One of my favourite comparisons, when I talk about Asian languages, is that they sound like a piece of wonderful foreign music. And then I started thinking about it for real…
The tone of voice in Asian languages
If you listen to a Japanese speaker and someone starts explaining what they’re talking about, just a mere word-by-word translation won’t do.
The same goes for Chinese, where only the change of the tone of voice can alter the meaning of a word into five different others.
On top of this, I recently started reading about Vietnamese and it looks like they have 6 different tones of the speech and a change in the tone brings a different meaning to the whole sentence or word.
In English, the change of tone demonstrates various emotions like astonishment, anger, questions or simply a statement. You can clearly see that in most Asian languages it is much more complicated than that.
How music & language mix?
Scientifically, the two parts of the brain that regard language and music learning are different and do not have a great connection. There are, however, a few skills that are complementary for both – speaking a foreign language and playing the right tones.
We all know the expression: “It is like music to my ears!”
It all has to do with the fact that you need to be able to hear the right nuances of speech in order to be able to recreate them afterwards. Learning to play and recognize music enhances that ability a lot, so it would be reasonable to state that having the proper training would give you an advantage in learning a foreign language.
Now think about the tone of voice we spoke about earlier, which is so important in Asian languages. The ability to pick up a good song only by listening to it because you are trained to do so will be used for picking up the various nuances of any language, which uses the tone of voice to convey a different meaning.
Singing improves pronunciation
Being able to produce the sounds of different songs requires not only talent but endless hours of exercise in order to perfect every single tone in it. For me speaking an Asian language is pretty much the same – a foreign song that has to be mastered. If we have the experience to produce intricate sounds and convert them into music, the chance for us to pick up a very differently toned language with many consonants that add to the meaning of speech is much higher than without it.
As a conclusion
Music is a wonderful thing and we all love listening to it. There are various skills that we obtain while listening or learning to play music and it all enhances our listening and speaking abilities. Although the two centres in our brains are not connected closely, there is no denying that being able to recognize music and sing it gives us a better arsenal for learning other languages, especially ones as special as Asian.