Singing Improves Ability To Learn Foreign Language

Singing has been shown to have several benefits. Research has suggested singing can aid in respiratory problems, heighten mood and well-being, and now may improve a student’s ability to learn a foreign language.

A study, published in the journal Memory & Cognition, has found singing in a foreign language can significantly aid in learning how to speak it.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music.

Sixty adult participants were randomly assigned to one of three listen-and-repeat learning conditions: speaking, rhythmic speaking, or singing.

Researchers selected Hungarian as the test foreign language. It was chosen because Hungarian is unfamiliar to most English speakers. Hungarian is also a difficult language to master, with a completely different structure and sound system to the Germanic or Romance languages, such as Spanish and French.

Participants in the singing group showed overall superior performance in the Hungarian language tests after a 15-min learning period, when compared with participants in the speaking and rhythmic speaking group.

The group assigned to sing in a foreign language performed the best in four of the five tests.

This was statistically significant in two tests that required participants to recall and produce spoken Hungarian phrases.

People who sang the phrases back fared better than those who repeated the phrases by speaking them rhythmically. Those who learned by singing were able to recall the Hungarian phrases with greater accuracy in the longer term.

These results suggest that incorporating a listen-and-sing learning method can facilitate verbatim memory for spoken foreign language phrases.

According to Science Daily, Dr. Karen M. Ludke, said:

“This study provides the first experimental evidence that a listen-and-repeat singing method can support foreign language learning, and opens the door for future research in this area. One question is whether melody could provide an extra cue to jog people’s memory, helping them recall foreign words and phrases more easily.”

Dr. Ludke conducted the research as part of her PhD at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development.

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