Sion Binalon

Music and language acquisition

How music benefits the language learner


I am not surprised when my students draw the music room as one of their favorite places in school. They are always excited to go.

One teacher plays the piano and I plan with her the songs to sing. We meet once a week and learn a new song each time. Most of the songs are classic nursery rhymes. The students sing them while playing or doing different guided movements. It brings a lot of giggles and excitement.

I get them to wave and to say goodbye while pretending rowing a foam bed to the tune of row, row, your boat; falling and raising a bridge of London Bridge (a favorite so far) and others. Music is magical. One of my students giggles sweetly when the piano is pressed harmoniously.

Importantly, I've got them to sing the songs without much encouragement. I've seen them pronounce words as best as they can and remember the lyrics easily.

Numerous studies have proven that music is a pathway to learn a language faster. Why language stuck faster through a melody? According to the evidence, language and music depend on the same brain systems.

"One brain system, based in the temporal lobes, helps humans memorize information in both language and music- for example, words and meanings in language and familiar melodies in music. The other system, based in the frontal lobes, helps us unconsciously learn and use the rules that underlie both language and music, such as the rules of syntax in sentences, and the rules of harmony in music." Michael Ullman, Ph.D

Interestingly, language and music are both associated with emotions and the same part of the brain is activated.

Researchers from Barcelona and Germany have found out that language learning activates sub cortical reward and motivational systems. They believe that there might be an emotional connection in learning a new language. Ever wonder why new meaningful words retain faster?

Additionally, the link between music and language strengthen connections between auditory and motor regions. The power of music is so great that it is even used in augmenting or treating various cognitive disorders.

Learning language through music helps students' verbatim memory, improves pronunciation, speaks better, and promotes positive atmosphere in learning. There might be hundreds of reasons on how learning a new language through music could benefit a learner, but surely, music brings fun, not only to young minds, but to old ones too.

This week, I'm excited to learn with my students how Yankee Doodle goes to town.




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