This is a guest post by Sam Brinson on how music can help you learn a language. For more information on the author, see the guest contributor information at the end of the article.
Music is a Linguist’s Best Friend
If you’re anything like me, you don’t find it easy to learn another language. I’m in my ninth month of Spanish, and, well, the results are less than spectacular.
No matter what language level you’re at, if you’re having a hard time pushing onwards, this little trick might be just what you need, a helping hand in getting your bilingual roads back on track.
Singing and music have been shown to benefit people in numerous ways ranging from psychologically, socially, and physically; now it’s being touted as one of the best methods in helping people pick up a new language – so abandon those lessons! Put down the books and start to sing!
OK, I might have come on too strong there — keep the lessons and the books, this method is to help, not replace.
There are a number of reasons that explain why singing along to foreign music can help, so let’s lay them out.
When you listen to music in the language you’re trying to learn, you naturally expand your vocabulary by hearing new words. What’s more, there is often the use of slang and local phrases you won’t find in a book.
When you sing along, you’ll start to perfect your accent; you get a better grasp of the rhythm and pronunciation of words, the tones and motions of different sentences.
It’s unobtrusive; you don’t need to plan it into your day, do any exercises or take any tests. You can have it playing in the background or take it with you on an mp3 player, you can use it while socializing and you can sing in the shower!
Music is a universal language. If you happen to be traveling through a country at the same time you’re learning the language, a great way to socialize and meet people is through music; even if you can’t speak to each other, you can still play and sing together.
Music has a strong psychological link to memory.
There have been many studies into music that show how it can benefit in numerous areas such as memory enhancement, concentration, and coordination — all helpful when it comes to learning another language.
Think back to when you were young, when you would watch those children’s shows after school; what was always a given to make an appearance? Music. Why? Because it works.
We’ve all had occasions when we’ve listened to a song on the radio, and for what seems like hours afterward we’re unable to get it out of our heads. They’re called earworms, and because of them you might know a few words in languages you’re unfamiliar with — think along the lines of ‘Gangnam Style’, ‘99 Luftballoons’, or the ‘Macarena’.
Our ability to remember music is powerful, and the ability to associate other formats — images, words, smells, feelings – with music, simply by thinking of different songs, means we can recall things we would otherwise have forgotten about.
If you need any more of a push, consider this: music is well-known for being an effective treatment for pain, reducing blood pressure, erasing headaches, boosting your immunity, and making you more intelligent (see the Mozart Effect).
Above all else, music is just awesome, so why wouldn’t you want to incorporate it into language learning?
About the author: Sam Brinson is a musician and writer in South America Sam Brinson is a struggling musician from New Zealand scaling the depths of South America and is currently writing for Listen and Learn.