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How to use music to develop foreign language vocabulary

By Janet Castrejón, MA

Music is a fun way to help children build their foreign language vocabulary. But what should you look for in the music and how should you use it to most effectively build your child's foreign language vocabulary?

Fortunately, children's music is available in many different languages on To find music, click on the language in the red horizontal menu above. When selecting music, try to find music that is somewhat repetitive. Repetition allows children to follow along easier and allows repeated practice with new vocabulary. Rhymes also help children follow along. They know that the final word from the next line will rhyme with the one from the previous line, so they can predict what it will be. An additional benefit of rhymes is that rhyming is a pre-literacy skill (to learn more read Word play for language development and literacy).

The first time a child hears a new song, you may want to go over some of the new vocabulary first. You could even create cards on your computer with pictures of the objects that represent the new words. After introducing the new words, you can show them the card when the word comes up in the song to remind the child of what it means. Once the child is familiar with the song, you can play it in your car while running errands and you and your child can sing along. It helps make the trip more entertaining and allows for repeated practice with the vocabulary.


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