Music in French and Spanish

Fun with French book coverMy love of languages began when I was a child; probably around the time I was in grade school, and we learned “Are You Sleeping?” in English, French, and German. My interest in French only deepened when I found this book, Fun with French, at the public library. I checked it out so many times I’m surprised they didn’t gift it to me when I graduated. My dad spoke Spanish fluently, but I studied Latin and French in high school and when I went to college, ended up getting a degree in French. Even though many years have gone by, my interest in languages has never waned. I’ve taken conversational Spanish classes specific to work in the library, and quite a while ago, even took a Russian class at the community college, just for the fun of it. While my French and Spanish skills have greatly diminished due to lack of use, it is when I hear music in those languages that I seem to recall the most. Words and phrases come back to me, dancing through my mind along with whatever melody accompanies them.

And that’s why I wanted to highlight a few albums in French and Spanish today. While the sound of music is universal, it’s the words that can teach us so much – even another language. Take some time to listen to these albums. Share them with your students, your family, and your friends. 

Au Zoo album coverThe first album up is Au Zoo (At the Zoo) – French Learning Songs from Whistlefritz. Whistlefritz provides immersive learning environments in French and Spanish. Au Zoo is their newest French-language album. Packed with 17 songs, each running 2-3 minutes, this isn’t your old-fashioned, didactic, computer-generated learning tool. Instead, it features melodies set to a variety of musical genres (folk, reggae, merengue, blues, and more) with engaging lyrics that are performed at a pace that makes the words easy to follow. The songs cover a wide variety of topics including holidays, animals, grammar, food, and more. Lyrics and translations for all of the songs are available for free on the Whistlefritz website.


Healthy Me and Saludable Soy album covers

Next up are debut albums from the California-based duo Anna-Maria Violich-Olivier and Natalia Barnal, better known as Aguacate Music Kids. After meeting in 2015 when Natalia brought her child to Anna-Maria’s Music Together class, the two created a musical partnership. Combining their skills as bilingual teachers and musicians, they set out to create songs that encouraged healthy habits. Out of that effort, the companion albums, Healthy Me and Saludable Soy were born. Each album is comprised of the same 13 original songs, tackling topics such as washing hands, brushing teeth, good nutrition, movement, social-emotional skills and the importance of drinking water. Whether performing in English or Spanish, Aguacate Music Kids combine lovely music and entertaining, yet educational lyrics, that children and their caregivers will enjoy.

Creciendo album coverLast, but certainly not least, on today’s playlist is the first full-length Spanish language album from Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz CatsCreciendo is pure love and joy from beginning to end as it takes listeners inside the theme of a child growing and learning. Kalantari brings her unique blend of jazz, swing, and Latin rhythms to each of the 10 songs. The album kicks off with the energy-filled “Bienvenidos” and keeps that energy up throughout. Kalantari’s rich voice is at the center of the music on each track, but no more so than on “Tu Luz” where her lyrics delightfully converse with a clarinet, and “La Luciérnaga” where she is backed by lush instrumentation. For a sneak preview, take a listen to “Bienvenidos,” which also features Nathalia and Flor Bromley.

Forest Friends’ Nature Club Album

Forest Friends’ Nature Club Album performed by Ginalina
Target Audience: Preschool to Grade 3

ginalina2My favorite time of the year to take long walks in the great outdoors is in the fall, when there is just the beginning of a crispness to the air and the leaves are changing colors and drifting to the ground. It’s during September and October when those hurried footsteps of summer begin to slow down that I take a deep breath and really enjoy all that is around me. Tonight, I realized as dusk began descending so much earlier than I thought it should, that autumn is really not that far away. And it was then that I remembered this lovely CD that first came to my attention in the spring.

Canada-based singer/songwriter Ginalina perfectly captures the gentle, awesome wonders of nature in Forest Friends’ Nature Club Album, her second album for children. A couple of years ago Ginalina, along with her three young children, spent weekly adventures in the forests of British Columbia’s Pacific Spirit Regional Park. It was these walks in the woods that became the inspiration for the 15 original songs in this collection. Ginalina’s beautiful soprano blends perfectly with among other instruments, banjo, violin, guitar and in one case kazoo, on these folk/pop/country infused tunes. Included on the album are two French language songs. “La Vie est Belle” which has such a catchy melody that even listeners who don’t know any French will find themselves singing along and “Play…Jouer,” a bilingual echo song that children will enjoy participating in. Songs about friendship and love (of one another and blueberry pancakes) are in this collection as well.

There are also several fact-filled songs that are so well written that children won’t realize how much they are learning. “Rainbow” teaches listeners about the colors and science that make a rainbow, while “Honey; We Love You” is a great ode to the honey bee. In addition, “Shapes are Everywhere” is filled with beautiful harmonies that describe all the shapes that can be found in nature. The delightful video below could easily be used in storytime, in the classroom, or before a family walk as an introduction to this concept.

In this world where everyone, no matter how young, is always plugged in, Forest Friends’ Nature Club Album is the perfect reminder to take time, relax, and enjoy the amazing beauty that is all around you.