Dance your way to fluent language learning and enhanced wellbeing

Charlotte Guest
A woman with headphones dancing in her living room
Reading time: 5 minutes

Language learning can often feel daunting, with its endless vocabulary lists, grammatical structures and pronunciation rules. However, incorporating dance and movement into your study routine can transform this challenge into an engaging, enjoyable experience while significantly benefiting your overall wellbeing. This unusual approach is not only effective for language learners of all ages but also enriches the learning process with fun and physical activity.

Engaging in movement and dance can substantially impact mental health, as evidenced by various studies and academic research. For instance, a notable study published in the American Journal of Dance Therapy highlighted that dance, particularly in structured environments, can reduce anxiety and improve mood among participants. This connection between dance and mental health improvement can be attributed to the release of endorphins, often referred to as happiness hormones, which occur during physical activity.

How can dance help your language learning?
Privacy and cookies

By watching, you agree Pearson can share your viewership data for marketing and analytics for one year, revocable by deleting your cookies.

The connection between movement and language learning

The link between physical movement and language learning is deeply rooted in cognitive science. Research suggests that our cognitive processes are intertwined with our bodily systems, meaning that physical activities, such as dance, can enhance memory, comprehension and expression. This concept, known as 'embodied cognition', highlights how movement can serve as a powerful tool in internalizing new language concepts and vocabulary.

Here's how dance facilitates language learning:

  • Memorization enhancement: Associating vocabulary or phrases with specific movements can improve recall abilities. For example, performing a specific dance move when practicing a new word can create a mnemonic device, making the term easier to remember.
  • Increased engagement and concentration: Movement breaks up the monotony of traditional study methods, keeping the mind engaged and focused. This is particularly beneficial during longer study sessions, where concentration may start to wane.
  • Stress reduction: Dance is a well-known stress reliever. Lowering stress levels not only improves mental health but also creates a more conducive environment for language acquisition, as anxiety can be a significant barrier to effective learning.
  • Improved pronunciation through rhythm practice: Many languages have a unique rhythm and cadence. Engaging in dance can tune your ear to these rhythmic patterns, aiding in the understanding and reproduction of authentic pronunciation.

Ways to incorporate dance and language

Start simple

You don't need complex choreography to get started. Begin with simple movements that you can associate with the new language. This could be as straightforward as moving your hands up for high-tone languages like Mandarin or swaying to the rhythm of a Spanish guitar as you practice phrases.

Create a themed playlist

Music is a powerful companion to dance. Create a playlist of songs in the language you’re learning and try to move intuitively to the rhythm. This will not only help with learning new words and phrases but will also immerse you in the culture of the language.

Join a class

If possible, join a dance class that focuses on the culture of the language you're learning. Salsa, Bollywood, or even traditional Japanese dance can provide insights into the culture, which is a crucial part of mastering a language.

Practical activity examples

Merging language learning with dance isn't just effective; it's also incredibly fun. Here are some activity ideas to get you started on this harmonious path of acquiring a new language and enhancing your well-being through dance.

Spanish & Flamenco

  • Activity: After learning basic Spanish greetings and expressions, put on a Flamenco music playlist. Attempt to express these greetings and expressions rhythmically with Flamenco hand claps (palmas) or footwork. This can help solidify the language's rhythm and intonation in your memory.

French & Ballet

  • Activity: Ballet terminology is predominantly in French, which presents a unique opportunity to learn the language. Pick a few basic ballet positions or movements, such as "plié" (to bend) or "pirouette" (to spin), and practice saying them out loud while performing the steps. This can deepen your understanding of French pronunciation and terms.

Japanese & Bon Odori

  • Activity: Bon Odori is a traditional Japanese dance performed during the Obon Festival. Begin by learning simple phrases in Japanese related to greetings, farewells and thanks. Then, engage in learning the Bon Odori dance through online tutorials. Associate each dance movement with the phrases you've learned, enhancing both your linguistic and cultural comprehension.

Hindi & Bollywood

  • Activity: Bollywood dances are vibrant and full of expression, making them perfect for language learning. Start by learning key Hindi phrases and vocabulary related to emotions and actions. Watch a Bollywood dance video, focusing on songs with clear, easy lyrics. Try to dance along while singing the lyrics, connecting the words’ meanings with your movements.

Italian & Tarantella

  • Activity: The Tarantella is a fast-paced Italian folk dance. For this activity, choose an energetic Tarantella song and learn simple conversational Italian phrases or food vocabulary. As you practice the dance, say the phrases out loud with each step. Not only will this improve your memory recall, but it will also give you a feel for the Italian linguistic rhythm and culture.

Each of these activities combines the cognitive benefits of language learning with the physical and emotional joys of dance, creating a holistic approach to new language acquisition and overall wellness.

Extra benefits

Apart from language acquisition, integrating dance into your routine can have profound effects on your physical and mental health.

  • Physical fitness: Regular movement improves cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility.
  • Mental health: Dance reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, creating a happier and healthier mindset.
  • Social connections: Sharing dance experiences with others can lead to meaningful social connections, reducing feelings of isolation and promoting a sense of community.

Integrating dance and movement into language learning is beneficial for acquiring new languages and promotes a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. It's a fun and effective strategy that can break the monotony of traditional learning methods, providing a refreshing path to fluency and beyond. Whether practiced alone or in a group, through music, rhythm and culture, dance can enhance your language learning experience significantly.

More blogs from Pearson

  • business people in a board room with a graph on the wall behind

    Language proficiency and succession planning: Developing future leaders

    By Berenice Lopez
    Reading time: 7 minutes

    In today’s fast-paced business landscape, proactive succession planning is essential for HR professionals. Preparing the next generation of leaders is a business-critical initiative, to ensure organizational continuity, agility and long-term success.

    Succession planning is often high up on the HR agenda, as it also promotes progression, reduces business disruption, and attracts top talent. There are many components to effective succession planning, including skills development, but one skill that’s often overlooked in this process is communication. One often overlooked yet highly influential component of effective succession planning is language proficiency.

    At Pearson ELL, we believe strongly in the power of language and have designed our succession planning strategy with this in mind. The focus is on creating multilingual leaders who are not only proficient in their respective fields but also have a deep understanding of global culture and market dynamics.

    In this blog post, we explore how communication skills and specifically language proficiency plays a pivotal role in succession planning and the development of future leaders. We’ll also provide actionable insights for HR professionals and managers on integrating language development into their succession strategies. As well as some insights from our very own ELL HR team.

  • Two coworkers discussing some sticky notes on a class window

    Local to global: How English skills unlock a career in leadership

    By Samantha Yates
    Reading time: 4 minutes

    Of the 1.5 billion English speakers in the world, over half learned it as a second or additional language.

    The “language of business”, English has become a foundational skill for anyone looking to work in an international business or at a leadership level, and many English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers find themselves working in English on a daily basis.

    But working in your second or third language comes with a unique set of challenges and opportunities.

    We spoke to five global leaders about the role English has played in their careers, the challenges of being an ESL speaker, and how businesses can create a culture where everyone has a voice.

  • A woman sat in a library reading books at a table

    Master English with fun and effective exercises

    By Pearson Languages
    Reading time: 3 minutes

    Learning English can be a rewarding yet challenging journey. Whether you're aiming to improve your language skills for travel, work, or personal growth, using the right resources will make all the difference. 

    Types of English exercises you should try

    Grammar exercises

    Grammar is the backbone of any language. Worksheets focusing on grammar can help you understand sentence structure, verb tenses and other essential rules. Look for exercises that cover:

    • Verb conjugation: Practice different verb forms and understand when to use each.
    • Sentence structure: Learn how to construct sentences correctly.
    • Punctuation: Understand the importance of punctuation marks and how to use them properly.

    Vocabulary building

    Expanding your vocabulary is crucial for effective communication. Worksheets can help you learn new words and phrases, as well as their meanings and usage. Try exercises like:

    • Word matching: Match words with their definitions.
    • Fill-in-the-blanks: Complete sentences using appropriate vocabulary.
    • Synonyms and antonyms: Identify words with similar or opposite meanings.

    Reading comprehension

    Improving your reading skills involves understanding and interpreting written texts. Worksheets designed for reading comprehension can help you practice:

    • Short stories: Read short passages and answer questions about the content.
    • Articles: Analyze articles to identify main ideas and supporting details.
    • Inference: Draw conclusions based on the information provided in the text.

    Writing practice

    Writing exercises help you articulate your thoughts clearly and coherently. Worksheets can guide you through different writing styles and formats:

    • Essay writing: Practice writing essays on various topics.
    • Letter writing: Learn how to write formal and informal letters.
    • Storytelling: Create your own stories using prompts or randomly selected features.