The following is the next instalment in my series looking at how music can help you get better in a foreign language. We looked at the way it transports you to the heart of the culture in your target country, and a great method for getting to know new words and practicing structures through song. In the final part, I wanted to share some more ingenious ways to use music for learning with you. These are my musical hacks.
1) Join a choir, sing vocal harmonies
A few years ago, I was in Poland with a group of other travellers and got chatting to a British girl who had studied French and German. We both had good fun trying to pick up a few Polish phrases and others had remarked on our good pronunciation skills. In the course of an evening at the pub, she presented me with the theory that our common hobby of choir singing could have something to do with our pronunciation and copying skills. In fact, to me this has always rung true, and in fact there are scientific studies looking into this "listen and copy" training method.
Your listening and copying skills are invaluable tools for language learning. You will need them to
- become familiar with pronunciation
- develop conversation skills
- get comfortable listening to yourself and others
- apply rules and instructions to produce sounds.
Singing in harmony with other vocal performers trains you to make sure you know the sounds they are producing. So for this musical hack, I recommend that you make your local choir into your new best friends. You will reproduce melodies and ensure that you observe and develop other sound producers (singers, speakers). Some choirs even use sign language to accompany the sung words, and many will feature pieces of music in foreign languages. Not only will it train the essential listen and copy skills, but you'll also learn to sing in a new language.
2) Make up your own jingle
Have you ever come across an earworm? It's a piece or section of music that gets stuck and plays over and over in your head. Use this repetition to practice by singing your vocab and getting that stuck in your head.
Every language has its own rhythm and melody, and building that into your jingle is a powerful thing. If you are feeling a little apprehensive starting this off, try a really well-known song. How about Gangnam Style? Listen here:
That was me practicing some Russian with a song stuck in everyone's head.
Your option for this could be to translate some lines from your favourite song and sing them in the target language. For inspiration, maybe try the "Call Me Maybe" polyglot video.
Use a microphone or voice recording app to compare your pronunciation to the real speakers', and catch yourself in a moment where you were not worrying about getting it right or wrong because you are too busy trying to sing in time with the music.
Building a "jamming" session into your learning experience is a low-pressure way of letting go and allowing yourself to experiment. You need a little creativity for this, but there are no goals - just have fun and experiment.
Some ideas; Sing a song with your language partner (from Italki or Verbling for example). Learn the days of the week using notes from musical scales. Raid youtube for a foreign language song, use it as your alarm tune for a week, then write down all the words and translate them.
So that's it, I hope you enjoyed these posts as much as I did. As ever, I love hearing from you and if you enjoyed this post, please consider joining my newsletter crowd!
- 7 reasons why you should sing to learn languages.. by Benny Lewis
- Language Learning Tip: Use Music to Learn a Foreign Language by The Everyday Language Learner
- Tools to Learn Spanish #2 – Practicing Spanish with Lyrics Training on Fair Languages