Language Via Music

One of the best ways for me to learn the flow and cadence of a language is to listen to and sing along with its music. I’ve noticed that Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose and Yves Montand with Sous le Ciel de Paris have greatly pushed my understanding of the French language. Memorizing song lyrics is a more enjoyable way t expand vocabulary. Media is also ripe with slang and contractions, especially in works more contemporary, that you wouldn’t get from a textbook.

Accents are much easier to pick up as a rule when singing. I notice that Americans can sing in  British accents for more classical vocal work, and many English or Australian singers would be indistinguishable from a born-and-bred American. Or maybe the accents are just less noticeable. In either case, I can hear the way it’s supposed to sound in the song.

Another thing I pick up though is a bit of the culture, whether it’s a street address or another name for bread. This really helps me appreciate just what I’m learning. Instead of it being work, it really does become leisure.

One of my German professors this past semester taught this way, too. By giving us this song or that from one of the later decades of the 20th century, then having us translate it or review it comprehensively. This was a great way to get introduced to honestly practical learning resources, with little mental effort on my part as compared to memorizing long lists of vocabulary and grammatical structures. Instead, I think, “Ah, like in the song!” And then I understand!

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