By Mairim and Marc Zacharias
Eager to have your children learn a language? Let them sing it.
Learning a new language and getting exposed to a different culture is a tremendous gift you can give your children. Knowing how to speak different languages is not only a fantastic asset in a professional career or in social settings, it also extends your ability to think things out, thereby making you a faster problem solver. Amazingly, it accelerates learning of other concepts and cognitive sciences by being able to think out a problem in different ways. But, as lots of us can testify, it’s not always easy to learn a new language.
Traditional ways to teach a language are grounded in heavy sets of grammatical rules and lists of vocabulary words to be memorized by heart. Most people struggle to make progress, and we come to wonder why these expensive tutoring sessions don’t bear more fruit. The reason is simple: a few hours a week is not enough, and memorizing lists of words like a catalogue doesn’t make us fluent and spontaneous in a language. Children surely don’t learn much that way, and maybe it’s not like adults should be learning either. Children learn things by experimentation, by playing and by constant exposure to activities they can actively engage in. Music and songs are a pleasant and natural way to keep us engaged. They are a perfect tool to learn and sustain the knowledge of a language. Singing songs makes us repeat vocabulary over and over again, and memorize the words and their sounds effortlessly. And not only that, vocabulary is memorized in the context of a sentence, and a story line in the song, so that our brain can automatically associate a word or group of words with a situation they fit in. That way, when we are having a conversation, our brain will be able to use a given word in the right position in a sentence and in the right context.
Singing and listening to music was a great jump starts to get our three children to enrich in their three languages (Spanish, English, and French) in a fun way and to learn more vocabulary every day. Who doesn’t like music? You will always find a style of music you enjoy. The most important thing is that when you listen to music you have fun, and it makes you feel ready to learn, open your mind, and process information easily, without effort or reticence.
Mairim and Marc Zacharias