The Secret to Success in Learning Languages by Caroline Nelson, founder of Viva Sing Spanish
Even before birth, infants make no distinction between music, language, singing and speech. In fact at just 10 months they start to tune into the language they hear most. Long before saying the words, they can imitate the rhythm of a language. Once they start to speak, young children can reproduce other languages with perfect pronunciation, so singing in a foreign language is a fantastic way of learning single words and whole phrases in context.
It was with this in mind that I left behind 20 years of teaching languages in secondary education, with the aim of exploring how I could combine my love of teaching languages with my love of music.
Part of this journey took me into Special Education Needs, (“SEN”) where I experienced first hand how signing while speaking encourages the development of communication and language skills. I was amazed at how effective this is for children of all ages and abilities, so I thought, why not apply this method to learning a foreign language? I took the appropriate training in Makaton, found an equally talented musician and set about creating: Viva Sing&Sign Spanish.
We offer an opportunity for children and their parents to begin learning one of the world’s most important languages through a simple but brilliant combination of singing and signing. I never cease to be amazed at how this prompts total recall of a word or whole phrases on a daily basis.
An example, is The Name Song:
We teach the sign for “what is your name?”
We sing the Name Song
Then we combine the two, and further on down the line, if we ask a child their name in Spanish, using the sign as a prompt, they will easily reply in Spanish.
No need to intellectualise it – they now simply know what to say…
And we have a lot of fun too!
Viva Sing&Sign Spanish has been going from strength to strength for the past 9 years; We now have a 3 phase programme:
Stage 1: “los peques” (babies/toddlers) learn to sing and sign with their parents: simple but effective. How lovely for a mum to be able to sing goodnight lullabies in a different language.
Stage 2: “los niños” (4-6 years) have classes on their own. They concentrate on understanding the signs and they then learn specially written songs, which they can sing with remarkable accuracy.
Stage 3: “los grandes” (6-8 years) use the signs to prompt them to say whole phrases in Spanish, with the songs as a springboard to create more sentences
The beauty of this approach is that it is totally inclusive, so children with communication difficulties are not excluded from the joy of being able to explore a foreign language.
By Caroline Nelson B.A. Hons PGCE
Caroline Nelson is the founder and director of Viva Sing & Sign Spanish
For more information, visit the website at www.espanaviva.biz
Facebook: Viva Spanish London