No Puedo Hablar En Espanol

On a more personal note, I love singing in Spanish. People who know me know that I don't sing a word of English, but I just spent a whole car ride singing along to a cd in Spanish (the Buena Vista Social Club Ibrahim Ferrer one.) I'm really bad at speaking Spanish, so I think when it comes to Spanish I'm like one of those stage performers who's only comfortable in his own skin when singing or acting or something.

This makes me think that singing is an under-utilized technique for teaching languages. Song lyrics require a very low level of linguistic sophistication. Think of the majority of hits and popular songs on the radio today. Even with a beginner's vocabulary, a reasonably entertaining and compelling song can be constructed (Everyone who's taken a high school language knows that the same cannot be said for short stories and narratives.) This would be a better alternative to reading lame stories or filling in mindless vocab blanks which you always end up doing at the beginner level.

Second, and I know this sounds cheesy, music is a language we can all understand. Seriously, how else do you explain the ubiquity of music across all cultures and the prevalence of nursery rhymes? The scientific camp would argue that music is an even more primal form of communication than language, which makes some sense if you think about how animals communicate. It seems logical that teaching a language through music would catalyze the learning process. Music is fun, and kids will be more engaged by songs than they will by dry and laughable stories. It will also result, I would think, in better language acquisition and retention; people have a remarkable capacity for remembering lyrics.

And music will do wonders to squeeze in that cultural element that every Spanish teacher for some reason seems so eager to include in their class. It would seem that the average Spanish student would be able to sing real contemporary music by the third or fourth year of study, which obviously cannot be said in regard to written items. Perhaps if singing were used more, future classes of a certain teacher I had who loved to salsa dance would be spared the experience.

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