Tag Archives: language

Singing Helps You Learn a Foreign Language

French Flag

I’ve been learning French for the past few months. My method, via Memrise, is to learn 1,000 words, while also learning phrases. It’s a slow process, but it’s starting to stick.

Perhaps, though, I should set my language lessons to a tune. According to a new study in Memory & Cognition, singing in a foreign language can improve learning of the language.

Take it away news:

Adults who listened to short Hungarian phrases and then sang them back performed better than those who spoke the phrases, researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music found. People who sang the phrases back also fared better than those who repeated the phrases by speaking them rhythmically.

Three randomly assigned groups of twenty adults took part in a series of five tests. The singing group performed the best in four of the five tests.

In one test, participants who learned through singing performed twice as well as participants who learned by speaking the phrases. Those who learned by singing were also able to recall the Hungarian phrases with greater accuracy in the longer term.

Hungarian was chosen because it is unfamiliar to most English speakers and a difficult language to master, with a completely different structure and sound system to the Germanic or Romance languages, such as Spanish and French.

Dr. Karen M. Ludke, who conducted the research as part of her Ph.D. at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, 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.”

I’m sure there are plenty of French songs I can use to help with my learning the language. In fact, I’ll cue up some Serge Gainsbourg right this minute.

(Image: Jawbone Radio)

Send to Kindle

Learn a Language Easily Via Memrise

Memrise logoI’ve been wanting to learn a new language for months. However, I don’t want to take a in-person class, primarily because of time and money constrictions. I tried out different audio CDs and free online courses, but nothing stuck with me.

Finally, though, I’ve come across one website that has caught my interest. It’s called Memrise, and it makes learning a language fun. My gosh, I just realized how much this post is starting to sound like sales pitch. It’s not, I promise. I just really like the site, and I originally found it via Lifehacker.

Memrise uses a three-prong approach to teaching you languages: science, fun, and community.

“We’re obsessed with using brain science to help you learn faster,” reads the site’s About Us section. “This isn’t a marketing ploy–we’re really experts in this stuff. And from day one we’ve built Memrise to embody the very best knowledge about how your brain works, and so help you learn as quickly and effortlessly as possible. We use ‘mems’ to help you form vivid, sensory memories. We test you continuously, always making sure to give your brain just the right workout. We remind you of what you’ve learned at scientifically optimized times so your memories are always growing stronger, and never forgotten.”

Concerning the fun part:  “We want to make learning your favourite playtime activity. That’s how it should be: we learn best when we’re relaxed, curious and confident, and, after all, the world is a very interesting place. So we’ve turned learning facts and language into a game where you grow a colourful garden of memory. You grow and water your memories in a garden of memory, you zoom up the leaderboards, and you learn alongside your mempals. It’s like a guiltless video-game.”

Finally, let’s find out about the community part: “We believe learning should be as rich and varied as the world you’re learning about. So with our community we’re building a kind of multimedia wonderland of learning, where videos, audio, usage, mnemonics, etymologies and much more bring your learning to life. We believe that every learner is partly a teacher, and we hope that once you get started, you’ll soon be supplying little nuggets of wit and wisdom to help the rest of the community as they learn!”

I’ve been interested in learning French for a long time (I’m not sure why), and Memrise has been the most helpful learning site I’ve come across in learning it. There are many other languages and courses available on the site, so I’m sure you’ll find something of interest. Check it out, and please let me know what you think about it in the comments.

Send to Kindle

The Dark Side of the Mobile Phone

Talking by Anders AdermarkFor every good aspect of mobile phones, there’s a dark side attributed to them. Most prominently, it’s been the debate about if they’re contributing to brain cancer. There’s been no decision on that one yet. However, there are two new studies about other dark sides to mobile phone use that you may find interesting.

The first is a study from researchers at University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business that shows mobile phones make users less socially minded.

The researchers found that after a short period of cellphone use the subjects were less inclined to volunteer for a community service activity when asked, compared to the control-group counterparts. The cell phone users were also less persistent in solving word problems–even though they knew their answers would translate to a monetary donation to charity.

College students, men and women in their early 20s, took part in the study. The researchers say, though, that they expect similar findings in people in other age groups due to the ubiquitous nature of mobile phones.

The authors cited previous research in explaining a root cause of their findings: “The cellphone directly evokes feelings of connectivity to others, thereby fulfilling the basic human need to belong.” This results in reducing one’s desire to connect with others or to engage in empathic and prosocial behavior.

In a second study, it appears that mobile phones also contribute negatively on users’ linguistic abilities. According to research from the University of Calgary, people who text more are less accepting of new words.

The study, conducted by Joan Lee for her master’s thesis in linguistics, revealed … those who read more traditional print media such as books, magazines, and newspapers were more accepting of the same words.

Lee says that we assume that text messaging encourages unconstrained language. However, this is not true.

“The people who accepted more words did so because they were better able to interpret the meaning of the word, or tolerate the word, even if they didn’t recognize the word. Students who reported texting more rejected more words instead of acknowledging them as possible words.”

People who read traditional print media expose themselves to variety and creativity in language, Lee says. These traits aren’t normally found in colloquial text messaging among young people.

“In contrast, texting is associated with rigid linguistic constraints which caused students to reject many of the words in the study,” says Lee. “This was surprising because there are many unusual spellings or ‘textisms’ such as ‘LOL’ in text messaging language.”

Lee suggests that frequency plays a large part in the acceptance of words by people who text a lot.

“Textisms represent real words which are commonly known among people who text,” she says. “Many of the words presented in the study are not commonly known and were not acceptable to the participants in the study who texted more or read less traditional print media.”

It’s beginning to look like if people really want to be anti-social and dumb, they should choose to use their mobile phones more.

(Photo via Flickr: Anders Adermark / Creative Commons)

Send to Kindle