Do Re Mi

I haven’t written a lot about my actual job, even though I’ve been here for over 3 months now, so I thought I would have a go at it!

It’s no-picture Tuesday! I wonder what the song of the day is…

The second graders at my elementary school are going to sing Do Re Mi (from The Sound of Music) together for a performance soon. Starting the week after I got back to school, I was asked if I could help them learn the song  in English. (If I felt like I was becoming my mom before, now the transformation is complete, haha). The first day, the second graders (none of who speak English, except some words and phrases they’ve learned, although they are very enthusiastic) were having some trouble–they could follow after me when I sang the song to them and sing back, but they couldn’t remember the lyrics. For the first day, I tried adding in hand motions to make it more fun and memorable–it did make it more memorable, and I think that the lines with “deer,” “run,” and “sun” were easier to follow after that, but still, haha. The second day, I printed out some lyrics for them with the English written with Japanese/katakana pronunciation below it. This is a JET no-no, but because they’re 2nd graders and I don’t teach that level, I’m free to do what I want.

My mom is an elementary school music teacher, which is a great help because I feel like music is going to be a big part of my job^^ When I asked her for advice on how to teach this to little kids, she told me that she usually taught fewer lines to the younger kids because some of the lines are difficult for them to remember [ie, even in English]. However, all the 2nd graders could already sing the whole song in Japanese. This is what I actually wanted to talk about, though. The Japanese lyrics are completely different…

Borrowing the lyrics from here, let’s take a look at the new meaning of this song…You can look at this and compare it to the video above if you’re curious.

Lit. “Do” is the do from “donuts.”
In Japanese, “Donuts” becomes a three-syllable word, “do-na-tsu,” so this fits.

“Re” is the re from “remon” (=lemon)
“Lemon” in Japanese is “Remon.” (pronunciation difference)

MI wa minna no MI
“Mi” is for “minna” (=everyone)

“Fa” is for “Faito” (“faito”=”fight,” except that in Japanese it’s used as an encouragement, like “do your best!” And in Korea, you can say “fighting!” to the same effect. Fun times.)

SO wa aoi sora
“So” is for “aoi sora” (=”blue sky”)

“Ra” is for “rappa” (=trumpet/horn)

SHI wa shiawase yo
“Shi is for “shiawase” (=happiness)
You may or may not have noticed that this is the “Ti” line in English that goes, “Tea, a drink with jam and bread.” You can sort of make the “ti” sound in Japanese by putting the “te” テ and “i” ィ sounds together to produce “ti” (te + i = ti!”), but whoever translated this seems to have made the switch from “ti” to “shi,” which is an easier/normal sound.

Sa, utaimashou
Well then, let’s sing!

At first I was really surprised by the differences, but then, it would be even weirder if the translator had somehow managed to keep the original meaning of the song and still have it sound cute.

Now, in defense of my mom’s 2nd graders, the Japanese lyrics are a bit more straightforward than the English ones. The English lyrics have a lot of words that make them harder to remember, I think. When you think about it, “La, a note to follow so” really doesn’t contain any helpful information to help you remember, haha. The Japanese translation I found read RA wa SO no tsugi, just like, “RA is next after SO.” It sounds kind of…abrupt, haha, but no saving that one. Some of the boys thought that “a female deer” (mesu no shika) was pretty funny, too. The Japanese lyrics, by contrast, are like an acrostic poem (I admit had to look up that word….).

The second day, with the lyrics, they did much better. I was a bit relieved, too, because I wasn’t sure if this was something way too hard for them or not. I wanted to make it fun if I could, but not to frustrate them^^; I mean, I would still do it even if it seemed difficult if the teacher asked me to, because the teachers know their students’ abilities more than I do. Last week, though, I got a message from my friend who’s a Japanese juku (after-school additional classes) teacher of English, telling me that five of her students had really enjoyed learning the song and were excited to learn the lyrics. That made me so happy! These kids are up to the challenge. I get to help out again tomorrow and see how much they’ve improved^^

One thought on “Do Re Mi

  1. Having worked with 2nd and 3rd graders for years, I can tell you that they should easily be able to memorize and learn the song. In English/Japanese, they can do it. I was always amazed at the fabulous performances my classes were able to put on. Four act plays with all lines memorized. Musical programs with five memorized songs and always with lots of motions. They were amazing and always up for the challenge. Sounds like you’re doing everything right and having fun.

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