By: Ben Simonds
There are a plethora of benefits to raising a child to learn multiple languages, as experts everywhere agree that multilingualism leads to better learning and social outcomes in children. However, in order for children to learn a new language and reap the benefits of multilingualism, they need the right resources, mentors, and learning strategies - especially if the parent isn’t necessarily fluent in the language themselves.
It’s important to think about early age learning from the perspective of the child. Engaging children in teaching is best done when the material and its presentation incite curiosity and excitement. One of the most well-known and often used methods of keeping children happy and engaged, whether in general or in a learning context, is music. It’s no secret that children love music! However, music has been scientifically proven to be an effective tool for teaching children (Elofsson et al., 2018). Teaching children using music can have positive short-term effects, such as immediate improvement in mathematics (Rodriguez et al., 2019), and is also associated profound long-term improvements in cognitive abilities (Dittinger et al., 2019). Music is fun and engaging, and it’s a great tool for helping facilitate learning in children.
Music as a tool for learning can be applied to foreign language learning as well! Music, particularly singing, has been shown by experts to enhance foreign language learning. Specifically, the repetition and “listen-and-sing” learning method, where the learner listens to the teacher singing in a foreign language and repeats the lyrics by singing, was shown to significantly increase memory and recall for spoken foreign language phrases (Ludke, Ferreira, & Overy, 2013). This practice has been proven to work very well in teaching children a new language. One study found that children who learned a new language through singing had better recall of words, better pronunciation, and a stronger ability to translate words back to their native language than children who didn’t learn through singing (Good, Russo, & Sullivan, 2015).
Teaching children a new language through singing is a fantastic way for them to begin to learn a new language. Instead of teaching the child words, phrases, or passages in plain, spoken word, try incorporating key words and phrases into songs and teach the child to be able to sing the song. There are also a number of great songs out there that teach new, interesting vocabulary words! For example, most popular languages will have some version of the ABCs, which is a great way for children to begin to learn the alphabet. Additionally, versions of “Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” in the foreign language can help learn body parts, and the new version of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” can help with learning farm animals! The best part about learning a new language through singing is that it doesn’t even feel like learning - it feels like play time!
Music and singing can be a great tool for teaching a child a new language, regardless of if the parent knows the new language and songs within the language. Videos and recordings can be found all over the internet, so parents have easy access to foreign language learning songs for their children. Whether the parent is teaching their child their native language while raising the child in an english-speaking country, or the parent wants to learn a new language with their child, music is a fun, engaging, and scientifically proven way to enhance the learning of a new language for a young child!
Ben Simonds is a Junior at Bowdoin College pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology with a concentration in child development and a minor in religious studies. He is passionate about working with children and advocating for mental and emotional health. As a blog writer he is committed to writing about
the most important issues and doing what he can to give parents the tools to raise healthy and happy children.
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