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Music and Linguistics: How Music Lessons Can Improve Language Skills

January 19, 2021

While the average American spends about 32 hours a week listening to music, it takes someone really special to learn to produce it. In fact, only about 54% of US households contain a member that practices an instrument.

If you’re wondering how joining those who have opened themselves to creating music can benefit you (besides being fun and expressive), you need to look no further than language processing. Music and linguistics are intimately linked, and therefore learning an instrument can help you to learn languages, process verbal information faster, and expand your vocabulary.

Read on to learn how and why this is the case.

How Does Music Affect Language Skills?

There is a great deal of research surrounding the impact of music on language skills in children. One of the biggest studies, performed by MIT’s Robert Desmone, concluded that 5-year-old Mandarin-speaking children taking music lessons experienced greater neural processing of pitch. They were able to develop better linguistics skills than their peers were as a result of their piano lessons.

However, the impacts are not specific to children. Musical training helps people of all ages to develop linguistic reasoning. This is because both music and language share the same aspects of motor, sensory, and cognitive processing of sound.

There is a brain system in the temporal lobes that helps humans to memorize information in both music and language. For example, the temporal lobe is responsible for learning words and meanings in a language as well as familiar melodies in music. This system is more geared toward learning the content of what is being said or the sounds being played- in short, the ‘art’ aspect of both linguistics and music.

Another brain system, based in the frontal lobes, is responsible for the scientific rule-oriented side of both music and language. This part of the brain helps people learn the rules of melody and harmony as well as how syntax and sentence organization work.

People who understand and can produce music therefore stimulate the parts of their brain necessary for speech and verbal processing more often. They, therefore, are more likely to learn new languages faster as well as expand their grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation/cadence for those that they already speak.

The Tie Between Music and Linguistics

In addition to the areas of the brain stimulated, people who hear and create music are constantly listening to pitches of sounds. In order to hit the right notes, it is necessary that a musician listen closely and discern various tones, pitches, combinations of sound, and cadences. Desimone, who ran the previously-mentioned MIT study, states that children who hear the differences between these pitches can also distinguish between different words more easily (even similar-sounding ones).

This is a great reason to immediately sign your child up for music lessons, but what about yourself? Is there a tie between music and linguistics for adult learners?

As it turns out, there is. MIT scientists have concluded that adults have nearly the same ability to learn languages to fluency as children do. While the process will likely take longer and require more studying, adults who keep at it can become fluent in other languages throughout their entire lives.

Adults who learn music are likely able to speed up this process and develop higher levels of fluency than their counterparts. As this is what happened with children, it is likely that data from adults would yield similar conclusions. While not many studies have been conducted on this theory, it stands to reason that since a) both children and adults can become fluent in new languages and, b) children learn languages faster when taking music lessons, adults may also be benefitted from these lessons.

How Can Music Lessons Improve Language Skills?

While practicing your instrument on your own is important, it’s equally important that you have an instructor to guide you.

Music lessons give you the opportunity to check in and see how you are doing with an expert. If you’re unable to get professional advice, it is less likely that you will improve your musical skills as quickly or effectively as you otherwise would. A book or YouTube video simply cannot provide you with the same level of individual attention or well-rounded knowledge as one-on-one instruction.

Additionally, instructors are able to help you improve by getting you out of your comfort zone and ensuring that you move forward and learn. This helps you to develop the areas of your brain responsible for music and language more fully and extend their functioning to new levels. You will therefore see higher levels of linguistic improvement as you develop higher music skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

    What aspects of language will be improved by music?

All aspects of language, both technical and artistic, will be improved by music. As we discussed earlier, the stimulation of both the temporal and frontal lobes ensures that this is the case. Music and language skills are intimately related.

    How often will I need to see my music instructor?

It’s a good idea to see your instructor weekly, but you can do bi-weekly lessons if you are crunched for time. When we’re able to meet again in person, we encourage our students to partake in a bi-annual concert series to showcase their talents. If this sounds like something you would like, you can talk to Mikael to see how frequent your lessons must be to ready you to perform.

    How long should I practice each day?

Practicing even a small amount is better than not at all. Don’t let time constraints stop you from learning your favorite instrument. However, anywhere between 1-2 hours a day is recommended in an ideal world.

Get Started With Online Music Lessons

While there are many ways to boost your language skills, none are nearly as fun, expressive, or effective as learning to play a musical instrument.

Now that you know about the tie between music and linguistics, it’s time to begin taking music lessons and expressing yourself in more ways than one. Contact us with any remaining lessons that you might have or to schedule your first lesson. Whether you want to learn guitar, piano, or any other instrument, we’re excited to hook you up with a professional instructor that can meet your needs.

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