Speedy, attentive service is guaranteed once Tadpole has wrapped the staff around her little finger.

Her repertoire of songs in Mandarin, on the other hand, is pretty impressive, even if she can be somewhat vague about the meaning of what she is singing. In the Tadpolecast which follows, there are three songs, and here is what I was able to glean:

1) “It talks about two tigers. One of the tigers has only one eye. The other has no tail. Or maybe it’s one tiger with one eye and no tail. I can’t remember, mummy.”

2) “It’s about a pair of ducks. The fisherman is fishing for them.” (No doubt they end up crispy? Yum.)

3) The first bit means “I dance, I dance” and the second bit means “I sing, I sing.”



  1. PS : I can’t believe how Yorkshire I sound when I speak to Tadpole. Scary.

    Comment by petite — January 26, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  2. Tadpole is going to kick some Miley Cyrus butt when she gets her record deal and her own show on some kids/tween network. And as someone who moved to the the US at the age of 8, I am very happy that you asked Tadpole to relate to her new classmate instead of reacting like the stupid little boy who was appalled and threw a fit when I didn’t know the words to the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

    Comment by Vonn Einstein — January 26, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  3. I thought exactly the same thing – especially when you said “duck” :)

    Comment by anxious — January 26, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  4. The multitalented Tadpole – how cute. Your accent is cool too.

    Comment by HM — January 26, 2008 @ 11:02 am

  5. A new star is born !
    I enjoyed her performance so much. Thanks

    Comment by hilde — January 26, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

  6. Tadpole is so talented.

    I just wanted to tell you what she’s actually singing.

    The first song is not about tigers, but about friends…
    looking, looking, looking for a friend, found a “good friend” (or best friend); take a bow, shake hands; you’re my best friend; goodbye!

    I couldn’t quite understand the second one. I think it’s about birds, and counting them.

    The last one is happy new year. The first part which tadpole describes as “I dance, I dance” is “happy new year” and the second part is “wishing everyone”.
    Happy New Year, happy new year;
    wishing everyone a happy new year;
    we all sing, we all cheer;
    happy new year everyone!

    She is absolutely precious.

    Comment by pax — January 26, 2008 @ 12:10 pm

  7. Rosy (aged 4) was entranced by Tadpole’s singing – and wants me to set up our PC so she can sing ‘Twinkle, twinkle’ to her grandparents and cousins in Languedoc. Now. Today. And Milly (also 4) can sing back in French. Ireland to France communication – it didn’t happen like this when I were a lass!

    Comment by joanne — January 26, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

  8. Wonderful!!!! since i’m a malaysian chinese, i’d understand all the words she said!! Her pronounciation is really good for someone her age (as most children have problems pronouncing certain words).

    Please tell her Jie Jie (grand soeur) Pau-Lynn wishes her a very Xin Nian Kuai Le (Bonne annee!) too!

    Do bring her to some chinese restaurants or her chinese friend’s house between the 7-8th February as it’s our Chinese New Year celebration. She will most likely be given a red packet with some ‘sous’ in it! Ahh! Yo must be so proud of her!!!

    Comment by Popo — January 26, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

  9. I’m learning to sing a a numbers song for the Chinese New Year only I’m rubbish! Perhaps I should sing it to the waiters next time I go to a Chinese restauarant. I don’t think they will think I’m cute like tadpole, more likely that I’m a bit of a fruit loop.

    Comment by Hungry Hippo — January 26, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

  10. Sounds like that Clemantine tune is pretty ubiquitous!

    Comment by Maalie — January 26, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  11. So did Tadpole take your advice to say some Chinese words to her classmate? If so, how did it go?

    Comment by Caitlin — January 26, 2008 @ 2:08 pm

  12. Encore! encore!

    Comment by May — January 26, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

  13. How fabulous! My Chinese is restricted to hello, thank you and, for random value, innocent cabbage. My husband can speak rather more, which was very welcome when we were travelling in China last year. My own failure to pick up more than three words means that I am *very* impressed with Tadpole’s linguistic ability!

    Comment by Passementerie — January 26, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

  14. What a beautiful voice and very, very sweet. I bet her classmates would love to sing along with her especially the one about friends. How clever to learn French, English and Chinese!

    Comment by Smov — January 26, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

  15. I know one phrase:

    Whoa Boo Jure Dow!

    Phonetic (for me) spelling. I don’t know.

    Comment by clarissa — January 26, 2008 @ 4:09 pm

  16. She’s so cute!! I second Caitlin, did Tadpole take your advice?

    Comment by Victoria — January 26, 2008 @ 4:33 pm

  17. Tadpole is so cute!
    I used to live in China, I know these songs, and she sings them very well!

    Comment by LN — January 26, 2008 @ 4:35 pm

  18. Very cute :)

    Comment by Angus — January 26, 2008 @ 6:29 pm

  19. Ee up lass, nothing wrong with sounding Yorkshire. Me dad were a Yorkshireman and I lived in Leeds until I were 10; I still support the football team (which, oh shame, is in League One, which is Third Division in old money).

    Any road, Tadpole’s singing were grand even if I didn’t understand a word.

    Comment by Dumdad — January 26, 2008 @ 7:56 pm

  20. Bravo Tadpole! I just love those little Tadpolecasts! They’re the best!

    Comment by Peggy — January 26, 2008 @ 8:01 pm

  21. this makes me so happy! Thank you! I hope that one day, later, you will impart to her how happy her singing has made strangers in far off lands …

    Comment by eric — January 26, 2008 @ 8:57 pm

  22. This is what I find absolutely fascinating about multilingual children (my first language was actually Korean, but then learned English once school started)! Just listening to her speaking in franglais with you while explaining what the Chinese words meant was really, well, wow. I’m so jealous of children’s ability to absorb languages so much more effectively! I wish I could’ve learned 3 languages as a child!

    Little Tadpole is amazing (and quite an inspiration) :)

    Comment by George — January 26, 2008 @ 9:45 pm

  23. Tadpole sounds so precious here!

    -First song is about small children/friends. At the end she sings “you are my good friend. goodbye!”
    -I couldn’t really make out the second song, but it’s about counting some sort of animal (bird/cow?)
    -Third one is a song about the new years

    All the other songs are actual song that she probably learned in class though she didn’t sing them on the podcast =) I sang many of the same songs when I was younger. It’s a delight to hear them sung so beautifully~

    Comment by Kat — January 27, 2008 @ 1:26 am

  24. Haha, I should read the comments before I post!

    Comment by Kat — January 27, 2008 @ 1:27 am

  25. The Chinese food in Paris is SO GOOD . I miss it very much. Now I’m hungry .


    Comment by ==Alaska — January 27, 2008 @ 6:57 am

  26. Oh my god I’m SO impressed with Tadpole’s accent! I’m Chinese American and fully fluent in Mandarin, and I have to say, DON’T STOP TAKING HER TO THESE CLASSES! DON’T STOP! This is precisely the time in her life when she can naturally reproduce Chinese tones, and she is doing it INCREDIBLY NATURALLY PERFECTLY. Please don’t stop! She is learning so much more than you think!! Not just eating the candy! It would be such a shame if she stopped now! Sorry about all the !!s but her perfect Chinese pronunciation thrills me so much!

    Comment by amy — January 27, 2008 @ 9:51 am

  27. Careful, Tadpole… there’s a Chinese boy in my daughter’s class at primary school who speaks very little English but is very popular and keeps them all amused with his wacky, mainly visual/physical sense of humour. At Christmas, though, he taught them all to sing Jingle Bells in Chinese. Everyone was thrilled. It really caught on — only weeks later did another Chinese boy, who speaks excellent English, reveal to them that he’d actually taught them to sing “You’re stupid and you stink”

    Comment by kitikat — January 27, 2008 @ 10:31 am

  28. I love hearing Tadpole talk and sing. What a little doll.

    When my daughter was that age, she studied Spanish and French in school intersessions. She still studies French, but has forgotten most of the Spanish she ever knew.

    Comment by Kaycie — January 27, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  29. Very impressive! She was able to pick up the accent – not that I would know the difference, but I didn’t detect a trace of English or French accent. I agree with amy – don’t stop! She’s a natural.

    Comment by Matt Maddox — January 27, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

  30. Hold on there… isn’t that last one “Oh My Darling Clementine” an American southern folk song from the 19th century…? How’d it get to China, then to Belleville in the mouth of a Franglishwoman? Very cute… does she sing in the restaurant too? You may be on to something there… Star Ac Fortune Cookies anyone?

    Comment by magillicuddy — January 27, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

  31. Love the recording. I’m afraid I heard your voice and thought you sounded lovely – but then I am something of a Kate Rusby fan…

    Comment by Jonathan — January 27, 2008 @ 11:08 pm

  32. How adorable! I too am learning Mandarin I have sung the friendship song. I love hearing children sing. It’s so refreshing.

    Comment by Mochene — January 27, 2008 @ 11:09 pm

  33. Certainly no mention of Two Tigers in that voiceclip.

    The Two Tigers song cannot be mistaken, as it is sung to the tune of “Frere Jacques”.

    Comment by steve at the pub — January 28, 2008 @ 1:41 am

  34. does she want to come over and give me some japanese lessons?

    Comment by maitresse — January 28, 2008 @ 5:40 am

  35. wow! tadpole flips between languages so a little jelous! aussi the songs are so so sweet!

    Comment by marie — January 28, 2008 @ 6:07 am

  36. she’s so adorable!! quite the little multilingual you have there! and i love your accent!

    Comment by Rachel — January 28, 2008 @ 8:29 am

  37. Does she say “I didnt laugh”…haha:) Shes so wonderful

    Comment by Maxi — January 28, 2008 @ 2:08 pm

  38. Hello!

    What about Evelyne, did Tadpole say a couple of words in Chinese to her?

    BTW, you still haven’t told us what it was you wanted to ask the boy!


    Comment by Claire-a-belle — January 28, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  39. I only just discovered your blog on the weekend. I think I found it because I was Googling Paris as we will be there in July. I just wanted to say I love your blog, and your writing style (far superior to Helen Fielding). I have pre-ordered your book from so I can get it before it’s out in Canada and because, I also, cannot bare being referred to as “mommy.”

    Comment by Zoe — January 28, 2008 @ 7:22 pm

  40. Yes, yes, tell us if Evelyine is won over. As for Tadpole — chanteuse exquise! La nouvelle Francoise Hardy.

    Comment by John — January 28, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

  41. I am a Chinese. Just listened to Tadpole’s song. Gosh! So moved. I haven’t heard or sung this song for two decades. The full translation will be:
    searching, searching, searching,
    I found a good friend,
    salute, shake hands, you are my good friend,
    zai jian (good-bye)
    This is the song we sing when we play the game “looking for a friend”.
    Tadpole’s pronunciation is pretty good. there is not much french or Yokeshire accent at all! Keep going Tadpole!

    Comment by Rose — January 29, 2008 @ 1:01 am

  42. Your child’s voice just ripped me out of the foul mood I’ve been in all day. So precious. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Jenny — January 29, 2008 @ 2:42 am

  43. These Hipcasts are always great.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Mad William — January 29, 2008 @ 7:47 am

  44. How do you say “adorable” in Mandarin?

    Comment by Lost in France — January 29, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  45. I agree, the third is very reminiscent of “My Darling Clementine”. Brace yourself for those firecrackers on the 8th!

    Comment by Chris — January 29, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

  46. Oh my goodness that is TOO cute! You need to sort an audio book out… with Tadpole doing all her own parts!

    Comment by In Style Gal — January 29, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

  47. How do you say “adorable” in Mandarin?

    I’d probably say something like “hao ke ai le” which is perhaps more akin to ‘very cute’ but is the kind of thing people say about small children.

    Comment by Cal — January 29, 2008 @ 5:42 pm

  48. Awww….

    You know, that second song (I sing, I dance) is set to the same tune as an old hillbilly favorite from the U.S. Althought the lyrics are admittedly darker…

    “Oh my darlin, oh my darlin, oh my darlin Clementine,
    You are lost and gone forever
    Dreadful sorry, Clementine.”

    Seeing as I know how to play that one on the banjo, this may be the makings of a cross-cultural girl band?

    Comment by Le Meg — January 30, 2008 @ 9:13 am

  49. Ohh….that is so sweet. Made me smile.
    There’s something about little children singing, it always gets me. I’m the one snivelling at the back of all the school assemblies!

    Comment by Lucy Diamond — January 30, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

  50. Did she try speaking to Evelyne? We must know…

    Comment by Jen — January 30, 2008 @ 11:42 pm

  51. That last song is set to the tune of ‘Clementine’ – but it’s all lovely. And it must be asked- do Tadpole and Evelyne talk now? I mean, I know you said Tadpole’s vocabulary in Chinese is limited, but the idea of making the effort is an incredibly sweet one.

    Comment by Drusilla — February 2, 2008 @ 11:52 am

  52. I love how she slips so naturally from her English accent to her French one without skipping a beat (on top of singing in Mandarin)! Wish I could do it that easily (I’m working on it). Maybe she has a career ahead of her as a professional interpreter for the U.N. or something.

    Comment by The Bold Soul — February 6, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

  53. That’s lovely. I was born in Yunnan, China. Congratulations on using your instinct. Chinese is such a different language that I believe it is going to be good training for Tadpole’s brain when she becomes a Frog. By the way there are items Chinese in my blog – mainly food and even a picture of a Blue Jean Frog from Costa Rica.

    A child psychiatrist, otherwise known as The Cockroach Catcher

    Comment by Am Ang Zhang — February 13, 2008 @ 12:54 am

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