How music affects learning of languages
Published On February 8, 2014 » 2419 Views» By Davies M.M Chanda » Features
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TALKING MUSIC 2THERE is a debate that has come up after the Ministry of Education introduced the new school curriculum that entails that children in the lower grades should be instructed in the local languages depending on the geographical location.
Some urban dwellers have been sceptical on the issue saying it will disadvantage the children on the international scene because they won’t be able to communicate effectively.
I will dedicate this week’s column to language and music, in which the two have worked together in terms of language development and learning new languages.
Talking about music and language, some people have been stereotyped being of a certain tribe because of the music they listen or simply the vocabulary they adopt after listening to certain music with a certain language or language style.
A good example is Rhumba music; many Zambians have come to learn Lingala and Swahili from DR Congo because of listening to that country’s music and as such been deemed to be from that country.
Another example can be drawn from Jamaican music with a lot of young people able to speak Patois which they learn from Reggae music.
Examples above only show that music has the power to alter as well preserve language if only musicians can stick to their languages when singing songs.
After all with the influx of Nigerian music on the African market as well South African music where mostly local languages from those countries are used, people can still get something from what someone is singing or better still do a research and find out what the song talks about.
Throughout time, healers, philosophers, scientists, and teachers have recognised the place of music for healing and developmental functions.
Researchers over the last twenty years have made astounding advances in the theory of language acquisition. Many find the academic conjoining of language and music compelling.
According to the book The Use of Music for Learning Languages: A Review of the Literature: Described in the earliest cultural records, enacted throughout the development of infants, evidenced from cognitive scientists, and utilised by innovative teachers and therapists, the deep and profound relationship between music and language supports their discriminate, concurrent use to improve outcomes for language acquisition.
Melodic recognition, shape processing, tone discrimination, rhythm, and perception of the sight, sound, and form of symbols in context are required in both music and language.
Like supportive sisters, they comprise “separate, though complimentary systems of structured communication… language primarily responsible for content and music evoking emotion”.
Music positively affects language accent, memory, and grammar as well as mood, enjoyment, and motivation.
Language teachers and music therapists alike should encourage the conjoined study of these natural partners, because communicating through a musical medium benefits everyone.
A research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that music stimulates memory.
Have you ever wondered why you get a song’s refrain stuck in your head for days on end, but never sentences from a magazine or a dialogue from a movie you just watched?
That’s because music stimulates memory like nothing else. And think about it: When you were a kid, weren’t you taught all kinds of songs and tunes to help you remember stuff?
The alphabet,  the planets’ order in the solar system, irregular verbs, etc. Music is a powerful memory trigger, making it one of the best learning tools there is.
You can listen to songs written in the language you are learning, but you can also make up your own!
Pick your favorite melody and sing the days of the week to it, for example, or anything you have to memorise in a foreign language! You’ll see an improvement quickly.
Singing and learning lyrics increases vocabulary
It does so in our own language, why would it not be the same in a foreign language? Listening to a song in the language you’re trying to learn will help you enrich your vocabulary much quicker. You’ll hear words as well as word combinations that you might not have heard in any other circumstances.
Singing a Song Improves Pronunciation
Perhaps you’ll notice that your accent is less noticeable when you sing a foreign language than when you speak it. That’s because the rhythm of the music makes it easier to articulate the words, and helps develop a proper pronunciation.
Listening to music will improve your comprehension
According to Dave Munger’s Cognitive Daily article, the very first thing you have to figure out when you learn a new language is where the words begin and end. That step not only is the first, but also the hardest. Adding melody and pitch to speech can help make that step easier; Music makes the words more differentiable from one another.
Last But Not Least: Music Is Fun
Maybe that one sums it all. Of course all those scientific explanations of why music is a powerful learning tool are valuable.
But, come to think of it, maybe all of music’s power relies on the fact that music is fun, entertaining and emotionally stimulating. By boosting morale and motivation, music has the power to make tasks seem effortless.
The findings of the research above show us that our musicians and singers can also help in popularising our Zambian languages by singing in their mother tongue which be Lozi, Bemba, Nyanja, Luvale, Lunda, Kaonde and Tonga to help with the assimilation of our dying local languages.
Research shows that it doesn’t matter in what language the song is done, if it is nice people will definitely love it and will be forced to learn the language so as to know the meaning.
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