Why add a second language to your child's music clases?
Is it better to attend a music class in English, or should you look for a music class in a second language?
It is clear that active parent-children classes during the first months and years of life have a huge impact on brain development enhancing motor skills, mathematical abilities, social skills, language development, emotional development, parent-child connection and more (if you are not so sure of this statement, click here to learn more in our previous post). But should you consider signing up for these classes in a foreign language?
Well the short answer is YES.
Because you and your little one will get the exact same benefits of any active (and well-designed) music class but you will upper your game by also facilitating language acquisition for your little one.
Below is a more extensive research-based answer for you.
Foreign language & music classes
Remember the study about music creating more plugs for the brain to develop more abilitiesA(1) mentioned in the previous blog? Well, attending the class in a foreign language, let’s say Spanish for instance, will allow very specific plugs designed for language acquisition and develop sensitivity towards specific sounds in the Hispanic world that otherwise could not be developed though a music class in English (for this example, I am assuming you are living in a mainly English-speaking country).
For many years the brain has been studied for language acquisition and it is a known fact now that babies’ brains are capable of distinguishing different sounds that are specific to certain languages. These are the same sounds that, as adults, we simply cannot distinguish if we were not exposed to the language that has them during our first 12 months of life.
Tip: this ability to learn and distinguish sounds pertaining to different languages decreases enormously from ages 6 month to 12 monthsB and continues to decrease during the following years until this ability is lost for good.
So you might want to start exposing your child to your targeted foreign language ASAP. It will make a difference that they will be appreciative of in their adult life! (I know I would be happy to be able to distinguish the sound between the word beach and certain similar word that mean something completely different… and I started learning English at age 5. 25 years later I still cannot hear the difference!)
It is true that just by attending a parent-child classes in a foreign language as a parent, you might not end up being fluent in the targeted language without seeking further support, but if it is well designed, the class will certainly give you tools and vocabulary to practice at home. Even the repetition of a single word per week plays an important role as discovered by Brent, M., and Siskind, J.MC.
They discovered that using isolated words consistently, is a reliable feature of speech to infants, that little ones will pick up faster the words that mothers repeat frequently in isolation to other words, and that the frequency with which a child hears a word in isolation predicts whether that word will be learned better than the child's total frequency of exposure to that wordC. After their research, Brent and Siskind concluded that exposure to isolated words may significantly facilitate vocabulary development at its earliest stages.
A well-designed music class in a foreign language like MamaCanta will give you an array of vocabulary to take home every week and tools to practice it at home besides reinforcing those concepts during the class with props, total physical response Storytelling (TPRS) and other useful techniques by a well-trained educator.
Parents influence on language acquisition
Besides all the benefits from the interactions between parent/caregiver and child during music classes, parents’ participation can play one of the most important keys for music and language acquisition that will transfer to future learning experiences not limited to language acquisition.
Parents are the greatest models for children. The way you act, speak and relate to others is the greatest example for your child to follow for good or for bad whether you like it or not.
When parents participate with their little ones in a class that is taught in a different language, they are modeling many different things that will set the standard for the little ones. If the main caregiver or parent attend classes with a child, pays attention and participate, the child will automatically and almost unconsciously value that class’ concepts whether it is music, language or both.
Children who attend such music classes will develop better disposition to learning concepts related to the classes and their brain will also show some differences in their advantage over children who did not attend similar classes.
Parent-child programs are also the best opportunity to show your little one the right attitude to have in school and other social and academic settings in the years to follow. They will learn from you to participate, to interact and respect others, to pay attention, to wait for appropriate times to take an action, etc. Later in life, these skills will flow naturally from children who participated in classes during their infancy.
Repetition, repetition, repetition
Very few things are as important as repetition when learning a language. Even your first language! This is why we naturally repeat over and over (and over, and over, and over) the same phrases and words to our new babies. Nature knows there isn’t a better way to learn a language. In a similar way, well designed weekly music classes in a foreign language, provide multiple repetitions of the main concepts in each class. At the same time, a good instructor will use different stimuli to link concepts to different parts of the brain targeting visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic parts of the brain.
If I am a native Spanish speaker, should I look for English music classes?
If you were living in a mostly Spanish speaking country, the answer is definitely yes! But if you live in the U.S. or any other English-speaking country, you would be taking many more benefits from attending a music class in Spanish (or any other targeted language other than English)
Because social influence is incredibly powerful. Once your kid discovers that most of his peers, and in most places, pretty much everybody speaks English, his or her brain will quickly shift to English language and will focus on developing highly specialized skills to be fluent in the language everybody seems to be speaking. It is the way our brains are wired to survive as social beings. Developing the language that seems more practical in social environments will ensure bonding and increase chances of survival. This si why we learn a languge so rapidly during infancy in the first place.
This is when Spanish will slowly fade away if it is only used with certain limited number of people in their lives and pronunciation quality will progressively decrease until reaching the point of being able to understand Spanish (only if you keep speaking it to him/her) but not being able to communicate in Spanish.
Weekly music classes in Spanish will show them fun activities that happen in Spanish, that other kids and families are also interested in this language and will give it a whole new use and added value and will stimulate the brain to also develop highly specialized habilities in the language spoken in class.
Why not just sing at home instead of attending a weekly class?
Group classes offer tools and opportunities that are basically impossible to reproduce without the participation of other families and friends and a well-educated and trained instructor. Here is a short list:
Social significance. Observing other families from different backgrounds interacting with the class concepts, adds value to the concepts taught (in this case the concepts are Spanish and music)
Learning opportunities otherwise not explored. More frequently than not, other families provide inputs or ask questions that add value to the class. Since all families are around the same early stages, generally their inputs and questions are of great value for everybody in the class and might be things you wouldn’t even think of in isolation.
An invaluable opportunity to learn about limits. Early childhood group classes require a big deal of practice and repetition for kids to learn the rules and expectations. A well conducted class will teach your child to wait for a turn to get a prop, to respect others’ personal spaces, to expand his or her tolerance to frustration and many other limits that are otherwise very tough for parent to teach alone at home and all by having fun, learning a language and developing other wonderful skills.
Consistency. A scheduled music class will set a time and place to focus on tasks for a controlled amount of time. How often have you set a goal for doing something at home and stop following up with it 3 weeks later? That’s my point! When you sing up for a class, you commit your time and investment to learning a new skill and providing your child with an experience that will hardly happen consistently in other settings and environments not to mention the many other benefits that come with it.
A(1). Early exposure modifies GluR2 protein expression in rats’ auditory cortex and anterior cingulate cortex: Feng Xu, Rui C. Et al. Neuroscience Letters, Volume 420, Issue 2, Pp 179-183, June 2002 DOI:10.1016/j.neulet.2007.05.005 B.
B. Foreign-language experience in infancy: Effects of short-term exposure and social interaction on phonetic learning: Kuhl, P. K., Tsao, F.M., Liu, H.M. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Volume 100, no. 15 March 2003 pp 9096-9101 DOI10.1073/pnas.1532872100 C.
C. The role of exposure to isolated words in early vocabulary development: Brent, M. R., Siskind, J., M. Cognition, Volume 81, Issue 2, September 2001 pp B33-B44 https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-0277(01)00122-6
D(8). Music and Early Language Acquisition: Brandt, A.,Gebrian, M.,Slevc, R., Frontiers in Psychology volume 3, September 2012, pp 327 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00327
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