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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Cheerleading, Katy Perry and My Six-Year-Old


Our soon to be six-year-old is now taking cheerleading classes once a week after school. Her best friend S does it so we didn’t even go into the “why not do some real activity?” discussion.

And now she is building up a repertoire of pop songs that she hums and sings while she is playing, and that has made us think.

Picking up English

I do not remember at what age I started to listen to music. I guess it must have been around the age of 10. In Germany, it was the age of the radio station and the tape recorder. I listened to programs aimed at young people, some of them dedicated to discovering new music. Most new music came from the UK back then.

I had an FM radio that I sometimes hid under my pillow so my parents wouldn’t notice when I listened to it in the evening when I was supposed to sleep. With the size of a radio then, it was pretty uncomfortable…

I remember a couple of situations when I was at school, where someone would sing an English or American song and others would correct the lyrics. Those discussions were sometimes hilarious. Let’s face it: we were pretty bad at understanding English.

Later, like most youngsters with a certain geek factor, I watched Star Trek. A friend of mine at the time bought the original English version on VHS tapes and I was quickly doing the same. The original versions were just so much better. I never actually watched a single episode of Star Trek: Voyager in German. Instead, I bought every single one on VHS.

At the time, this “immersion” enabled me to go see original versions of movies without subtitles. A lot of my friends did that, and it is easy to forget that your average German will not be able to follow a movie that is not dubbed. I was privileged in a sense. Even more so later, when I absorbed French.

Natural and Easy

Why am I going on about that?

Think about my daughters. They grow up with Arabic, French, German and English. They don’t have to make any effort to understand pop music or a movie. They will still misunderstand the lyrics because they might not know some words, but they will clearly get the sense of pretty much anything we can throw at them.

Imagine a German girl of six years at school doing cheerleading club. They listen to some music, say Katy Perry’s “Hot n Cold.” They move around and have fun and the whole thing is pretty much an advanced gymnastics club with music.

But add to that the ability to understand English, and all of a sudden you’ll find yourself in a discussion about the lyrics and whether that song is appropriate or not. My daughter is singing things like “Yeah, you PMS, like a bitch, I would know.” Hm. It is pretty hard to find pop songs that are really ok for young children.

I have to admit: I didn’t see that one coming.

© 2011 – 2013, Jan Petersen. All rights reserved.

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Jan, who is German, works mainly from home as a software engineer. His wife, who is Algerian, stays at home to look after their three girls aged 7, 4 and 1. They live in the U.K. and are raising their children multilingual in Arabic, French, German and English.

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1 Comment
  1. CommentsSafina   |  Monday, 21 December 2015 at 4:43 am

    comment #4:Indeed!We have numerous etiicnhties whose masses are steeped in the music, art, and ethos that is native to them. But, how quickly the disturbed cry that’s so Euro-centric’ goes up when we employ Gregorian chant, Anglican chant, polyphony and anthems in a mass that has its ritual roots in the heritage of those of us who are Euro-Americans! It would be crude for any of us in our day and time to disparage black, asian, Mexican, etc. cultural expressions, but disparaging our own European culture by any and all is quite tolerated, accepted without so much as raised eye-brows.Too, I have observed that, really, the music of most of the ethnic groups in our land is not actually black (African), or Viet-Namese, Chinese, Korean, or Mexican: it is a rather bad adaptation of shoddily orientalised or Africanised western music. One will never hear music that is truly and historically oriental at any of our various ethnically oriental churches. Even the famous mariachi band music which is ubiquitous amongst our Spanish brethren is not representative of true Spanish music. (Far from it!) The mariachi band is Maximillian’s and Napoleon III’s last laugh, for its inspiration was the military bands which played at the marriages ( mariachi’) of the hated French occupiers. Most of the Hispanics in our midst have disowned their true Spanish musical heritage. It would, after all, be SO Euro-centric.

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