Learning through music and the media
by Susanna Zaraysky, author of Language is Music
Have you ever heard a song on the radio that you haven't heard in a decade and you surprise yourself by singing all the lyrics?
Music and catchy jingles can stick in our minds for years while names of people, places, and memorized data disappear. Music engages more areas of the brain than language does.
Don't focus your language learning on vocabulary lists and grammar charts. Get the beat on and add some music, TV, radio and movies.
I've met people who have learned almost perfect American English accents by watching TV shows from the US. They didn't get their accents from their English teachers in school. They were having fun being entertained and learned American pronunciation in the process. I've also met people who have learned Spanish and Portuguese from Latin American telenovelas. All of these people had never lived in the Americas. They learned through the media. So can you!
I know how powerful music is because I studied 10 languages and speak seven (Russian, English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, and French) with perfect or almost perfect accents. I was able to do this because I listened to language like music and internalized the prosody and melodies of the languages. I also studied grammar, but it's a lot easier and more fun to study grammar rules when you actually like the language you are learning. You can learn to like your target language by finding movies, TV shows, music and radio programs that you like. Plus, you remember the grammar rules better when you know verses from songs that display these rules, irregular verb conjugations, idioms, etc.
For example, when I was learning the imperfect subjunctive (the case denoting doubt) in Spanish, it was much easier for me to remember the "como si" construction that necessitates the following verb to be conjugated in the imperfect subjunctive because I remembered the verse from the famous song Besame Mucho, "Besame mucho como si fuera esta noche la última vez" (Kiss me a lot as though tonight were the last night). "Fuera" is the imperfect subjunctive of the verb ser (to be) in Spanish. I knew the song long before I learned the imperfect subjunctive verb tense in Spanish, so it was easy to remember why the notion of doubt (as though tonight) would change the verb tense. This shows that music can not only help you learn the accent and rhythm of the language, but it can reinforce and illustrate grammar.
Just turn on your radio, relax and get in the groove of your new tongue. Paying attention to media in your target language introduces you to the phonetical and grammatical structure of your new tongue. After you get used to the melodies of your new languages, then you can insert the grammar and vocabulary. Listen first. Speak later.
Enjoy the learning process and you will learn much more! I've written Language is Music, a short and easy-to-read book about how to learn foreign languages using music, the media and other free and low-cost resources. I want more people to become multilingual and I think that using fun resources like music and movies can be an excellent way to get people excited and engaged in language learning. Having studied many languages myself, I know how boring foreign languages classes can be and I want to help students and teachers to enliven the language learning process with some tunes and media. Turn up the music and turn on the language-learning! You can find out more info about Language is Music online at: www.languageismusic.com or on Amazon.
About the author
Susanna speaks seven languages (English, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Serbo-Croatian) with excellent accents because she learn languages like she learns music. She has also studied Hungarian, Hebrew and Arabic. After teaching English in Argentina, Bosnia and the United States, she realized how to make foreign language learning fun and easy through listening exercises and music.