Importance of music and song in language learning.
It seems that song preceded and aided the development of speech in homo sapiens. It is easier to put intonation when humming than to make the finer distinctions required by language. This also seems to be true in the case of the development of language in young children. Recent search indicates that the musical babbling produced by infants, and returned by parents, is extremely important in the development of language in young children.
We must also remember that songs tend to stick in our heads. This proves that songs work on both our short and long term memory. Singing is also an example of what Piaget called egocentric language. This one consists in talking without concern for an addressee, but for oneself. Krashen has suggested that the involuntary repetition, both in children who are starting to develop language and in our pupils when humming a song, may be a manifestation of Chomsky´s language acquisition device. It seems that our brains have a natural propensity to repeat what we hear in our environment in order to make sense of it. Songs may strongly activate the repetition mechanism of the language acquisition device.
Songs also involve simple, conversational language, with a lot of repetition, which is good, as it gives volume and repetition to our pupils. They are also affective and so many times more motivating than other texts.
Finally we can say that songs are short, self-contained texts, which can be handled in one lesson. They are also relaxing.
Children enjoy games and music as these activities provide a link with home and school life. Rhymes, songs and chants are a flexible resource for the language teacher and have a number of benefits.
Advantages of using songs in the classroom.
• They make learning more memorable. Variety is added to the range of learning situations, thus maintaining pupils´ motivation.
• They are an excellent way of practising rhythm and stress. Songs and rhymes introduce children naturally and effectively to the sounds of English as well as stress and intonation.
• Listening skills, attention span and concentration are improved.
• Children learn songs and rhymes easily and quickly. They enjoy them and children of all language abilities can join in, which helps build confidence.
• Pupil-pupil communication is increased, which provides fluency practice and reduces the domination of the class by the teacher.
• They are a way of giving children a complete text with meaning from the first lesson.
• Most songs and rhymes are made of prefabricated phrases with new words added between the set phrases.
• Hidden practice of specific language patterns, vocabulary and pronunciation can be provided.
• Areas of weakness and the need for further language work can be revealed.
• If songs and rhymes are carefully selected and slotted into your teaching programme they can be used to introduce or practise new language, eg. has got or animals in “The farmer´s in his den”.
• Any distance between teacher and pupils can be reduced by the use of more light-hearted and fun activities.