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Neil Kendall Languages

The language learning challenge

Is It Possible To Learn Languages With Music? A review of Earworms Japanese Volume 1

February 24, 2017

In the last few weeks, I've had the privilege of trying a language learning method from a company called Earworms Learning, which involves learning languages via music. 

I have been using their Japanese course (Volume 1), and in this blog post I'd like to tell you a bit about Earworms Learning as well as document my personal experience using their method.

Who are Earworms Learning and what is their method?

Earworms Learning is a language learning company that specialises in teaching languages via musical 'earworms'. I believe they have courses in around 16 mainstream languages, as well as some in other languages which teach English too.

In case you're wondering what an 'earworm' is, the dictionary definition is 'a catchy song or tune that runs continually through someone's mind'. I'm sure you've had the experience of certain songs you just can't get out of your head....that's an example of an earworm.

The idea behind the methodology is that words, sentences, phrases and grammar points are taught within these earworms as part of the lyrics and melody to simple but catchy music. You listen to these earworms continuously until the information taught within each earworm anchors itself into your mind.  Although much of Earworms Learning courses contain speaking rather than singing, the same basic principle applies, and many of the spoken phrases are deliberately said in time with the music to create an almost hypnotic effect.

Research has proven that this approach is very effective, and works much better than conventional methods, since the mind has a natural capacity to memorise musical  (melodic and rhythmic patterns). Think of it like listening to some of your favourite songs, and how the words and melodies stick in your mind effortlessly without you needing to 'try' or 'strain' in order to memorise them. Learning languages with earworms is a bit like this.

The final point is that music changes one's emotional state; it can evoke different emotions from have a calming effect to being very uplifting, and everything in between, depending on the tempo or the ambience of a song. This can all aid the learning process by putting one in a more resourceful state of mind for the brain to memorise things more easily, as well as helps provide a more interesting learning experience.

An overview of an Earworms course

Each language course is split into volumes - some of the more popular languages such as Spanish have 3 volumes, while others have 1 or 2 volumes. Each volume contains around 11 songs, which are in the region of 5 to 9 minutes in length.

You can buy each volume as an mp3 download or on cd, whichever you prefer.

Each song covers a different topic, e.g. ordering food and drinks in a restaurant, asking if someone has something, asking directions, numbers, days of the week, telling the time, basic greetings, and a whole host of other phrases one needs to know in order to get by in most everyday situations. Volumes 2 and 3 go into more detail and cover more of the grammar and structure than the first volume.

The songs have a British narrator on them, as well as a native speaker of the target language. You are presented with words and sentences, while simultaneously learning the grammar and structure of the language, and it really is very fun and enjoyable.

The courses also come with a pdf booklet so that you can see the correct spelling of the words and phrases, as well as quickly review what you've learned.

In terms of the content taught, Earworms courses follow the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) on language learning, levels A1 to B1.

So how did this work for me?

I started out by listening through all the tracks in the Japanese Volume 1 course to get a basic overview of the songs, and how the Japanese language sounded. After that I listened to each track maybe two to three times a day during the past few weeks, and read the pdf booklet so I could see the correct spellings of everything.

My plan, at first, was not to try too hard but to simply enjoy listening to each song and effortlessly let the words and phrases be absorbed into my mind. I found that even after the first few days, much of what was taught was starting to remain in my mind. For the things that I didn't remember at first, I simply kept on listening to the tracks each day and going through the review booklet, and after a week or so, I could pretty much say most of the the phrases along with the songs from memory, as easily as singing the lyrics along to my favourite songs,

I found the tracks very easy on the ear, very pleasant to listen to, with my foot often tapping along to many of them too. Each song has a different tempo, groove and musical style to it, which takes the listener through a range of different emotions, thus keeping you engaged in the learning process. Often, certain phrases in the songs are repeated numerous times, and in time with the music/in certain rhythms, almost like the 'melodic hook' in the chorus of a catchy song. The British and Japanese presenters also had very soothing tones of voice, which I found quite relaxing to listen to. 

I liked the way the course was structured, so that by the end of the 10 songs one has a solid foundation of phrases they need to get by in a typical day and in a wide variety of situations. The other thing about the Earworms courses is that you are not simply memorising phrases - you are, almost without realising it, learning the grammar and structure of the language as well as a lot of vocabulary (for nouns, adjectives and verbs etc) without having to sit down and consciously memorise it like you would in a classroom.

Overall it's a fun and stimulating way to learn a language, in total contrast to the dull and boring classroom academic methods that the education system is still clinging on to. Perhaps the education system needs to take a leaf out of methods such as Earworms, as it might encourage more kids to learn languages at a young age. But that's a blog post for another time, I think :-)

I'm looking forward to working through Volume 2 of the Japanese course, and I will write another blog post about that in the next few weeks. I've also purchased Volume 1 of their European Spanish course, which I'll likely write about soon too.

In closing, I can say I'm now very intrigued by the whole concept of learning languages via music, and I'll definitely be exploring this method further to see how far it's possible to go in a language with it. It definitely does work and has merit, and I believe it's a wonderful starting point in learning a new language.

So for now, I'd like to say arigatou gozaimasu to Earworms, and to my readers: sayonara, matta kondo!

And for those of you who would like to find out more about Earworms Learning and their courses, please visit www.earwormslearning.com.

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