The Many Forms of Frère Jacques

    In this week’s song I enlisted the help of a few of my teacher friends to expand my languages to include French and Spanish. We sang the very famous French song “Frère Jacques” in all four languages. You can watch that version below or you can skip past the video and see a comparison of this song in German and a few Germanic languages.

    The standard “Hochdeutsch” version of this song looks like this:

    Hochdeutsch

    Bruder Jakob 2x
    Schläfst du noch? 2x
    Hörst du nicht die Glocken? 2x
    Ding dang dong 2x

    Beginner German with Herr Antrim

    In Schweizerdeutsch (Swiss German) it changes a bit. My comments on each line are in parentheses.

    Brueder Jakob 2x

    (Nothing special changes here except the added “e” in “Bruder”.)

    Schlafsch du no? 2x

    (Notice the conjugation of “schlafen”, which has “sch” instead of “st” and the “no” instead of “noch”. It is pronounced like a German would say things, but the spelling clearly helps you get the pronunciation of the dialect.)

    Ghörsch du nid die Glogge? 2x

    (Half of the words in this phrase are different than the original. The word “hörst” has been changed to “Ghörsch”. This is changed a couple of different ways. First it adds a “g” to the beginning of the word, which adds a harsher sound. Secondly, the conjugation for the “du-form” is the same as the previous line and has “sch” instead of “st”.)

    Bim bam bom. 2x

    (I’m not entirely sure why this change happened, but it went from “ding, dang, dong” to “bim, bam, bom”.)

    Schweizerdeutsch (Swiss German)

    Brueder Jakob 2x

    Schlafsch du no? 2x

    Ghörsch du nid die Glogge? 2x

    Bim bam bom. 2x

    If you look up the lyrics in Afrikaans, you will see some very strong similarities between the German and the English. I have a friend who posts things on Facebook in Afrikaans and I can actually understand what he is saying if I take the time to translate from Afrikanns to German. To my untrained eye, it looks like an essay written by a student who isn’t sure what to do with the German language. See if you get the same vibe from the text below.

    Afrikaans

    Vader Jakob 2x
    Slaap jy nog? 2x
    Hoor hoe lui die kerkklok. 2x
    Ding dong del. 2x

    If you go north of Germany to the Netherlands, you may hear a version that is very similar to the Afrikaans version, but you can see a bit of the Swiss showing through in the last line. Check out how similar the Dutch looks.

    Niederländisch (Dutch)

    Vader Jakob 2x
    Slaapt gij nog? 2x
    Alle klokken luiden 2x
    Bim bam bom 2x

    Danish and Norwegian are also very similar looking to each other. Again, look at the last line. One has the German version and one has the Swiss version. The lyrics to each of those are found below.

    Dänisch (Danish)

    Mester Jakob 2x
    sover du? 2x
    Hører du ej klokken 2x
    Bim bam bum 2x

    Norwegisch (Norwegian)

    Fader Jakob 2x
    Sover du? 2x
    Hører du ej klokka? 2x
    Ding, Dang, Dong. 2x

    If you are interested in reading more about this topic, you can find a long list of lyrics in a variety of different languages on the German Wikipedia article for this song.

    Bruder Jakob

    Herr Antrim

    Herr Antrim is a German teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience. In 2011 he started his successful YouTube Channel "Learn German with Herr Antrim". In 2015 he created this website to enhance the German language lessons he was providing on YouTube. He is now the author of his own e-book, "Beginner German with Herr Antrim". He has also been featured on numerous blogs and other sites.