ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Music of Language

Updated on February 11, 2012

Foreign Language Learning and the Effects on Brain Development

As parents we all want to give our children the best start in life. We may have them listening to classical music before they are born and even read books to them while they are still in the womb, With any new research that comes out we want to be on top of it if it has the remotest possibility of benefiting our children in any way. So naturally if we hear that there is a way to encourage brain growth and stimulation in our little ones we want to provide that and what parent wouldn't? You may not have thought, however, about the benefits of teaching your child a foreign language.

We all know the benefits of foreign language learning for adults: Career opportunities, travel, etc. But did you know that before a baby is 6 months of age they are able to incorporate 70 sounds into their babble that make up all the languages in the world? After 6 months they start to imitate sounds from their parents and other caregivers so that by the time they learn to talk the sounds of other languages not heard in their current environment are discarded. This presents the question: is this decline in the recognition of foreign language phonetic units reversible?

There was an interesting study done on a group of 9 month old infants, all from English speaking American parents. During a 4 week period, the group of 32 infants were exposed to native speakers who read them stories, sang songs and played with them all in mandarin Chinese for a 25 minute duration. Similarly, a control group of 32 infants had the same interactions only in English. Both groups were then brought back for testing using a test that measures head turns (HT's) to determine the infants detection of the native phonetic contrast. The results found that the infants that had the foreign language exposure were able to consistently identify the phonetic sounds of the Mandarin Chinese, compared with the control group of infants who did not turn their heads or show an interest when the sounds were played. [Source:phonetic perception test; Patricia K Kuhl, Feng-Ming Tsao, and Huei-Mei Liu]

Even if you have missed the opportunity to expose your child to a foreign language as an infant, research shows that there are many advantages to introducing a foreign language to preschoolers and elementary students. Is some countries elementary students are required to learn at least one foreign language. Despite all the facts that support the benefits on learning and test scores, U.S. public schools, perhaps due to lack of funding still do not as a whole require or even offer a foreign language to students.

Although the earlier a child is introduced to foreign language the better he or she will be able to imitate the native accent, there are benefits across the board no matter the age of your child. Like any other other muscle, the brain gets stronger with exercise and foreign language learning has been proven to increase the density of the grey matter in the brain. These cognitive advantages have translated into higher tests scores in students, not only in language, but surprisingly in math and logic as well.

Research studies in Canada showed that bilingual children were able to get a better grasp of object permanence at a younger age than their mono-lingual peers. For example, a foot still functions as a foot rather labeled "foot" in English or "un pied" in French. Further touting the benefits of bilingualism in children, there was a study conducted in Harwich, Massachusetts in 2007 that showed how students who had studied a foreign language significantly outperformed their peers on a Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment test after 2 to 3 years and continued to outperform then on the same assessment after 7 or 8 years.

Schools that offer foreign language and music score higher on standardized testing.
Schools that offer foreign language and music score higher on standardized testing.

Elementary Schools that offer a foreign language-By state

Number of School offering foreign language
District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia
Source:Branaman, L.E., & Rhodes, N.C. (1998).

My 6 year old twins speaking in French

Music Develops the Brain Also

Just as in the learning of a foreign language, studies have shown that learning to play a musical instrument creates new synapsis in the brain leading to better academic performance. In fact the two, foreign language learning and music, actually complement each other as the stimulation to the brain carries over from one to the other. Cognative scientists have unveiled a strong and profound relationship between music and language acquisition showing that the rhythm, tone discrimination, melodic recognition, involve and require the use of the same areas of the brain.

Do you want to introduce your child to a foreign language and or music lessons?

Here are some suggestions for how to get started depending on the age of your child.

Infant to toddler:

There are some great DVDs available free to check out from the library, such as Bilingual Baby (comes in different languages), .

Also check your library for music CDs that include songs in French, Spanish, and other languages.

Read books to your child in a whichever foreign language you are familiar with.

Preschool to Kindergarten:

Free online sights that help your child learn a foreign language, such as Live Mocha, Busu Garden, etc.

There are a number of preschools that offer the perfect combination of music and foreign language. Montessori for one or Kindermusic. Check for preschools in your area with these offerings.


Since most public schools don't offer a foreign language, we are left with these options:

Books, CDs, DVDs

Hire a tutor that speaks the language natively (check Craiglist)

Private schools that offer music lessons combined with foreign language lessons.

There are a number of different options out there, just make sure it is fun and pressure free for your child.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • asherruth profile image

      asherruth 6 years ago

      Hi Pamela,

      Glad you enjoyed the article.So, in Canada children are required to learn French and English?

      That is awesome! Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my article.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 6 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      That's an interesting graph you posted with this hub. Great information on the research that has been done regarding the benefits of learning a second language. Mandatory now in Canada where I'm from. The only possible problem with it is when the child turns into an adolescent and continues to learn French and then completes the program, going into English-only classes for high school, their spelling in English isn't always up to par. But this is something that can be worked on.

      Great hub. Thanks for SHARING.

    • asherruth profile image

      asherruth 6 years ago

      KrystalID, That is interesting about your students in Cairo. It is nice that some countries at least recognize the value of kids learning more than one language,as it seems that is one area that the U.S. lags behind.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my hub and for nice compliments.

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Interesting hub. I agree with you on how valuable it is for children to learn languages early. I was surprised that while teaching in Cairo, my first grade students were taking three languages! It was a foundation that would help these students socially and professionally.

      Thanks for making this hub so personal with all the pictures and packed full of information with the tables.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)