20 July, 2022

Singing in a Second Language

Singing in front of the family is great fun, even if you perhaps aren’t naturally gifted with a great singing voice!

Singing in a second language can be even more fun and also very beneficial for your younger children.

No need for bilingualism

You don’t have to be fluent in a second language to do this nor even particularly proficient. Most of us can quickly learn a simple child-level song in another language very quickly. There are thousands and thousands of such examples available on the internet together with lyrics, scores and translations.

Perhaps the song you choose to learn will be from a language and culture your family has some historical associations with but it doesn’t have to be. The only thing that matters is that the song’s language is not the one you normally speak at home with your children as your first language of choice.

Why bother?

Younger children are brilliant at picking up a vast lexicon of words and ideas through association with those words.

Although some children seem to be better at doing so than others, the majority have a vast word learning capacity that is desperate for knowledge. In addition to that, all children love music and its rhythms.

True, learning songs in your preferred home language is excellent and something to be encouraged but working in another language adds a different dimension.

That’s because:

  • foreign words and pronunciations will increase and grow your child’s verbal dexterity and comfort with unfamiliar words. That will not only benefit them by exposure to other languages but it could also help them become more confident in tackling new words in their own first language;
  • there is some evidence to suggest that children exposed to multiple languages may have an augmented cognitive flexibility and breadth of view.

Above all though, it’s simply piles of fun for you and them!

Getting started with Singing

Nothing could be easier but some preparation will be required:

  • take it seriously. Children are very perceptive and if they sense you think this is a waste of time and silly, they’re likely to come to the same conclusion;
  • select a song from the internet, as mentioned above. Select one that is aimed at a commensurate age for your child and avoid those with melodies that are complex or abstract;
  • learn it yourself. Try to memorise it and use the internet to look up word meanings for translation or find a song that’s already translated with subtitles etc. Avoid lengthy verses or choruses – keep it short and simple;
  • practice yourself beforehand getting the pronunciations as close as you can by ear;
  • sing it to your child and then teach it to them. Do not fret about your voice – children don’t notice these things and will just be pleased you’re spending time with them and having fun.

However, for some children, this like any other game might seem less interesting to them than you’d hoped. If that’s the case, don’t force the issue. Let it pass because it mustn’t seem like a chore to them.

It may be the case that you’ll be able to come back to it another time and their interest levels will be much higher.


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