When we think of music, we automatically assume that it conveys universal emotions. However, this perception is wrong since our ear has a certain taste, just like we prefer different foods. Everyone has a preference for the music they heard in their childhood, in the same way, as, for example, an octopus salad evokes the same familiar feeling for some people as cabbage soup does for others.
But, although there are differences in auditory taste, at the beginning of a baby’s life, the musical elements of a language serve to make language learning possible. Children first perceive language as melody, rhythm, or tone. With their sounds they are imitating the characteristics of the language used in their environment. Once they are a few months old, they are able to differentiate between different languages with their different musical characteristics. At about the age of one, they assign meaning to musical elements, pronunciation, rhythm and tone, and this is the age where musical and linguistic development separates. Despite this, music will continue to affect language learning very positively. In addition, with music therapy the sensitive period of language acquisition can be lengthened.
Likewise, musical training contributes to language learning at older ages, facilitating the recognition of both pronunciation and the grammatical system. How can parents of multilingual children make the most of these advantages?
For example, parents can sing to babies. It is a good idea to create rituals, such as singing while you massage them after their bath or before going to sleep. Children’s songs can accompany playtime, for example, while pushing the child on the swings. Songs can also be sung during daily activities, such as preparing dinner or tidying up.
If teachers start a class with a song, they will create a positive environment that will facilitate learning for children of all ages. In the case of multilingual children, the lyrics of the songs can be used for short dictations, thus practising writing.
Multilingualism is inseparable from multiculturalism. It is very important for these children to have access to different musical styles or diverse folk music, possibly from the cultures whose languages they are learning. In this way they will more easily understand the different languages and, just as you can enjoy cabbage soup and octopus salad at the same time, they will also be able to enjoy the musical languages of different cultures.