Multilingual song to celebrate linguistic diversity

Children singing

On 27 June 2018, Creative Multilingualism will be holding a concert with 500 school children from Oxford. The pupils will be performing a specially commissioned choral piece composed by Lin Marsh, called We are Children of the World. The composition weaves in snatches of songs in Mandarin, Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic, Polish, Swahili and Portuguese. It aims to highlight Oxford's hidden multilingualism and celebrates the rich diversity of languages spoken in our schools and communities. The concert is being organised in partnership with the Oxford Festival of the Arts.

The composition starts with the sun rising in China and a folk song in Mandarin about the fragrant jasmine flower, it then travels west through India and Pakistan, with songs in Punjabi and Urdu, over Lebanon, Kenya, Poland and finally ends in Brazil with a children’s song in Portuguese. The message of We are Children of the World is that despite coming from different countries and cultures, and speaking different languages, we are all children of one planet:

And wherever we are,

And wherever we live,

That same old sun lights up the sky.

And however we speak,

And however we dress,

We wake, we sleep, we laugh, we cry.

The languages which feature in the song have been chosen because they are among the most common languages spoken in Oxford’s schools and communities. By bringing the languages into the foreground, the project aims to encourage their speakers to share their languages and cultures with their friends and classmates. This in turn enables all the children to find out more about different parts of the world and the languages spoken there.

Jon Cullen, Director of Music at Magdalen College School, who has been co-ordinating the schools involved and will conduct the performance on the day, describes how rehearsals have been going:

Sixth formers and staff from Magdalen College School have been busy in May visiting all the primary schools involved in the project. We have been thrilled with the reception and hugely impressed by the children. They have been really responsive to the project and their energy and enthusiasm shines through. They love the piece and sing it with real passion and commitment.

The workshops in the schools have been focusing on the language sections and helping the pupils to gain confidence with the words. The teachers at the schools have reported how excited the pupils who speak the languages have been to share their language and culture with the rest of the class. It has prompted lots of interest and the children have been helpful at teaching their friends how to say the words correctly.

There will be two performances of the song at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford on 27 June at 12.30 and 13.30. Tickets are free, but there are limited places, so you need to book in advance.

After the performance, we will be sharing the song, teaching materials, and backing tracks on our website. We’d be delighted for the song to be shared and performed in schools across the UK and beyond!

Where next?

Find out about our Multilingual Performance Project

‘Lessons learnt’ by a professional translator – adapting the same play three times over three years

My love affair with eight languages