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“Music and Language” is this month’s Raising Multilingual Kids Blogging Carnival, hosted by Michelle Hamman from MotherTongues. To me, music is a great way to learn languages, especially foreign languages, no matter for children or adults.

Music is a great way to learn languages

Songs and nursery rhymes are playful (e.g. “Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub”,) and are easy to remember. They also help your baby build phonological awareness and sensitivity—the ability to hear the breakdown of sounds within words and to diagnose rhythms and patterns of languages. As he grows, learning the rhymes himself will help him expand vocabulary, learn number skills and get confidence to express himself through speech.

I have tons of Chinese song DVDs/CDs to create a language-rich environment (see How to help babies acquire languages? (Method 2)). I always play Chinese children’s songs and nursery rhymes as background music as they play. And I do the same thing when they ride with me in the car.

All my girls, one 5-year-old and two 23-months love watching  “Qiaohu” DVDs, which are designed to teach children to love to learn, build positive personality and cultivate good habits via music, songs and nursery rhythms.

The twins are picking up new words quickly from the shows. One girl can count numbers from 1-30 in Chinese. The other girl can name her body parts in Chinese. They even try to sing the songs and nursery rhythms, even they cannot quite get the words right.

Chinese DVD: Qiaohu Classic Collection I (Age 0-2, 4 DVDs) Chinese DVD: Qiaohu Classic Collection II (Age 0-2, 4 DVDs)
Chinese DVD: Qiaohu Classic Collection I (Age 0-2, 4 DVDs) Chinese DVD: Qiaohu Classic Collection II (Age 0-2, 4 DVDs)

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Music is also one of the major methods for me to teach Chinese to my students, most of who come from non-Chinese native families. I use a lot of songs and videos in the class. Then I send those files to parents and encouraged them to play to their children at home. I received quite a few positive feedback from that. (see Teaching materials for Chinese lesson on greeting and Teaching materials for Chinese lesson on self-introduction)

Even adults think music is very beneficial for language learning. One 31-year-old man listed 7 reasons why you should sing to learn languages, from his personal experience of learning 19 (how many?) languages.

Here is a quick review of his 7 reasons:
  1. Music connects across cultures and can break down barriers.
  2. Getting to know the music is getting to know the culture and language and sometimes learning languages is like learning a musical instrument.
  3. Learning the lyrics of a song helps you expand your vocabulary and teach you some slang/typical phrases.
  4. Singing can actually help you reduce your foreign-sounding accent!
  5. You can use music and singing to help you learn to speak simple basic essential phrases to get by in a language much quicker.
  6. You can take music with you anywhere and learn and practice it on the move thanks to your MP3 player / mobile phone.
  7. It’s fun! You can put your whole body into singing if you like and let your hair down a lot easier than you would in many speaking situations. You can really enjoy yourself by singing and it helps to improve your mood. Life would be way cooler if people sang more!

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  1. September Blogging Carnival: Raising Multilingual Children | MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures
  2. September Blogging Carnival: Raising Multilingual Children : One Percent for the Planet

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