There are many different ways and reasons to learn a foreign language. You may be studying for a big exam, preparing for a move to a new country or simply just looking to gain a new skill. Whatever your reasons for attempting to pick up a whole new language, there are some inescapable truths. Speaking a different tongue is difficult to achieve and is amount more than just reciting words and phrases from a page.
Fortunately, many linguists have offered a helpful solution: listen to music. There are loads of reasons why spending time hearing songs from your chosen language is a fantastic way to cement your new knowledge, but we've documented some of the most important points below.
Immerse YourselfLearning a language is a 360-degree experience. It’s about covering all four skills—speaking, listening, reading and writing—and spending as much time immersed in this new lexis as possible. By listening to music, you are adding your new language into your day-to-day routine and, therefore, continually familiarizing yourself with the way it sounds, as well as learning to identify differences in accents and regional dialect.
This is particularly helpful, as many languages vary dramatically depending on where in the country you are. Often, language tapes specifically chose voices that are easy to understand and, while this helps initially, it's often a drawback when trying to translate these skills into real life. Once you have a basic vocabulary understanding, music can help transform this into conversational level knowledge.
Practice Makes PerfectThe skill of listening, when learning a new language, is perhaps one of the hardest to master. This is because, unless you're lucky enough to be living in the country whose language you're learning, it's tough to get enough access to be able to hear it being spoken. Most good language courses offer listening exercises, but these are designed for the purpose of learning and are often not a good reflection of what the naturally spoken language would sound like.
Because of this, music offers a fantastic resource to sharpen your ears and familiarize yourself with the sounds and inflections of your new dialect. Different genres offer chances to practice different speeds, and different artists will provide you with a variety of accents to get used to.
Understanding ColloquialismsSimilarly, many language courses teach you the academic, grammatically correct version, and while this obviously makes sense, it's very unlikely this is how you'll hear it spoken. Variations in sentence structure, as well as slang words and phrases, are what is truly required to become fluent, so listening to music can be a fantastic benefit.
The poetic nature of lyrics means that they’re never written with a proper structure, so allow listeners to get used to hearing a colloquial way of speaking. This helps you to form a greater understanding of the everyday structure and use of your chosen language.
Passive ListeningPassive listening is the practice of sitting back and absorbing what a speaker is saying, without taking notes and returning the interaction. For a long time, passive listening has been an essential feature of language learning, and music and radio offer a fantastic outlet to be able to do this.
However, passive listening is, in itself, a skill. It's important to ensure that you aren't just playing to music as background noise. Instead, you have to focus on what's being said and not get distracted by doing something else. Some suggestions include mouthing along with the words or repeating the phrases to yourself afterward.
Musically Optimize Your Brain FunctionFascinatingly, it’s not just the fact that songs and radio showcase the language you’re trying to learn; music itself has also been shown to have an incredible impact on our learning abilities. The theory goes that certain genres have a calming quality, and when your brain is relaxed, it’s substantially easier to concentrate and retain information.
Similarly, rhymes and rhythmic chants have long been used all throughout school as a tool to help retain important information. While curriculum songs mainly focused on the alphabet, timetables and subjects of that nature, it is also something that can also be applied to learning music via language. Lyrics are notoriously easy to remember, so act as a fantastic tool for long-term retention of specific vocabulary.
No matter what stage of learning you’re at, music is undoubtedly a fantastic tool to cement your understanding and broaden your listening skills. However, it’s not the only learning-hack that can be used. If you have any other tips on how to help learn a new language, then be sure to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your ideas!