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Music in learning

This post first appeared on the Epic blog on 20th September 2012.

After finishing university, I got a TEFL qualification and headed East in search of adventure and to spread the correct use of the English language. Consequently, I ended up in Taipei, teaching school children English verbs, nouns and numbers. But it’s not my teaching experience that is of interest here, rather it’s my learning experience.

I felt living in a foreign country I’d be remiss not to take the opportunity to learn a foreign language, so I decided to learn Mandarin. I made myself little flash cards to go through on the train and bought a text book. Slowly I started to learn how to order food and ask directions, and no longer was I lost and hungry!

Along with the children, I taught an adult student in a private lesson. She was a lady who was an editor for a company that published children’s books (in Mandarin). When I told her about my attempts to learn the language, she very kindly brought me a pre-school, learning to read and write book with its CD. The book contained children’s songs. You could listen to the song on CD and follow the words in the book. Well, I thought I’d give it a go.

The songs explored the exploits of fat penguins and naughty dragons and became a driving factor in my goal to learn Mandarin. Now some years later, my Mandarin is all but non-existent, and even my food ordering and direction asking skills are no more. However, I can still remember all those songs, tunes, lyrics and their meanings. Nursery rhymes would not be a lot of help if I was once again to find myself in Tapei, but it goes to show the power music has to affect learning.

How does this relate to e-learning? Well I’m not saying there is a need to have a catchy tune run through every learning course. I dare say making a rhyme out of the data protection act would probably raise a few eyebrows – but it would help people remember it! Something to think about…