Hand clapping games are a good way to engage children actively with the Spanish language. Por aquí pasó un caballo is a traditional hand clapping game that begins with a simple rhyme and ends with counting to 16. Estaba la Catalina is a song and hand clapping game that tells the story of a woman who is waiting for her husband to come home from war.
Putting the emphasis on the correct syllable is essential to correct Spanish pronunciation. The rhythm of these verses ensures that children will stress the correct syllables. For example, in Por aquí pasó un caballo, as they say the rhyme children will naturally stress the final syllable of the preterite verb pasó and the future verb diré (or contaré). The same is true of Estaba la Catalina where children will correctly stress the final syllable of the future tense verbs as they clap and sing.
Por aquí pasó un caballo is a silly rhyme about a horse with his legs on backwards. It is traditional, and there are many videos of children playing the game on YouTube. There are two variations of the fourth line, so I have included both. These are the words and a translation:
Por aquí pasó un caballo, / A horse passed by here
con las patas al revés, / with his legs on backwards
si me dices cuántas tiene, / if you ask me how many he has
te diré que 16, (contaré hasta 16). / I’ll tell you 16 (I will count to 16).
1, 2, 3, 4,
Estaba la Catalina is a traditional song and hand clapping game. It tells the story of a woman who asks a soldier returning from war if he has seen her husband and the answer he gives her. This game is done with a basic hand clapping pattern. Click this link to see this hand clapping game in Spanish for children. Click this link to hear a clear version of this Spanish song for children that is used in this game. These are the words and a translation. It is not a literary translation, and it is I provide it because it might be helpful to Spanish language learners.
Estaba la Catalina / Catalina was
sentada bajo un laurel / sitting under a laurel tree
mirando la frescura / watching the freshness
de las aguas al caer. / of the water as it fell.
De pronto pasó un soldado / Suddenly a soldier passed by
y lo hizo detener. / and she stopped him.
- Deténgase usted soldado / Wait, soldier
que una pregunta le quiero hacer. / I want to ask you a question.
- ¿Usted ha visto a mi marido / Did you ever see my husband
En la guerra alguna vez? / in the war?
- Yo no he visto a su marido, / I didn’t see your husband,
ni tampoco sé quién es. / I don’t even know who he is.
- Mi marido es alto y rubio / My husband is tall and blond
y buen mozo como usted. / and good-looking like you.
Y en la punta de su espada / And on his sword
lleva escrito San Andrés. / is written Saint Andrew.
- Por los datos que me ha dado / From the information you have given me
su marido muerto es / your husband is dead
y me ha dejado dicho / and he told me
que me case con usted. / to marry you.
- Eso sí que no lo haría, / That I would not do,
eso sí que no lo haré, / That I will not do,
siete años he esperado / I have waited seven years,
y otros siete esperaré. / and I will wait seven more.
-Si a los catorce años no viene / If after fourteen years he doesn’t come
a un convento yo me iré, / I will go to a convent
y a mis dos hijas mujeres / and my two daughters
conmigo las llevaré, / I will talk them with me
y a mis dos hijos varones / and my two sons
a la patria entregaré. / I will give to my country.
Calla, calla, Catalina. / Be quiet, be quiet, Catalina.
Calla, calla de una vez. / Be quiet, be quiet right now.
Estás hablando con tu marido / You are talking to your husband
que no supiste reconocer. / whom you didn’t recognize.