It’s never been a better time to learn a foreign language. The wealth of technology and media at our disposal is breathtaking compared to years past. Among the more fun ways to give yourself a booster when learning another language is to listen to music. Through the dulcet tones of unfamiliar words and phrases set to music, we can actually help ourselves in ways that we didn’t even know.
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🎶 Music Has Mnemonic Properties
Many of us enjoy using mnemonic devices to help us remember tricky aspects of language, and almost anything we’re learning about, in fact. The rhythm and melody of music can act in a similar way, as we remember various syllables of words within phrases according to their place within that musical structure. At the very least, the musical element can help us to detect when something is wrong in a particular sentence. If the words you’re singing to yourself suddenly don’t fit the tune, then you can reflect back on that sentence with the music to try and locate the “missing element.”
👄 It Helps Get Our Mouth and Tongue in Order
The pronunciation of a language is often somewhat altered by the musical element. Have you ever noticed that most English-language songs sound American when sung, even when you have British, Australian or South African singers? Did you know that in Chinese music, the dreaded tones become irrelevant when singing, too, as listeners sharpen up their ears to get the meaning purely from context?
All of this means that singing in another language might not necessarily aid in our pronunciation per se, but what it certainly can do is help us get our mouth and tongue to the right positions as we practice. This is valuable because that’s at least half the battle of pronunciation already won. Furthermore, depending on the style of music, it may also require you do it at speed, or at least rhythmically. The advantage here is that when you come to speaking normally, it feels easier to do it.
😎 Gain a Rich Conversational Vocabulary
Can you think of any modern songs that are written in formal or classical prose? How about using stiff or formal language? If you’re racking your brains trying to think of examples right now, then you might be at it for some time because lyrics are invariably casual and natural. This means that through music we can assimilate the syntax of our target language and enlarge our vocabulary with words we can then quickly and naturally apply to our everyday lives.
🧒 It Works on Learners of All Ages
Research shows that infants who listen to multiple languages --- including those in musical form --- grow up with much better linguistic sensitivity in those languages that they have been exposed to from an early age. What’s more, it’s also a very engaging experience for learners of all ages, which brings us neatly to the next point.
💃 It’s Fun!
Regardless of our motives, listening to music brings us multiple levels of enjoyment and engagement. There’s a reason that certain songs get stuck in our heads. We pay such close mind to music that we allow it to infiltrate to the very deepest recesses of our mind where it gets trapped and kept for a lifetime.
For this reason, using it as a language-learning tool is tremendous fun, and it’s those kinds of fun learning experiences that are often the most positively impacting and lasting.
🎵 The Joys (and Practicalities) of Music in a Foreign Language
Next time you’re planning some self-study time to practice your listening skills, consider throwing music into the mix and see how it helps you over time. At the very least, you’ll find some nice additions to put into your favorite playlists and enjoy just for the music. If you also get some language benefit from it, then it’s all the greater the experience!
🎉 Get started!
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