Melodies that Help: The Relation between Language Aptitude and Musical Intelligence
International Journal of English Studies, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 101-118, 2011
13 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2011
Date Written: March 19, 2011
Music and rhythm have been defined as powerful aids to language learning, memory, and recall. But is this due to structural and motivational properties of instrumental music and songs or is there a relation between learners’ language aptitude and musical intelligence? It seems that everyone who feels motivated to do it is able to learn other languages to some degree as long as an appropriate learning method is used. However, learning foreign languages is not easy, as many variables need to be considered if the desired result is optimal language learning in a non bilingual environment. Probably, one of the main obstacles to learning a foreign language in this context is the lack of continuous target language auditory input. While in first language acquisition babies start receiving sonorous stimuli in their mother’s womb, in foreign language learning opportunities to receive auditory input are mainly limited to the classroom, the teacher, the classmates and situations in which listening is included in the lesson. Language acquisition depends on interaction. With interactions affect has been shown to be a mediating force for communication to become successful. For instance, teacher talk and parental talk share many similar features. Both can be described as simplified codes created to help the hearer to learn and understand language (Arnold and Fonseca-Mora, 2007). They share features such as the frequent use of repetition, of formulaic expressions, expansions, preference for simplified vocabulary, change in voice volume, and modification of intonational contours. These speech melodies are indicators of emotions and they have a great impact on communication because, as Berger and Schneck (2003: 689) state,: "Humans are not thinking machines that feel, but rather, feeling machines that think". These melodies become a help for language learning. Exaggerated melodic contours found in adult-directed-to-infant-speech are considered to be parental intuitive behaviour to guide their babies’ musical beginnings (Papousek 1996), but they are also seen as a species-specific learning guidance towards language (Feu and Piñero 1996, Wermke and Mende 2009). Melodies and music in general, are present in the language teaching context as well.
Keywords: language acquisition, melodies, music, language teaching
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