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Why music is effective at improving speech

Here at Sing & Speak, we have spent months pouring through research papers addressing music and language.

As any music teacher will tell you, singing or playing an instrument is a very effective way of improving communication. This is not surprising, as music and speech and language share many commonalities. For example, music is a great way to improve pitch, rhythm and timing. And effective speech and language relies on an ability to understand and practice each of those elements.

There is also compelling evidence that music improves young children’s speech and language (among a number of other benefits). This point was reinforced in our discussions with many music and Kodaly--an approach to music that Sing & Speak adopts--institutes around the world, as well as the Hanen Centre, an internationally acclaimed organisation focused on early language and social skills intervention. Here are just some of the research findings that we found insightful:

· “In conclusion, these findings demonstrate that music training can make a critical difference in a child’s overall development, especially in terms of language. Teaching music skills to preschool students can help them with their receptive, expressive language skills, to become interested in books, and to begin to read.” (Herrera et al, 2014)

· “[T]he present results provide functional- neuroanatomical support for the notion that musical elements of speech play a crucial role for the acquisition of language.” (Koelsch et al, 2002)

· “The interpretation put forward here is in line with the view that music and speech are intimately connected in early life . . . and that music paves the way to linguistic capacities . . .” (Jentschke et al, 2008)

· “By biologically powerful, I mean that musical behaviors (e.g., playing, listening) can have lasting effects on nonmusical brain functions, such as language and attention, within individual lifetimes.” (Patel, 2010)

That music is effective at aiding communication development makes sense if we look at the “communication tree” identified in many speech-language resources. The roots of communication are turn taking, listening, play, shared attention, motivation to communicate, and social communication. Singing, music, and dance are terrific ways of incorporating and practising those elements.

In other words, encouraging children to sing or play an instrument, or engage with music in any way they can, is a powerful way of helping them develop their ability to communicate.

If you would like to receive any of the research papers that we found helpful, please reach out to us:

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