Learning Language Through Song by Piña Madera
Learning Language Through Song
by Piña Madera, Sing-A-Lingo
By now we’ve all heard about the benefits of learning a second language early in life—cultural sensitivity, improved math and abstract thinking skills, authentic accents—and the best one, it’s EASY and FUN! How can you give your darlings some of these advantages even if you’re not fluent yourself?
But WAIT! If you’re thinking “I don’t speak a second language, and I sing like a walrus with a belly ache,” read on!
Here are a few common obstacles, and my supportive commentary to guide you past them:
1. “I’m not fluent.”
Songs give you the language—fluency isn’t required. Think of yourself as a leader and the songs are the teacher.
2. “I don’t have a good accent.”
While it’s good for kids to hear native speakers, it’s better to hear someone making their best efforts than to hear nothing at all. Plus, you’ll be modeling lifelong learning!
3. “There’s not a spare minute in my day.”
You can tuck songs in ANYWHERE: at the start of an activity, at recess, while washing hands for lunch, or tidying the room, as you’re walking through the halls (quietly!), as you’re lining up— during any transition at all.
4. “Singing@!? Yikes? They’ll think we’re housing nauseous walruses!”
You may not be Mariah Carey—who is? Kids love to sing, and the sooner you get THEM singing, the sooner your voice blends in! Despite our cultural fear of singing (which may be uniquely American, btw), children enjoy good songs and it brings a group together. For inspiration, watch the YouTube videos from PS22. Show it to the kids, if you can!
So why are songs so useful?
10 Reasons to use Songs to Teach Kids Language
1. Songs can be sung anytime
So, how do you select songs to sing?
Good songs have these qualities:
1. Upbeat, fun, enjoyable to YOU!
Piña Madera founded Sing-A-Lingo with her husband, Michael, after writing songs to teach their songs the language of her heritage. Piña was raised bilingual by her Mexican mother, and went on to study Writing and Literature at Brown University and later at the University of New Mexico. She became a teacher of many things, including music, piano, Spanish and ESL.