Music – a gift for language learners –

Posted by Google News | Industry News | domingo 10 noviembre 2013 2:32 am

It turned out that the real research findings had been somewhat manipulated by
the media. Still, this fad triggered several follow-up studies which found
that listening to classical music leads to a temporary improvement in the
ability to mentally manipulate images and shapes.

This skill can be helpful for language learners who are studying in a foreign
script and need to process different symbols. For language learners who are
learning a new writing system like Japanese or Arabic, it may be worth
giving classical music a try.

It is common for adult language learners to struggle with pronunciation in a
foreign language. Sadly, a big factor can simply be nerves: the speaker
doesn’t want to look silly or risk offence by emulating a foreign speaker.

When singing along to a song in a foreign language, however, you must
concentrate on the tone and rhythm of the music. This distraction helps you
become less self-conscious.

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Learning language in song is also a much more engaging way to practise
pronunciation than simple listen-and-repeat drills. This means that you are
more likely to put in more pronunciation practice time without realising it,
simply by playing foreign language music in the car or at home.

Vocabulary Clusters
When it comes to remembering groups of words, such as colours, numbers, body
parts or directions, language learners should look to song for help. The
University of Edinburgh’s study shows an effective way of memorising
phrases, but this tool of singing new vocabulary can be great for recalling
clusters of similar words.

It’s a simple but effective study tool: take a short vocabulary cluster and
set that list of words to music, using a common tune like ‘London Bridge is
Falling Down’. When set to a tune, the list is easier to memorise and easier
to recall, making it a good tool for test-taking situations where learners
need to recall groups of vocabulary words.

Song lyrics give learners the opportunity to practise language in context and
become familiar with basic forms. They are an accessible and fairly
unintimidating way to practise the structural concepts of language like word
order or conjugation.

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Though it may seem juvenile, children’s songs are a great tool for vocabulary
practice. They typically use simple structures, everyday vocabulary, and
lots of repetition, making them a great tool for beginner language learners.
Pop or contemporary lyrics are useful for more advanced learners who can
study colloquialisms and slang.

Linguists have long been researching the correlation between music ability
and language aptitude. The findings are consistent: a connection between
pitch awareness and phonological awareness. This means that language
learners who play a musical instrument are conditioned to better identify
and process different sounds in language. A musical ear is a great asset
when it comes to learning tonal languages like Thai or Cantonese.

Furthermore, a study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that people who have
rhythmic abilities have more consistent brain responses to speech. This
means that, with musical training, the brain becomes more attune to
processing spoken language. If you already play a musical instrument, your
listening skills already have a leg up on other language learners.

Anne Merritt is an EFL lecturer currently based in South Korea.

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