The combination of foreign language classes with music not only makes learning more diverse and interesting, but also helps to distinguish speech better. Most often, music helps to remember new words and syntactic forms. RUDN University linguists have compiled and tested a language training program with musical elements for pre-schoolers. The results are published in Thinking Skills and Creativity.
There are common elements in teaching music and foreign languages: reading, memorizing, listening, and an emotional component. These two processes can be combined to balance the rational and emotional sides of human experience and thinking. RUDN University linguists have proven the effectiveness of a music program for teaching English to pre-schoolers.
“Music plays a key role in early language acquisition. 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. Songs can also help students learn paralinguistic and extralinguistic elements, including accents and tones, as well as improve pronunciation and comprehension” said Doctor of Philology Irina Karabulatova, Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages of the RUDN University.
22 girls and 20 boys took part in the experiment, their average age was 4.5 years. Linguists tested children to estimate the level of language understanding before classes, during and after it. In addition, the researchers conducted interviews with parents and teachers. After 20 weeks of 45-minute classes, participants who did not know foreign languages before, mastered 51-90% of the training material and learned to answer questions in English.
The scientists added singing, dancing and games to the training program. The participants showed the most noticeable progress after the sixth week of training. By this time, 75% of them had overcome their shyness and fears and showed a clear interest in the language. From 6 to 9 weeks, 80% of children answered questions confidently with simple English vocabulary. From week 10 to week 16, the teachers expanded the vocabulary and introduced new concepts, after that progress slowed down a bit, but with the help of the music, knowledge continued to build up again. About half of the children sang the songs they listened to after class or during a break. By the end of classes, almost 100% of the children could follow the instructions of the teachers, even if they did not know how to answer the question. Interviewed parents and teachers noted that it was a new experience for children.
“The research results can be useful for teachers and managers of language schools who seek to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning. It is recommended that educators include creative musical activities in their lessons to remove language barriers, re-establish contact with students, and make complex pedagogical concepts more accessible and enjoyable. Prospects for further research are the possibility of studying the impact of music on the effectiveness of foreign language learning among children of other ages and adults”, said Doctor of Philology Irina Karabulatova, Professor of the Department of Foreign Languages of the RUDN University.