Language service companies have developed a variety of classes and programs for language training over the years. However, few have seized upon the possibility of using music to promote language learning. Although it’s not obvious, a strong relationship exists between music and language. First and foremost, music functions in a similar structural way to a language. Just as words can be thought of as the building blocks of a language, groups of notes combine to form phrases and, eventually, songs. Additionally, music and language both serve communicational purposes (with music’s main purpose being the conveyance of emotion). Perhaps most interestingly, music and language are processed in the same part of the brain: Broca’s area in the left hemisphere frontal lobe. This region of the brain is critical to the processing of sentences and, according to a recent study, also helps musicians understand musical phrases, as musicians tend to have more brain matter in Broca’s area as compared to those who never studied music.
Language Training in Finland
These connections suggest that music and language are strongly linked neurologically. Yet can music fuel language learning? Take the example of Finland. In this Scandinavian nation, children are exposed to music when they are infants using the Musiikkileikkikoulu method. This method uses games to teach important musical concepts. Although Finnish children begin language training at the later age of nine, the average Finnish adult speaks a whopping three to five languages; a testament to the power of music’s ability to kick-start language learning.
Language Training in Germany
A 2011 study conducted by researchers from Justus-Liebig University also illustrates the benefits of musical training to language learning. For the study, German preschoolers were split into two groups. One group received musical training, while the other did not. The results were astounding. The group of preschoolers who received musical training showed a significant improvement in their ability to process language, compared to the group who did not attend music lessons. These results further demonstrate the neurological linkages between music and language training.
Finally, music can also help to improve vocabulary and grammar knowledge. According to a 2010 study, researchers found that those who took music lessons before turning seven years old displayed higher vocabulary comprehension in addition to increased grammatical abilities compared to those who did not study music. Clearly, music and language are highly connected through structural similarities as well as within the brain. Perhaps this could demonstrate the potential of music to help language professionals in industries, such as professional business translation, global translation services, conference interpreting services, or even government translation services.
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