Digital Learning

Can Music Make You Multilingual?

Language and music expert Susanna Zaraysky comments on new research from Deezer exploring the connection between music and learning languages
Publicity shot of the Spanish sgng Despacito by Daddy Yankee and Luis Finsi
Learning Spanish with Despacito

Industry News

Deezer surveyed 2,000 people in the UK, with a total of 12,000 people across six countries. The most popular languages to learn, in order of popularity, are Spanish, French, English, Italian and German .

Their streaming data showed that more people are listening to songs in Spanish over the last five years. The language saw its biggest stream growth of 751% in Brazil, with a 37% increase in the UK. Streaming of French language tracks also grew by 283% in the US in the same period. 

Deezer’s survey

The global study looked at how music can help us learn new languages, and it turns out, it’s something a lot of Brits are doing. Almost half (47%) of people in the UK are already using music as a tool for learning new languages. 

They found that 87% of Brits think listening helps when trying to master a new language so they have launched a “Music & Language” channel featuring curated playlists of the best tracks to help you learn to music.

Respondents found that the biggest benefits include better recall (31%), a bigger vocabulary range (25%) and improved pronunciation (25%).

Even passive listening could be having an impact – you might surprise yourself with what you already know from your favourite tracks.

70% of Brits said they’d learnt at least some new words from listening to foreign language songs. This is good news for the increasing number of listeners tuning in to foreign music.

More than just words

More than 41% of respondents in the UK agreed, saying that they’re most interested in other cultures when listening to foreign-language music. I agree. We want to learn more about the culture behind our favourite tracks and this is one of the reasons why music makes an ideal tool for language learning.

an infographic showing 54% of British people speak two or more languages
More than half of Brits already speak two or more languages according to Deezer’s survey

Music offers invaluable insight into a foreign lifestyle and culture that can help your conversational language abilities. Music is also more colloquial than an ordinary textbook and allows us to get closer to popular culture. Over half (56%) of people in the UK agreed that they had learnt at least a few slang or swear words from foreign language music.

Our curiosity for other cultures doesn’t stop there. Over two fifths of respondents in the UK (42%) are interested in love and romance when it comes to listening to foreign music. Interestingly, men are most likely to put this into practice.  Of all the 12,000 respondents, one fifth of men (20) say they’ve used foreign song lyrics as a pick-up line, compared to just 7% of women. 

Hip hop rules!

Starting early matters. From a young age, we learn songs by heart. Songs are emotional. And when emotions are involved, it makes memories ‘stickier’.

With 70% of UK adults saying it’s important for their children to learn another language, an overwhelming 81% said that they’d consider playing music as an aid to learning.

Children’s music might be the most obvious choice (42%), but parents in the UK are also turning to pop (51%). However interestingly, 15% of respondents said they would play hip-hop to teach their kids a new language. This might seem like an unlikely genre for language learning, but it can actually work well. Hip-hop tracks can be highly lyrical, with a clear story and prominent vocals, which is perfect for absorbing new vocabulary. If kids dance, clap or tap along to the music they are learning, this makes it even more fun and easier for them. Moving along to the beat helps the brain to process speech.

Deezer playlists

Music should be an integral part of the language learning process. Not only is it fun, but it’s effective. Songs are the entry into the sounds of another language, and can help in every aspect of language learning, from grammatical patterns to perfect pronunciation. I am delighted that Deezer’s team of music editors have created a series of bespoke playlists for people looking to improve their language skills.

Each playlist is structured specifically to help you learn. Tracks 1-5 will help you build your vocabulary, while 6-10 will assist you with pronunciation. The 11th to the 15th track has been selected to help you pick up some local slang, while the final five tracks focus on cultural meanings.

The playlists are available to download on Deezer’s ‘Music & Language’ Channel here

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