In early December I was pleased to be able to meet today’s guest author Susanna Zaraysky for lunch here in Istanbul. The neurological links between language and music are vast but the basic thing to remember is that music activates more parts of the brain than language does, on both the right and left sides of the brain. Have you ever heard a song on the radio that you haven’t heard in a decade and you surprise yourself by singing all the lyrics? Music and catchy jingles can stick in our minds for years while names of people, places,  verb conjugation charts and memorized data disappear.
Just yesterday, I was writing an email to someone in Spanish and telling him that I needed to dust off my Thai cookbook to remember the recipe for Thai coconut milk soup for a Lunar New Year party with my friends. My words about Thai coconut milk soup were not as poetic or romantic as the words from the song, but it was my memory of the song lyrics that made me think of the word “desempolvar” in Spanish. What happens when you hear something in a song is that you are opening yourself up to the greater global picture of the language. Songs are awakening the language capacity of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who suffered brain damage caused by a bullet that passed through the left side of her brain, causing her to lose expressive speech. If songs can help someone with brain injuries regain speaking abilities, then music can help everyone else learn languages. Watch this video to understand the fundamentals of how to listen to a foreign language to learn. After listening to the song(s) several time to get used to its sounds and melody, students write the lyrics of the songs while listening. If you can’t locate the lyrics on the lyrics websites, just type in the name of the song in quotes in a web search. If you don’t think that Sesame Street is actually a viable option for anyone over the age of five, think again. Note: Sesame Street has various international versions available on You Tube from Russia, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Egypt, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, Palestine, Jordan, Bangladesh, Japan, India and France.
Ready to get serious about learning another language?Enter your email to get resources and updates from The Everyday Language Learner. I had a Hungarian guy working for me a few years ago in Ireland who had atrociously bad English, yet when he sang English songs on his guitar you would have thought he was an American. I am involved in 2 European funded projects that are also using music in language learning. Good music can fascinate you enough to convince you to learn the language of its country of origin. We would like to ensure that you will be able to communicate in real-life situations by providing you Q&A role-play. With more than 700 plus role-play question and answers, they are according to DVD animation and topic to the lesson. Desperate because mastering the English language will open up new doors of opportunity for them, for their families.
I think we can start a grass roots movement of free information that a new system for language building can be built upon.
February 21st is UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day, which is intended to “encourage people to maintain their knowledge of their mother language while learning and using more than one language”. I’m not sure if there are still places where people are banned by law from using their first language.
As the current lingua franca of science, business, IT, and higher education, English finds itself at the centre of this debate.
The ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) movement could be seen as a response to the growing dominance of English in global communication. In a follow-up to this post next week, Lars Trap-Jensen will give his perspective as a speaker of Danish.
For more blog posts in this series discussing the dominance of English, or English as a lingua franca, please see this page. Nowadays is Catalan which is imposed to Spanish speakers here in Catalonia (very much like French in Quebec),please remember that. So the reason people do one set of performative acts rather than another is their usefulness.


It’s more useful not because of any inherent superiority but simply because its more widespread than any other language, and particularly so among the urbanized and affluent. In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners.
Yet sometimes it feels like I am talking to the wall when I tell people how lyrical songs can help people learn language. So if you remember something to a tune, you are more likely to recall the information than if you just read it or heard it spoken.
Then when you learn what the words mean by using a dictionary or reading the translation of the lyrics or just guessing from the context, you are putting the puzzle of the language together. As you can see in this ABC News special report about her recovery,  songs are helping the former Arizona Congresswoman regain her speech. After listening to songs, Representative Giffords remembers the words from songs that she previously could not say. This five minute video can save you many hours of painful work later on to polish your accent. Paul Sulzberger, did his PhD thesis in linguistics in New Zealand about how people learn Russian. Seriously, it’s not uncommon to find language teachers who aren’t familiar with contemporary music in the language they are teaching and play old songs that don’t resonate to their student’s ears. The Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California which trains staff from all branches of the United States military in different languages shows Sesame Street in Arabic to its Arabic language students. The best way to find the videos in those languages is to do a search for Sesame Street and the name of the country or language.
This is an approach I’ve taken with Irish (I started teaching myself a few weeks ago). I think the reason is that they are not consciously making a link between their singing in their target language and their speech. As a teacher of Spanish and French, I try to use music in my lessons as often as I can because my students really enjoy it.
Unfortunately this year, I had less hours to teach and had to follow a curriculum, so I didn’t have enough lesson time to repeat this experience. I agree that music is powerful and should be used as ofen as possible for learning or improvenig languages.
This annual event was established to commemorate a protest march at the University of Dhaka (in what is now Bangladesh, but was then in the eastern part of Pakistan) on 21st February 1952. In Spain during the Franco era, the government tried to impose Spanish (Castilian) on the people of Catalunya, and banned the use of Catalan in public institutions. But language shift – “the process whereby a speech community … shifts to speaking another language” – continues in more subtle ways. ELF doesn’t get a very good press in Paul Emmerson’s post on the subject, but the ELFers make a good point when they advise “native-speakers” to avoid culturally-loaded words and expressions which are likely to be unfamiliar to many of the people they’re dealing with. English is widely used in Denmark – so what is the status of the country’s own language? Bill Bryson recounts a story (apparently true) about American Educators being concerned that fewer students, each year, were taking foreign language courses, or bothering to learn a second language. I speak seven languages and listening to lyrical music in these languages was fundamental to my being able to copy the melody of these languages and remember pronunciation and vocabulary.
If you start with the puzzle pieces (grammar rules, conjugation charts, vocabulary lists, etc), you may end up using those puzzle pieces as a sleeping pill rather than as means to learning the language. If you listen first to your target language, before speaking, you have a better chance of having good pronunciation. He had one group of students who got to listen to Russian speech before formally learning Russian. Some words will be hard to write because they may be idioms or slang that you haven’t learned yet, but just write as much as they can understand. If GI Joe and GI Jane can learn to speak al- arabi with the Arabic equivalent of the Cookie Monster, then so can you! If you know the name of the program in the specific language, like Plaza Sesamo in Spanish, then use that name in your search on You Tube.


I spent the entire first week just listening to TV and radio in Irish Gaeilge to tune my ears before opening my mouth. If teachers don’t make the connection for students, not all students will realize that songs can effect their spoken and written language. Even if you can’t work on songs in class, you can have your students find songs they like, decipher them and sing them in class for extra credit and do a presentation to the class explaining what the song is about and what they learned. It’s wonderful that kids in Europe are getting such early musical exposure to foreign languages. The government of Pakistan had tried to impose Urdu as the sole national language: Urdu was, and is, the dominant language of (West) Pakistan, but in the eastern part, the great majority had Bengali as their mother tongue. In Austria, for example, applications for official funding of scientific research programmes have to be submitted in English: the researchers may all be German-speakers, but the experts who review the proposal probably won’t be. But as Emmerson says, this recommendation pre-dates the arrival of the ELF lobby, and it’s really an argument for the importance of intercultural competence. Congress was asked to support a Bill to provide large amounts of money (millions) to invest in American colleges to encourage language studies. In DRC, for example, most of the country’s languages are banned from formal education Some language communities have developed their language and want to use it in primary school in spit of this ban, but the efforts are still considered illegal by the authorities who resist them. Let yourself breathe in the language with music so you can get a rhythmic introduction to the language. If you launch into speaking from Day One, you are likely to be speaking with a poor accent and it will be hard to rewire your brain later on to produce different sounds after you may have solidified your speaking patterns. This is especially important for visual learners because they can see the story being told by the lyrics and better understand what the song is about and match their new vocabulary to the images on the screen. Compare the lyrics they noted down with the original song lyrics that you will provide them and see how well you were able to understand the song. I don’t know if the Arabic Cookie Monster eats baklava or cookies, but his message can reach you. The challenge in the US, where I live, is to expose children and adults to foreign language media as almost all of our radio and TV broadcasts are in English. I have seen amzing results and believe that music should be part of every curriculum in all educational systems. Independence from the system is possible, but  a revolution in language education needs to take place.
In colonial Ireland, for example, the indigenous Irish language was systematically suppressed and – for most of the 19th century – it was banned in primary schools.
Similarly, the most prestigious journals, where academics need to publish their research in order to disseminate their ideas (and progress in their careers), tend increasingly to be in English. In a recent lecture, available here, David Crystal focussed on this topic, and showed – with several entertaining examples – how a person can be fluent in English but might nevertheless be mystified by the cultural assumptions made by other speakers in a conversation. One could cite many other cases of government policy that is quite hostile to language without actually banning it.
Those who spent time listening to Russian before studying it, had an easier time than those who had no experience listening to the language when it came to recognizing individual words in speech when they were formally learning the language. It wasn’t until the “Gaelic revival” of the late 19th century that the steep decline in the use of the Irish language began to be reversed.
Alongside these trends, we see a gradual increase in English-medium programmes of study in many universities outside the English-speaking world (if that expression still makes any sense).
Successful communication, in other words, depends not only on language skills but on an understanding of other people’s cultures. Your ears need no other distractions to properly hear all the high, medium and low frequencies of the language. Therefore, the exposure to listening to the language to pick up the melody and sound patterns before learning words and grammar was advantageous to the students. Use them to break the chains of a broken system and set language learner's free to learn on their own.



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