During my first year in Germany, German music became very important to me. Though I never could get into bands like Kraftwerk or Rammstein, other artists who sang in German were staples in my DIY, trial-by-fire, at-home German lessons. I had almost a decade of German study behind me, but it still took me hours to translate a song. Once I understood what was being said, however, that vocabulary, those turns of phrase, and their definitions were in my brain for good.
If you’ve ever gotten a song stuck in your head, you know how pervasive, how invasive music can be. Which is ideal when it comes to memorizing vocabulary in a new language. You want those words reverberating inside your head, unable to escape, and complete with an easy-to-remember context. Music can do that without you having to do anything more than press “play.”
But you don’t need to rely on anecdotal evidence. Scientific findings support the case as well:
“In the 1970s, extensive research was carried out into the powers of music in the learning process, by the Bulgarian physician Georgi Lozanov. He revealed that music puts listeners into a state of relaxed alertness, the ‘alpha state,’ the ideal state of consciousness for learning, and his tests were conclusive.
“More recently, in the March 2005 issue of the journal ‘Nature’ researchers at Dartmouth College in the US reported that they had pinpointed the region of the brain where ‘ earworms ‘ or catchy tunes reside, the auditory cortex. They found that the sounds and words that have actually been heard can be readily recalled from the auditory cortex where the brain can listen to them ‘virtually’ again and again. Music it seems is the ideal catalyst to the memorisation of words.” (source)
Another study has also pointed to the possibility that “the extra information provided in music can facilitate language learning.”
One of the best things you can do to help jump start your own language-learning journey is to listen to music. Though I wouldn’t recommend professors to force their students to sing German children’s songs (Mine did. Complete with harmonica. We didn’t like him much after that), I would recommend that you find music you like, figure out the text, and add it to your daily playlist.