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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How to encourage kids to learn foreign languages using music and the media!

Is your child unmotivated in their foreign language class?
Or do you want to start your kid on foreign languages before they start in school?
It’s not that hard, even if you don’t speak the language your child is learning. 

I learned to speak seven languages (Russian, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian and Italian) with perfect or almost perfect accents. My parents didn’t have money for private tutors or expensive language classes abroad, so I supplemented my regular language classes in school with the media. Music, TV, movies, radio and the Internet offer a plethora of opportunities to get into the flow of a new language without having to spend a dime on tutors or expensive overseas classes.
Students must first listen to their target language and then go into the details of grammar and vocabulary.

Here are a few tips from my book, Language is Music, a guidebook on how to learn foreign languages using the media.

1. Tune your ears
Learning a new language means you have to change your key and tune. Dancing the cha-cha to waltz music is like speaking a new language while still using the rhythm of your mother tongue.
Let your kids take in the sounds of the language as though you were listening to a new piece of music. Even if your kids are just beginners and barely know any words, they can still learn by listening.

2. LISTEN then talk
Find music in your child’s target language that they like. It doesn’t matter if they don’t understand the lyrics at first. They may start singing along without even knowing what they are singing. They are not only learning the rhythm of the language, they are learning new vocabulary. Relax. Tell your child to close their eyes. They shouldn’t try to understand the words. They just need to listen. They might even fall asleep or daydream. Their mind needs to be calm in order to absorb the sounds.Sites for foreign language music:

3. Write the lyrics as you listen
Once your kids are familiar with the lyrics of the song they are listening to, ask them to repeat the lyrics to you. If they can write, ask them to write the words. Compare the lyrics you noted with the original song and see how well your child was able to understand the song. Some CDs come with the lyrics inside the CD case. If you don’t have them, look for them online on lyrics websites. 


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.

4. Imagine the lyrics in your head
Encourage your kids to think of what the songwriter is talking about and create the story in their mind as they listen. They’ll retain the words from the songs better than by just memorizing them from a vocabulary chart and will be more apt to use the words when you need to communicate. For example, the famous New York, New York song speaks of someone coming to New York and seeing the city is alive, even at night. A student using the song New York, New York, could  imagine someone arriving in New York city, or another big city, and seeing the city full of bright lights and
action. People are walking around, eating in restaurants, and drinking in cafes. The streets are full of cars and buses. Have your child do  this type of a visualization exercise to make the music come alive.

5. Draw pictures of the story
After imagining the story described in the song, let your kids draw the story. By utilizing their drawing skills, they will be fortifying the song in their mind. Visual reinforcement is important in making the words of the song be real.

This post was submitted by Susanna Zaraysky, polyglot author of Language is Music a guide on how to learn foreign languages using music and the media. Find more tips about learning foreign language using music, TV, radio, film, television and other low-cost resources in Language is Music. The books are available on Amazon, and via order through your local bookstore. 

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