Sarah Kempf, Instructor

Learning languages through music

Bonjour! Chances are you know that word and can possibly sing the entire first song of the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. 🌹If not that one, how about Les poissons” 🐟from the Little Mermaid? We hear words in different languages all the time, in TV shows📺, in movies 🎥, advertisements and my personal favorite la musique!🎶

Even if I did not become a French teacher, I would still be able to sing “Frère Jacques” to you. Pourquoi? Because we sang it in school when I was little and it made it into my long term memory. We know that repetition is key to learning a language.

A study out of RUDN university finds that “The processing of music and language occurs in the same area of the brain, and musical and linguistic syntax may be similarly processed.

Songs teach linguistic systems such as vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. By studying the texts of words, learners can quickly expand their vocabulary, and chanting phrases can improve their memorization. " said Doctor of Philology Irina Karabulatova, Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages of the RUDN University.
What does that mean? In addition to the benefits of expanding vocabulary and learning some elements of sentence structure, music is a great way to introduce culture into a lesson. Different countries have different musical styles, use different instruments, and have much to offer.  (Zydeco 🪗 or Raï🪘anyone?) You can use music to talk about a wide array of topics from sports to the environment!! 
How can you enjoy music in another language while improving your listening comprehension?
1. Listen in the car on your commute 🚗
2. Listen while doing chores (or while working)
3. Add the visual by watching a lyric video and singing along 🎙️
Music is instrumental (see what we did there? 👀 )  in our language journey, it's such a fun way to help us learn to let the language wash over us. 

Don’t know where to start? Enjoy the lyricism of your favorite language while listening to the Freestyle 
Spotify playlists! Choose your language- French, Spanish, English, Italian

Do you have to actively study the song to absorb it?
Non! Choose a singer (or genre) for the language you are learning and just push play. Before you know it you will be singing along! 👨‍🎤 *Pro tip* You don't have to study the song, but you could look a the lyrics while listening to speed up the process. 

Do you want to learn more about music from other cultures? Join our Saturday cafés and explore music 🎶 and culture 🥘 with Team Freestyle! 
About the Author: Sarah Kempf

Sarah fell in love with French sitting in a high school classroom at the age of 14. Thanks to a passionate teacher and a class trip to Quebec City, Sarah continued her French studies. She spent her semester abroad studying in Montpellier as well as a summer in Avignon studying theater. She went on to earn a BA in French from Aquinas College in Michigan and an MA in French and Francophone Studies from the University of California Santa Barbara. She has more than 20 years of experience teaching French and enjoys making the language come alive for students.

Learn more.