Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Dynamic Duo: Music and Language Learning Join Forces

The Dynamic Duo: Music and Language Learning Join Forces

Singing and Speaking Are One and the Same

But the benefits of music for language learners don’t just end with general brain-boosting effects. Oh, no—music and language learning are inextricably linked.
In the first years of our lives, it turns out that our soft, squishy baby brains can’t tell the difference between lullabies and nursery rhymes. Our natural sense for syntax comes from every word we hear in the crib, whether it’s sung or spoken. Music and language are all one and the same for us. Lullabies impact the way we start speaking and, likewise, the speech we absorb impacts our singing and musical sensibilities.

Music Defines You

Even if you don’t consider yourself a music-aficionado, you probably know what you do and don’t like. The type of music we enjoy is strongly connected to our personalities.
No matter what kind of music you like, it’s most likely out there in your target language. Choose to learn with the music you like best, and you’ll give yourself a boost of personal satisfaction and enjoyment. This keeps language learning fun and personalized, as it always should be. That’s what’ll give you the momentum and motivation to keep practicing!

Why Music and Language Are a Dynamic Duo

Put simply: Music is a language. Think about it. Even when there aren’t any words set to a tune (or when the song is accompanied by foreign words that you can’t understand at all), you can still grasp what the tune intends to express. Is it a happy, upbeat song meant to make you smile? A love song that makes your heart flutter? A blues song about heartbreak that conjures up rainclouds around your head?
Bottom line, we can communicate through music. While each culture, society and individual has their own spin on music, music is truly a universal human language. It’s a uniquely beautiful form of human expression. It’s only natural that we want to channel music into our language learning.
There are tons of language and culture lessons that can be learned from the diverse music out there:
  • Culture. You’ll start to hear common pairings of types of lyrics with types of music. For example, if you hear the fanfare of a national anthem, you know that the words are meant to express a strong sentiment of national pride. What words does this language use to capture and express this feeling? When I first heard the Ecuadorian national anthem (starting with “¡Salve, Oh Patria, mil veces! ¡Oh Patria,” (We salute you, Oh Homeland, a thousand times! Oh Homeland!), that’s exactly the moment I learned the word “patria,” which is often used by Ecuadorian nationals to describe their country in moments of pride—both in speech and song.
  • Syntax. Whether you realize it or not, catchy choruses will teach you word order—so you’ll have the building blocks to branch out and use the language authentically.
  • Diverse vocabulary. From lofty, poetic language to hip, trendy slang, music has it all.
  • Bilingualism. By listening to bilingual music, you can train your brain to switch quickly and seamlessly between languages. That’s an awesome skill for a language learner to have!