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Science Sunday, July 21st 2013 at 11:53 am

Singing in a Foreign Language Helps You Learn Better Than Just Speaking It

Lundi matin, L’empereur, sa femme et le petit prince sont venus chez moi, pour me serrer la pince.

French Music

There’s a new study by the University of Edinburgh Reid School of Music that shows singing in a foreign language is a better way to learn it than simply repeating phrases. One test even showed that people who sang foreign phrases performed twice as well as their non-singing counterparts. Everyone sing along with me now: Zut alors!

The study was done by having three groups of twenty adults take part in five tests in which they repeated short Hungarian phrases. The subjects either first learned the phrases through simple spoken repetition or through singing, and on four out of the five tests, the singing groups performed better.

Karen M. Ludke led the study as part of her research for a PhD in Music in Human and Social Development at the university. 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.

The study used Hungarian as a test language because it’s not familiar to most English speakers, but the study supports the idea that singing in any language could help you better learn it. Further evidence of that concept is that I’ve had this song from my “French 1″ class stuck in my head since 1997.

(via Eureka Alert, image via Krystal Pritchett)

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