Musical and rhythmic language teaching approach
‘Only a grouping of sounds made words convey meaning, this gradually transformed music into a language which could never free itself from music’ Khan Mysticism of sound Inayat Khan
When we are born our native sound-system left an imprint in our mind. A unique arrangement of rhythm intonation, tone and pulse that´s quality is intrinsic to the ear. It gave us the foundation of language to then add vast amounts of semantics (meaning). It has been thought that through natural selection a section of the brain has been shaped to carry out musical functions acting as a memory bank for finding one’s way about the world. Therefore my hypothesis is that if melodic patterns are used within teaching of a new language, an unconscious memory will be created for language acquisition.
Distinct sounds are woven with memory so whether a sound is filled with harmonious pitches to elevate our moods or an aggressive clash of sound it leaves a direct imprint on our brain-cells building up a time, place and relevance of the environment we are in.
‘the most important components of initial language are these which are concerned with emotional expressiveness rather than with conveying factual information’ Ellen Dissanayake.
It is common knowledge that children acquire language much easier than adults, viewing every word with a new unique concept. Children have the ability to learn a word with a completely fresh mind without questioning grammar rules and without trying to apply the structure of their own language to L2. A way to reduce this compulsive questioning of concepts in adult behavior would be to eliminate their point of reference and focus on the simple fundamental phoneme of a word. The idea is to learn the sound of the words through intonation, rhythm and pitch accuracy before placing the context and meaning on it. Through research on music therapy, an unconscious memory for processes is created by patterns of repetition- (procedural) existing unimpaired in memory loss patients. This backs up the ideas about the phonetics of sounds being stored deep in our brains as a foundation for the semantic meanings, information (Cultural understanding, concepts and meanings.)
As sound production is the key for future cognitive growth, we must understand other symbols of communication by beginning with their smallest phonemes and become used to the different structures of speech. An early class could consist of practicing vowel and continent sounds and making a rhythmic chant out of them. For best outcomes, recordings could be made and given to students to listen before sleep. This will immerse students in the sound of the foreign language and help them ´tune-in´ to the biorhythms it consists of.
I want to avoid using cognates and literal translations within my style of practice, alike the Oxbridge method and similar to that of the Direct (Berlitz) method. I feel once meanings are rooted in our own autobiographical memory it is difficult to replace them with original meanings avoiding inter-language habits. Once an abstract word is used unconsciously we don’t question its relevance or acquisition in a sentence and the meaning is more cemented. To give explanations for vocabulary teachers should demonstrate meaning through physical symbols using mime, gestures and performance, which will give the most accurate definitions. This will bring us closer to our emotional memories mean we are not always referring to the sterile labeling of words, which will cause overgeneralization in students and constant language transfer. Teachers should use new Target language in practical examples and role play situations to demonstrate meaning of words using common phrases, repeated and alternating uses and structures.
When introducing a new target language to beginners they first need to focus on the fundamental patterns heard in the structures of sentences (semantics) and words (morphology). Without contextualizing words, teachers should expose students to the rhythm of the language through repetition of words and phrases and practicing vowel sounds, pronunciations and intonation. In these early stages of learning, words repeated continuously will serve the purpose of developing a deep procedural memory before engaging the temporal (factual) regions of the brain. Once the structures are memorized, the context can then be applied with ease. The behavioral psychology behind this method is that practicing the fundamental sounds of the new language will help to eliminate the strong native habits that are engrained in our mother tongue.
It is suitable that the initial content taught in the early stages of lessons follows a conventional conversational structure applied by most language institutions using the most common phrases found in daily situations then extending to personal, student specific material. The method would consist of immersing students in the pattern of the appropriate sentences executed in a deliberately exaggerated rhythm, that of a song, pattern or rhyme. The practice could involve using a series of generic sentences sung or spoken in pattern and then students are required to rearrange the sentences, using the correct structure to inform grammatical knowledge, extending sentences once the motif was memorized. The main focus is on the rhythm and pattern of the sentence repeated in phrases like a poem or mantra. I feel individual words should be experienced with a broad spectrum of scenarios/ situations and contexts in different performative roles. Once the syntax of a word has been revised, students should be encouraged to reinact the words in real life situations and act them out in different roles to immerse the usage of the word. I feel this continuous role play and physical movement will engrain the word to be used confidently and fluently.
Grouping of acoustic events follows principles such as similarity, proximity and continuity. These operations are important because their function is to recognize and to follow acoustic objects and to establish a cognitive representation of the acoustic environment. Acoustic objects could be grouped according to their collocations in a themed activity. For instance all nouns in context with ´holidays´ could be spoken in a certain style/pitch/sequence of notes.
Students, should be encouraged to formulate their own musical patterns with sentences to eliminate social barriers and encourage creativity taking influence from the Suggestopedia method. Singing has been proven to release endorphins, making the brain alert and receptive. It also is highly preventative in avoiding errors in sentences. If all students are singing/chanting in unison then individual habits are eliminated and the hurdle of pronunciations can be effectively combatted. Without the use of negative language, teachers can use singing to inform mistakes and positively reinforce the students learning process. In comprehensive education the fear of failing in an examination or an aural test narrows our cognitive flow and prevents our abilities to absorb new information.
Any form of relaxing the student through mood, color, ambience, and lighting can detach from this conventional learning associated with tests, teacher and rules. Although these aesthetics are not compulsory in the learning process, by creating a calm ellipsis the students´ mental state will be more receptive, positive and could aid to their learning experience. In the Suggestopedia method, different planes of consciousness are talked about relating to information we deliberately choose to retain and the subconscious information digested through our senses. If we are calm and relax and internal pressures are minimized then it is more likely we will learn unconsciously reaching the concrete areas of our memory.
Within this method the idea is, like that of a baby learning language, information is learnt as fact and not questioned. This means activities and practices are practical on a kinesthetic and auditory basis using no grammar rules. This means grammar can be taught through trial and error in an episodic way (in practical situations) As a child learns his first words, labeling and classifying terms are not necessary and actions and nouns are demonstrated through physical demonstrative practices.
Lesson Planning- Preparation and Material
The teachers role should be to guide the students according to their own personal requirements gaining material from the students in the early stages of their learning. The initial question in the first lesson should be ´Why are you learning English?´. This gives the teacher a clear idea about what vocabulary to use and what situations to use when creating role-play situations.
Each lesson should be planned according to it´s individual structure having the right physical space, instrumentation or audio material to work with. This audio stimulus will guide the structure of the lesson with a range of vocal practices for pronunciations, role-play, vocabulary exercises and rhythmic grammar phrases. I feel the teacher should adopt an encouraging role acting as a guider through learning using physical and aural practices to stimulate the students and keep their brains alert through body activity and verbal games.
I have conducted that music seems to be the most basic and socio-cognitive communication of the human special and a key role in the evolution of language. As shown in young children, their first steps towards language are based on ‘prosodic information’ (emotive) demonstrating social and cognitive functioning playing a major role in establishing language. I feel that if adult learners remove preconcieved comparrisons to their own language they can completely refresh their audio liguistic memory and retrain language rules implemented from their native tongue. My theory would be to initially immerse students in the phonetics of the sound before applying meaning and context so as to understand the rhymical melody of the language. I feel if the correct planning is implemented involving personalized grading catered to each student´s needs then effective audio based learning can be achieved.
Music, Language and the Brain Oxbford University Press Aniruddh D. Patel
Homo Aesthetics;Where Art Comes from and Why University of Washington Press; Reprint edition (October 1, 1995) Ellen Dissanayake
Mysticism of Sound Inayat Khan Health Research Books, 1972