How Music Helps Kids Learn Foreign Languages

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If you’ve ever had a song stuck in your head—especially one that you can’t stand—you know the power of music to help you learn new information. 

It might not surprise you, then, to learn that music can be an amazing tool for teaching foreign languages. While decades of research confirm its effectiveness in the classroom setting, many homeschooling families have also found it useful for their own foreign language study. 

In our own family, music is one of the primary tools that we use to teach our boys Spanish and Portuguese. Since we’ve had so much success with it, I decided to do a mini-series of sorts—over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my best tips (and favorite resources) to help you use music to study foreign languages. 

Before I do, however, you might like to know exactly why music is so useful for language learning. To that end, here are seven ways that music helps kids learn foreign languages (enjoy!): 

  1. It’s an amazing memorization tool. Perhaps you, like me, can recall all of the words to at least one Spice Girls song (you totally can, right?). In that case, you don’t need me to tell you that music is a powerful way to help kids memorize new information. Even in a second language, kids can memorize song lyrics very quickly—thus internalizing the rules of the language. Which leads me to my next point... 

  2. It gives kids an intuitive sense of grammar. Rhyme and syntax feature strongly in song lyrics, and by listening to music in a foreign language, kids can get a feel for how these grammatical elements work in the language that they’re studying. 

  3. It’s great for vocabulary building. Music can not only introduce kids to everyday vocabulary, but also to new words that they might not otherwise encounter in daily life—particularly as it relates to life in other countries. This relates, of course, to what I have to share next: 
  4. Music connects kids to the cultures that speak their target language. Because language learning is ultimately about people, it is essential that kids are exposed to the cultures that speak their target language—and music is one of the most natural ways to provide that exposure! 

  5. It helps children understand the sounds of the target language. If your child is struggling with pronunciation, listening to—and singing along with—music in the target language can be a huge help. Learning to sing in the target language can get your child used to the mouth movements that are required to make certain sounds—thus improving his pronunciation!

  6. It helps diffuse the tougher moments of language learning. Even if you’re not using music as an official learning tool, you can use it to help motivate your kids through difficult stretches (which happen to everyone). Got a Spanish learner who’s going bonkers over the subjunctive? Take a five minute dance break with some music in Spanish to replenish your focus and fun. 

  7. It naturally provides multiple-sensory language experiences. While we have a tendency to think of music as primarily an auditory experience, in reality, it can engage a number of children’s senses, which makes it an especially effective teaching tool. 

If you use music as part of your homeschool language study, join in the conversation! How do you use it in your home?