Let’s face it: the older we get, the more we know that learning a new language can be a very daunting task. It is more natural to introduce a language when our brains are like sponges at a young age and we can soak everything up. But as adults, the burden of practicing pronunciation on top of simply learning to understand the language can seem insurmountable at times. Learning a new tongue not only takes time but also requires understanding those proper phonetics and where to put emphasis on every word, which can be intimidating.
There are many ways that we can make learning a new language easier for ourselves. Besides the normal practice methods that you’ll receive from working with a language learning platform, there is a tried and true method for helping you nail those correct phonetic sounds.
Singing has long been a way to enhance learning a new language and provides a gateway to understanding language as well. Music and singing in another language can make a huge difference in your language learning process. Below are some reasons why singing is the perfect route to take in helping your pronunciation and taking your language learning to that next level.
Music is a Universal Language to Understanding
Music just on its own can speak to so many people on all kinds of levels. People may not always recognize the words you’re singing, but they can always recognize a tune that speaks to them or a song that they are familiar with. Studying music can help to make you a better language learner. It helps to break down language barriers and connect people across all cultures.
You can always find and make new friends through music, so it is always a great resource to utilize when in a foreign country to help establish likeness and common ground. Not to mention, learning the lyrics to a song in another language can help you learn common phrases, and at times, even slang, which is not always a focus when studying another language by itself. You can understand the emotions and feelings associated with a specific song, which can, in turn, help you to express the proper emotions behind a common phrase from that song.
Pronunciation is More Pronounced
Though that seems like a redundant phrase, it is absolutely a true one. When you practice a song by singing it, you learn how to properly pronounce each word due to the way the music and notes are structured. This greatly improves your knowledge of how to speak in a foreign language, and you can also impress native speakers with your excellent diction, which is one of the building blocks of singing.
Singing Helps Strengthen Your Accent
Taking intensive singing lessons can actually help to reduce your foreign-sounding accent. Voice instructors help you learn about sentence patterns, rhythm, tones, and counting beats as well as practicing the pronunciation the right way. If you’re learning a language from home or on your own and you’re unable to physically meet with a voice teacher, a great way to add in vocal work is by taking vocal lessons online so that you can still see your teacher’s face and mouth shape, and allow them to hear and correct your emphases when singing so that you can practice your new language the correct way. The experience will help you to hear the correct pronunciation in a repetitive nature, correct stress patterns, and support a range of other linguistic skills needed to speak properly.
Research Backs it Up
There have been studies done in the past that prove the cognitive effects that singing can have on someone’s self-esteem, social skills, and improved memory. But what do we know about whether singing songs can improve pronunciation in a new language?
A study conducted by psychologists proved how the imitation and pronunciation learned when singing a song can actually improve one’s ability to speak their language, and help with learning a foreign language. The results showed that singing performance is a better indicator of the ability to imitate the speech, even more so than the playing of a musical instrument. This idea of vocal behavior demonstrated that, with music, you can improve your auditory memory to help benefit the speech and motor flexibility associated with learning the correct pronunciation of a new language. People with stronger musical skills also tend to have better pronunciation abilities in their non-native languages.
The intonation is another factor here. When you learn how to sing words and phrases in another language, it aids learning to place the right emphasis on words by transferring that intonation into the speech of that language. The same phrases that are spoken rather than sung will have the same emphasis when learned by singing first.
Singing Lessons Give You More Than Speech Class Does
Although imitation is an important aspect when learning a new language, it can be difficult for people to transfer those sounds that they hear directly into speaking skills. When you try to learn spoken words through the listen/repeat method, and read the words at the same time, it may change the way that you listen to the pronunciation. This is because, when reading something our instinct is to pronounce it the way that you’re familiar with from your own native language, which isn’t always correct. This can lead to a very noticeable accent when speaking a foreign language as well. This is what gives vocal instructors the initiative to use a different method, known as the “call-and-response” technique, rather than reading words.
Those learning by singing will hear the emphasis and musical tones of the words within the song, that way there is no risk to your memory converting a word you see into your own native sounds and you’re more sure to be singing and pronouncing the language correctly.
Sing Songs at a Slow Pace
It is important to note that when learning and practicing songs in a different language, you should start with songs that have easy melodies and rhythms. You don’t want to challenge yourself too much off the bat, since learning the language is going to be a big enough challenge, to begin with. You should always start with easy songs and build your way up, just like you would do in a regular language class. Otherwise, you allow for the possibility of becoming frustrated and giving up too soon if you start with higher expectations, so just remember to go at a slow pace and be sure to practice the pronunciation of each word and syllable as a native speaker of the language would until you feel comfortable enough to take on a more challenging piece.
With singing classes, you’ll be well on your way to mastering a difficult language in no time, with the ability to speak more conversationally and fluently. So take your learning to that advanced level and work on your pronunciation with voice lessons.
The above is a guest post contributed by Donna Maurer.
About the author: Donna has had a love for music since elementary school when she took her first piano lesson. Having tried her hand at numerous instruments, she now spends her time writing about music and music education, in addition to teaching lessons in NYC. Donna is a contributor on multiple parenting and music blogs and loves sharing helpful information on music education for parents and for her fellow musicians.
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My name is Shannon Kennedy and I'm the language lover, traveler, and foodie behind Eurolinguiste. I'm also the Resident Polyglot at Drops and the Head Coach of the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge.