4 Reasons Why You Should Use Music to Learn Spanish
Music can help kids learn a second language – just like they learned their first one. But why? Here are four key takeaways, with insight from Spanish music teacher and bilingual mom Laura Bruce of Mi Casa Es Tu Casa, in Austin, TX.
1. Music is sticky.
Music is fun, repetitive and rhythmic – all important characteristics that make learning – and learning a language – easier and less overwhelming. Have you ever witnessed how quickly kids learn songs in their native language? The same thing happens in a song sung in a different language, too.
Because songs tell stories, music helps us learn to use key words in context, while tone, rhythm and rhyme help reinforce pronunciation. And when a song gets stuck in a child’s brain and they repeat it over and over again, they’re essentially practicing vocabulary – all done for the sake of enjoyment.
2. Infants hear “music” in the spoken word.
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that language and music are deeply entangled in early life and develop along parallel tracks. Infants perceive the spoken word in the same way they hear music – as a kind of vocal performance. As we've all heard, parents often speak to babies in a musical way – higher pitched, slow and rhythmic. This kind of speech – or “motherese” – is practiced across all cultures, and it likely helps a child learn a language by capturing their attention and ultimately communicating information (Fernald, 1989). It also enhances important patterns in language, such as vowel categories and word divisions (Kuhl et al., 1997). Kids are essentially wired – and conditioned – from birth to learn language by way of musical intonation.
3. Music and language use the same parts of the brain.
A study from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland found evidence that singing can help facilitate foreign language learning. In fact, it appears that one region of the brain called “Broca’s area” is responsible for a range of both language and musical abilities.
4. Music gets kids talking.
Music also allows children to ease out of their silent phase and become more vocal. Until they really begin speaking, kids often spend time just observing – but not necessarily participating. Music helps them turn that corner. It also creates opportunities for kids to practice their sounds and exercise the tongue for speech.
And of course, when it comes to learning a new language, everything music does for kids, it does for parents, too!