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Bilingualism , sounds and music
I came across an article by Liquan Liu the other day about how bilingual babies are better at detecting musical sounds, as a study shows.
In this very detailed research (which you can read in full here) he explores the influence of bilingualism in the cognitive processing of language and music.
As a musician and someone who can (roughly!) speak in two languages I find this piece of research very interesting.
Since I was little I’ve always been aware of the benefits that learning music can bring to your life. There are many studies pointing out the value of learning music from a very early age. Areas enhanced by music learning include:
· Improved reading ability in children (Tierne and Kraus, 2013)
· Better vocabulary and non-verbal reasoning skills (Forgead et al. 2008)
· Enhanced IQ (Shellenberg, 2004)
This is just to name a few, there are many many others! (check page 42 here for more information in detail)
There have been also several pieces of research which establish a link between music abilities and foreign language acquisition
(The subject of the relationship between music and foreign language has long attracted the attention of the scientific community - some of the studies are even dated in the past century!) It is no wonder, music is another language and seems logical that it could help learning another language – as it is easier to learn a third language if you speak two.
The curious thing about This research and Liquan Lui’s article is that it tackles this relationship between music and languages the other way round:
Speaking, or constantly listening to, (the study was conducted with babies of 8-9 months old who hardly speak) two languages at a very early age can benefit musical pitch discrimination.
Would this mean that, in simple terms, bilingual people? are better at music than monolinguals? Well, it’s hard to say and of course you can never be that categorical. There are certainly many other factors that will determine a person’s musical ability, but this study suggest bilingualism to be one of these factors.
Anyway I found this relationship between music and language absolutely fascinating, and I strongly believe in the links between both.
I was always told by my piano teacher that when you are little, you are like a sponge! At the time I didn’t quite get it but it’s only as I’ve grown older and started researching it that I’ve realised the huge potential of a child’s brain, and how strong connections are made on the brain when you’re little. In both music and languages.
Another interesting thing regarding language and music is also how the same language, let’s say Spanish, has got a different “melody” depending on where it is spoken. Not just an accent, but a musical melody and rhythm that is unique to each version of the language.
For example, if you take the Spanish spoken in Spain and the Spanish spoken in Mexico, you will find not only different words, but also a very different “melody line” to the spoken language. The same happens with the English in the UK and the English in America.
Why is that
? There are, of course,
many explanations and historical reasons. But it certainly is a fact! The same
language has a different rhythm and melody depending on where it’s spoken, and
you acquire those features when you’re little.
It’s not surprising then that if you are exposed to two different languages, from a young age, and you learn and differentiate those different melodic speech contours, it would then be easier to learn and distinguish the melodic contour of the music!
See you soon, and until then, happy language singing!