Friday, July 2, 2010

The family that sings together...

…stays…bilingual. OK, so I don’t have a catchy ending for that one. But it points us in the direction I want to go today: language learning and song.

We used to hold ourselves back from singing along with songs in the other language, because One Parent, One Language, after all. But along with our small secret revolution we relaxed about singing, as well. Now we all sing along to whatever song we’re singing, no matter what language it’s in. (Which isn’t always one of ours, since our i-pod has at least five languages on it at the moment…)

If you think about it, music is actually a perfect area in which to relax the rules without being confusing. You don’t get any more clear-cut than “now we’re singing, now we aren’t”. And if you don’t have a perfect command of the target language, songs have a set text so you don’t have to come up with your own! For example, I can sing Slovak children’s songs if I know the words, but I couldn’t have a complex conversation in Slovak and be confident it was correct, as my Slovak tends to come out as a funny mix of Slovak and Czech.

Singing is also great because it combines language and culture, if you sing the right sort of songs at least. I don’t consider the Slovak translation of “Jingle Bells” to have much cultural value, but “Narodil sa Kristus Pán” does. And I can help impart that cultural value even without speaking perfectly authentic Slovak. For that matter, I can help my husband impart that cultural value just by singing along for vocal support. He is also now free to participate in marathon sessions of "Hello K, wave hello" and "Twinkle twinkle little star".

While composing this post I popped over to Multilingual Living and saw Alice’s latest post in which she mentions song as one of the tools in her arsenal. So come on, other non-native spouses! If you want to support your family’s other language, SING! Sing a song of multilingualism!


  1. Hi! I agree! Singing is not only good for your language skills, but also good for one's soul! I can't think of a better way to learn vocabulary in context, pronunciation, and cultural icons (I'm a little teapot) :)

  2. Thanks Marta! I've been enjoying your blog by the way, takes me a few minutes to get through a paragraph, but maybe I haven't quite forgotten all the Spanish I ever knew!



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