- Language learning
- Linguistics and culture
Can music help you learn a language?
Learning a new language can be daunting, requiring time, effort, and consistent practice to master. One learning tool that’s been researched and examined over the years for its effectiveness, is music and sound.
Music is sometimes overlooked or forgotten about, but it can be a beneficial tool when learning a new language. Today we will explore how music can aid language learning and what benefits it can provide. Here’s how:
Recollection and memory
Song is a powerful tool that can help us memorize new words and phrases. When listening to a song, recollecting the lyrics and melody long after it's finished can often happen. This is because our brains retain information better when associated with a melody/rhythm.
Research has found that exposure to a language's rhythm leaves a lasting impact on a person's ability to segment speech patterns. Listening to songs in a foreign language can help learners memorize new words, patterns and phrases more easily.
Pronunciation and tone
Music can improve our pronunciation and tone. When singing along to music, listeners may mimic the singer's pronunciation and cadence when listening to a song. This can help us develop a more natural and authentic accent when speaking the language.
Additionally, it can broaden our knowledge and comprehension of diverse dialects and accents. Exposure to different accents and pronunciations can make real-world interactions with a foreign language less daunting or confusing.
Two people may speak the same language but pronounce words very differently due to accents, a great example of this is in the UK and how the English language varies throughout areas.
In the UK, someone from the north may sound completely different to someone from the south, despite speaking the same language. So if you were trying to learn English with music and listened to English songs from different parts of the country, you'd be exposing yourself to different accents. Making yourself more familiar with the varied pronunciation.
It can expose us to the culture of the language we are learning. Music can be a deep-rooted part of a culture, and hearing music in a different language can provide insight into that culture's beliefs, practices, and heritage. This can give us a deeper understanding of the language and help us communicate more effectively with native speakers.
Often, songs use informal language and slang words we may not otherwise know or make us aware of a culture's situation or troubles. Academics Mark Gant & Dr. Carmen Fonseca-Mora discuss how although no one type of music works the best, foreign protest songs are a good example.
They're typically motivational, clear, and repetitive and give an insight into a country's culture without causing problems for the learners. Listeners may even feel inclined to discuss or research that situation – which could be a good learning opportunity.
In addition, music can improve our listening skills. When we listen to a song in a foreign language, we’re often compelled to pay close attention to the lyrics, melody, and rhythm. This can help us develop our listening skills and train our ears to distinguish different sounds and accents in the language.
Being exposed to foreign languages in any output can be beneficial; having the added layers of music adds that little extra challenge for your ears and brain. It’s almost like immersing yourself in the language without the need for traveling.
An enjoyable way to learn
Finally, music can make language learning more enjoyable. Learning a new language can be challenging and sometimes even frustrating. However, listening to music in a foreign language can make learning more enjoyable and engaging.
Singing along with the lyrics can be a fun way to practice the language and boost motivation and confidence. Pairing those with interesting and engaging music videos can also make it more enjoyable.
So when you find yourself taking on a new linguistic challenge, give music some 'airtime' – and watch how it helps you expand your vocabulary and improve your language skills.