Get Your Bilingual Children Singing: If You Are Happy and You Know It…

by Corey · 10 comments

My kids and I did this language activity today while walking back home.  It was a hit!  After reading yesterday’s post, Jukebox Language Learning: Music Can Make You Multilingual, it made even more sense why we had such a great time!

Singing together is such a fun way to keep vocabulary alive!  If you and your family are doing the One Hour a Day of Language Learning adventure or Language Challenge 101, see if you can add this in each day by changing the words each time!

Do you know the song, “If you are happy and you know it…“?  Most of us who grow up in the States learn this song in our childhood from family or in school.  It is a great song for getting your child to use your language!

Start by watching the video below to get the gist of the tune and the words.  Note the way the kids act out the phrases (they clap their hands, stomp feet, etc.)  I really like this adaptation from Barefoot Books:

Now comes the fun… sing it in your language!  To make this happen, you need to do two things:

  1. Come up with some fun translation for “If you’re happy and you know it.”
  2. Come up with some phrases that can fit into the beat of “clap your hands” and can be done interactively.

Here are some examples of #2 above that my kids and I did today while walking back home:

  • cheer out loud
  • dig a hole
  • fly a kite
  • be Harry Potter (we waved our pretend wand)
  • throw some garbage (no idea where this came from)
  • be a tree (we stood in one place)

You can ask your kids for the ideas or have them planned out ahead of time.  This will depend on how motivated your children are to come up with ideas.

But that’s not all… you can completely change the main song as well if you want!  I love this adaptation to the song for an English as a Second Language class for Japanese speaking students.  Notice how she keeps the words very simple and uses very clear, exaggerated gestures:

What none of these songs do but what my kids and I did today was to repeat all of the activities backwards each time we finished one round.  So it went like this (using the the list above):

If you’re happy and you know it, plant a tree.
If you’re happy and you know it, plant a tree.
If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it, if you’re happy and you know it, plant a tree, throw some garbage, be Harry Potter, fly a kite, dig a hole, cheer out loud.

Whew!  Now get out there and do some singing!

And please, please, please share your translations with us in the comments below! It would be fantastic if we could use each other’s translations in different languages.  What fun!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marta September 22, 2010 at 6:09 am

I love this post and the videos! As we sing the song in English, sorry, no translations! This song is the perfect song to learn vocabulary and have fun. My son loves it because there’s lots of movement involved.


2 Corey September 23, 2010 at 9:08 am

Thank you for the comment, Marta! Yes, you are so right, it great for vocabulary. We did it in English as well, even though it would be good for us to do it in German, and the kids had so much fun. I’m sure the people driving by thought we were crazy (we did it walking back home) but that made it even more silly.

Let me know if you find any translations in any languages – would be fun to try it!


3 Alice September 22, 2010 at 10:26 am

It doesn’t sound nearly as good in German. “Wenn Du glücklich bist und weisst es …?” – just doesn’t sound right. And the more grammatical version of “Wenn Du weisst, dass Du glücklich bist dann klatsche in die Hände” – just makes me cringe because it is completely off-beat! It might work if you leave out half of the text (“and you know it”) : “Wenn Du glücklich bist dann klatsche in die Hand….” (hm. shouldn’t it be Hände?). Nah.

Let’s try it in Spanish: “Si tú estás contento aplaude así” – I guess that could work.

I still prefer the English original version!!! 😀


4 Corey September 23, 2010 at 9:11 am

Thanks for trying to translate into German! I tried it the other night as well and couldn’t come up with a good translation. I think we’ll just have to change the words/meaning around so that we can still add new actions but it also sounds good. I’ll work on it (and do some more intensive Google searches) and see what we can come up with.
In the meantime, you are so right – doing it in English is so much fun! And it makes taking a walk to the store or library so much more enjoyable for all of us! 🙂


5 jn October 12, 2010 at 1:05 pm

This is awesome. I have this techno song from 1989 called “Klatsche in die Hande” that I never knew what that meant, and today I finally find out.


6 Annamari September 22, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Anyone learning Hungarian? 🙂 “Ha jó a kedved, üsd a tenyered, ha jó a kedved, üsd a tenyered, ha köztünk vagy és jó a kedved, másoknak is mutasd ezt meg, ha jó a kedved, üsd a tenyered.” (English: “If you’re happy, clap your hands [repeat], if you’re among us and you’re happy, show it to others too, if you’re happy, clap your hands.”) You can add “kiálts nagyokat” (shout out loud), “dobbants nagyokat” (make big stomps), that’s all, I remember now, as we sing it mostly in English too.
I (and my children) love the book with the same title by Oxford UP (, in which animals do different actions (clack your beak, stomp your chest etc.) to show that everyone has their own way to express their happiness.


7 Corey September 23, 2010 at 9:14 am

This is fantastic, Annamari! Thank you for sharing! I don’t know Hungarian but this is so great to see (and I love the creativity in translating it so that it fits the language/tune). Seems like in the end the words shouldn’t matter as much as the general meaning and the activities.
I love that idea with the animals doing different actions! Fantastic idea! That got me thinking about even more different topics/situations/actions! Thank you for sharing!


8 Corey September 23, 2010 at 9:05 am

I found a link with the words and tune for “If You’re Happy and You Know It” in Spanish! Yippee! I’m going to try this out with the kids:


9 French for Kids September 30, 2010 at 2:38 am

Oh no! Now I’m not going to be able to get this song out of my head. *g* It’s so addictive.

I’m teaching my children a second language (French) and they know a few French songs already. I think it’s fantastic how quickly they pick it up.


10 Corey November 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm

LOL – yes, I know what you mean! It was stuck in my head for days after I did the post (and my kids continued to sing it for days as well). I guess it could be worse. My boys have been singing songs from the movie Cars all week. Sigh.


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