Music has always been an important part of every culture. Since the dawn of the ages, music has been used to transmit traditions to the younger generations passing on vital information like values, customs, and beliefs. Music is also a way to express thoughts and feelings. Music has also been shown to positively influence the brain. It is proven that children who study music and play an instrument are an advantage because this activity activates various regions of their brains and stronger neural connections happen.
How does music help you learn a language?
First, music has the ability of reducing stress and pressure. Thus, it will create an enjoyable environment adequate for learning. Remember, that your attitude towards language learning is important for your success. When you are relaxed and listening to songs your brain releases dopamine – a feel good hormone- and when you are content, you will memorise information easier.
When listening to songs and singing along, you can increase your vocabulary, enhance your speaking, reading, and listening ability at the same time as well as learning about the culture of your target country.
Songs contain language that is used in daily conversations by the native speakers, and that are used in a repetitive way allowing them to be processed in a fun, easy, and effective manner.
Language and music are linked. They are processed in the same area of the brain. Researchers have observed that the first thing we notice about a language is its musicality. Mora (2000, p9).
“Musicality of language provide a rich environment for sound learning by enhancing fluency through imitation and by developing awareness of sounds, rhythms, stresses, and intonations”. Mora (2000)
Babies learn their mother tongue in the same way. At first, they only perceive the musicality of what is said to them and around them, long before they can distinguish the words.
Music is an effective tool in memorising vocabulary as well as grammar. Music stimulates memory. Through music you store the new information with less effort, and you can also retrieve it easily. You learn vocabulary in context. This make learning a language with songs a powerful tool indeed. What better than trying to memorise aimlessly endless lists of new words.
Learning with music maintains students’ motivation, because in no time, you will be singing along and understanding what is said and you will also be able to use the chunks learned in your own conversations surprising one or two native speakers too.
Through singing you reproduce the sounds of the words you hear as well as their intonation helping you then have a better grasp of the pronunciation.
Another advantage is that you can listen to music on the go. Keep a playlist of the songs you enjoy in your target language with you and take advantage of the ‘dead times’ here and there, to listen to them. Passive listening will help you reinforce the knowledge that you have already acquired.
How to learn with songs.
As I just stated, choose the genre and songs that you are certain to enjoy in your target language.
Find the lyrics in your target language as well as the translation.
Listen to the song while watching the lyrics. Highlight the words you don’t know. Listen to the song a few times and try to get familiar to the sounds of the song. Listen to how each word is pronounced while still following on your transcript.
Next if there are still words or expressions you do not grasp yet, check them out in your translation script.
Once you understand everything, break the song into chunks to make the learning easier. It is up to you - it can be paragraphs, or a single sentence.
Start shadowing the song. Pause and rewind as often as needed until you learn the first chunk.
When learning the second and subsequent chunks, always listen to the song and sing from beginning so that you might reinforce the previous knowledge, as well as having a good grasp of the flow of the song. Remember that repetition is key.
Once you know the song, choose the next one and rinse and repeat.
Whenever possible, practice passive listening. (Listen. To these songs just for fun).
Consistency is also important.
You must incorporate this activity in your language routine consistently to get results.
In a 2018 study where the researchers were investigating the influence of the use of songs on vocabulary acquisition in adults at university-level EFL learners, based on the results, they concluded that teaching vocabulary through music can be highly effective if it is based on intensive music/song usage. There was no benefit when used occasionally. (The role of music in second language learning, Somaye Piri 2018)
Learning a language through music, can increase your chance to reach fluency by using authentic materials (songs) curated to your taste, allowing you to increase your vocabulary, grammar, and developing your cultural knowledge of your target country.
If you are interested to learn a language with music, try this APP. (It is not an affiliate link)