There are two reasons why I chose to incorporate music into our language learning process. The first reason is practical.
Mastering pronunciation in a foreign language requires lots of repetition to ingrain the muscle patterns.
Rote repetition is boring, but musical repetition is fun. So the musical element is a sort of motivation hack for language learners.
But I also had a more philosophical reason for linking our brand to music.
Language is a tool for connecting with people, and so is music.
To demonstrate this point, I had the twin brothers from our current Spanish case study (read more about that here) go out and ask native speakers to teach them a song in Spanish.
At this stage in their learning, they haven’t learned any vocabulary or grammar, so they can’t converse yet.
They did, however, complete our musical pronunciation training program – The Flow of Spanish. Therefore, they now have the ability to listen to Spanish and mimic it.
In this post, you’ll see how they use that skill to connect with native speakers on their favorite music.
Mimicking a Foreign Language
The last we heard from the Tublins, they were finishing up the Capacity stage of The Mimic Method.
This is the stage where they learned how to hear and pronounce Spanish. They started with the individual Elemental Sounds, then they worked up to full syllables and sentences.
The main source of their training was through the music lessons in our Flow of Spanish program.
After completing the program, they still didn’t know many words or phrases to use in conversation.
What they did have, however, was the ability to hear native speech and mimic it, without having to see it written down first.
With this ability, they now have the Capacity to grow their conversational ability by ear, just by listening to people and mimicking.
To test this ability, I had them find a native Spanish speaker to teach them how to sing. For your inspiration (and musical entertainment), the Tublin twins recorded these interactions.
Listen to how Bryan uses his newly acquired mimicry powers to learn this song with Augusta:
Notice how much fun these two were having?
This song represented something special to Augusta. Whenever she sings it, she recalls fond memories of people and places.
This is a special piece of her life that she usually has to keep to herself, as an immigrant in a foreign land.
The local people (in this case Americans) probably never heard of the singer, let alone the song. So normally she probably wouldn’t share this with people.
But here is Bryan, ears and hard wide open ready to take in Vicente Fernandez’s gift of music. They sing together, and share a special moment.
Bryan didn’t even have to know what any of the lyrics meant, but because he had the ability to mimic in Spanish, he was able to join in the fun and make that human connection.
Impressing Native Speakers with Cultural Knowledge
When you speak a language with good grammar, native speakers congratulate you. When you speak a language with a good accent, native speakers are impressed.
But when you sing a song in their language with flawless delivery, you knock people off of their feet!
We often receive emails from Flow Series students about this. They will learn a song in our course, then while abroad, that song will come on the speakers at an event.
Then all the native speakers will start to sing the song, and the student sing along with confidence, much to the disbelief of the natives.
“You know this song? Wow you know the lyrics better than me!”
When John was doing his mission, a song from the Flow of Spanish came on the radio of the burrito shop.
This led to an impromptu singalong with the burrito shop employee:
Think about the group of people you most wish to connect with in your target language. What are the classic songs that everyone in that group knows?
What are the songs that, when someone starts to sing, everyone joins in without fail?
You probably won’t know unless you ask someone directly. Find it out, then choose the song you like the most and learn it.
Start at the country level, then zoom in down to the city, and even neighborhood level. The more local a song is, the more it touches people’s hearts.
Bryan found a Chilean shop owner to do this challenge with again. Notice how proud she is about her culture, and how excited she is to share it with Bryan.
Imagine how much more the native speakers of your target language would like you if you busted out a perfect rendition of their cultural anthem.
For example, in Cologne Carnival in 2015, I learned the chorus for their favorite Carnival anthem, sung in the Cologne dialect.
Then in the streets, I would just walk up to people and break out into song, and people would join along every time. Since it was dialect, people were even more impressed by me.
This is one of my main tricks for making friends in new countries – feel free to steal it!
Focus on the Connection
As I wrote at the beginning of this post, language and music are tools for connecting to people.
I like to think of human connection as having three main channels:
As a language learner, you want to get good at communicating your thoughts and emotions so you can connect with native speakers at the mind and heart level.
But with music, you can connect on the heart-to-heart level straight away.
Listen to how Bryan describes his experience learning songs from Augusta and Paula.
Just a few weeks into his Spanish training, and the Tublin twins are already engaging Spanish speakers on an emotional level.
Stay tuned for their next mission, where they finally acquire the tools for connecting on the mental level…