It would be true to say that, for some of the language learners, music is probably one of the main reasons why they decided to learn foreign languages at the first place. The main question is, does learn a language through music effective? Is it the best way to master a foreign language? Would you be fluent by just using music?
Learning new languages means adding more and more foreign words to your brain and vocabulary. There are many ways to do that and clearly, the easiest way of all is through music. We all constantly listen to music, pretty much every single day. These may sound familiar to you because… that’s probably what most of you have done (I know I did).
Here are the cycle/steps:
- You listen to a foreign song and you like what you hear.
- You search for another song of the same language with a different music genre that suits your taste and you fall in love with it.
- You keep listening to it, without you realize you’ve memorized the lyrics and decided to figure out what the song is about.
At this rate, you already know certain words and when you happened to watch TV series and/or movies that have the particular language you’ve learned in it, you already know what some of it means. This indirectly by no means, the easiest way to learn a new language without having to pay attention to the grammar and focus solely on the accent and pronunciation.
The best thing about music is, it tells you a story. Have you ever heard people saying “I can totally relate myself to this song”? I bet you did. This is a good thing because when you converse with your foreign exchange partners, they are more likely to know more about you and you can easily tell them the story of your life using music.
Listening passively Vs Hearing passively
Some people think that by just listening to music, they’re able to absorb and master the language. Well, you know what, you’re not. That’s completely a wrong mindset, to begin with. You’re not going to be able to achieve that while you’re doing something else at the same time. You should make it as the center of your attention rather than making it as background music.
You have to listen, hear and focus at the same time. This way you’ll be able to absorb it. Think of it like doing a TOEFL test. Would you be able to pass the test while doing something else?
I based my words on a study carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music. Through music and singing can definitely help one to improve their speaking of a foreign language.
“Each language has its own musicality” – Susana Zaraysky
I’m pretty sure most of you have wondered why it’s so easy remembering songs and struggle when it comes to remembering texts from the textbooks/syllabus just so you can pass the tests and/or exams with flying colors. Now, why is that? I know it has to do with our brains, the auditory cortex to be exact. What’s your perspective on it?
When I was a kid, I remembered watching a cartoon (I’m not sure what it was about), they were singing the names of the prophets and after watching it several times, I was able to recall all the names. This had helped me whenever there were questions related to that area and I still remember that to this day.
Now that we know the power of music, we can use it to learn new languages. However, can we learn a language with just any song? Absolutely not.
What are the criteria to look for in a song?
For beginners, you may want to start with a song that is moderate. Meaning, don’t start with a hip-hop, techno or rap genre kind of songs. If you’re a fan of these genres and think can handle it, then go for it.
Remember, you’re just starting out so, choose a song that is a slow genre like pop, R&B, ballad and so on and so forth. These types of songs usually have a clear pronunciation than the first genre which is kind of hectic, crowded as in you can hardly catch your breath (if you know what I mean). Pay attention to the way they pronounce the word and you’ll find yourself getting the hang of the accent as well in no time.
Find a song that has quite a simple lyric that is easy to understand and follow. Like I said every song has a story. Most importantly, stay away from songs that have profanity lyrics.
We all do have a preference when it comes to songs. Some like a fast tempo, opera, ballad, pop, rock, country etc. When choosing a song, find one that suits your taste. One that will not make you feel sleepy and boring.
All of the above criteria are for beginner’s level. Once you’ve excelled it, try going for a different genre.
So back to the question, will you be able to speak fluently by just using music? No. One thing you should set in mind is that, while learning a language through music is a great and faster way to learn a new language, you shouldn’t and can’t expect to speak fluently by just using music.
Eventually, you still have to learn the proper grammar. This method is only suitable for people who want to learn the basic words, sentences or phrases.
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