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Why It’s Better to Listen and Learn French Songs
Not all language teachers believe that written materials should be introduced early. In fact, some of them believe it’s a distraction from learning the language and that students are better served by materials that encourage them to listen and learn French. Where French songs are concerned, using sheet music presents another problem entirely. Students who learn French in a classroom setting are already being taken out of their linguistic comfort zone. Using sheet music alone, rather than recorded materials either with or without printed aids, can cause a lot of confusion.
Sheet music is something of a relic of an older time. While it still has immense value for professional musicians, the average person no longer knows how to read it. Reading sheet music is a language and a math skill. It requires the reader to understand the pitch as it is printed on the page, to translate that into a sound in their head and to further determine the duration of that pitch relative to others based on its written shape and form. If this sounds complex, it’s because that is precisely the case. All of this work distracts from the French.
Songs in the French classroom can be taught simply by listening and repeating. This allows students to avoid spending energy translating the sheet music in their heads while they’re trying to understand a foreign language. Reading French before you speak it is also sometimes perilous. It’s natural to read French words as if the letters had English pronunciations. When those pronunciations become cemented in the minds of the students, it’s hard to retrain them to speak the word correctly. If they’re being encouraged to listen and learn French, they know the correct pronunciation from the start. Reading and writing skills can be taught later, when the student has more fluency and understands the rhythms of the language.
If you’re going to have students learn French songs, consider sing-along exercises instead of having them read off of sheet music. This way, the students will be better prepared to speak the words correctly when they need to and they won’t be trying to recall a word that was printed on a page, but never used in speech or song. When they’re not distracted by the challenges of reading sheet music, they have a much better chance of absorbing the song.
Dr.Dennis Dunham has over 25 years in international education experience and is a co-creator of LanguageandLyrics.com, a website designed to help you learn French the right way. If you’ve tried every language product out there and haven’t made progress, visit LanguageandLyrics.com to see how learning French can be easy and fun.