Importance of Music & Language

Music connects to the soul, regardless of what language it’s in.

What does being bilingual mean for a kid who is growing up in poverty, or close to it? Besides the immediate social and cognitive benefits, the first thing that comes to my mind is upward mobility. Learning languages while in school is one of the few subjects that puts our students at a direct advantage coming out of high school. Bilinguals are one of the most sought after and recruited groups for jobs, college, law school, and even the military. For far too long, a bilingual education was mainly cordoned off for the privileged students whose parents knew the value in ensuring their children would become bilingual or multilingual. In states such as California, until recently, many times children who were already bilingual were excluded from the opportunity of a bilingual education.

Inner city schools, strapped for funding, have had to make many tough choices and the cuts to go along with these choices. All too often, language classes haven’t been treated with the value that they deserve. In fact, they’ve been mistreated. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is learning multiple languages and finding ways to compete with, and far surpass, the United States in many aspects. It’s time to refocus and change our mindset in this country before we fall further behind.

Learning languages goes beyond a diploma, certificate, or other academic recognition. It goes beyond putting our students at an advantage in the job market. It goes beyond the health benefits of a faster brain and the ability to slow the onset of Alzheimers and Dementia.

Learning other languages serves to connect us. It builds social bridges between folks and it teaches us to see the world from other perspectives. It opens our minds and our hearts to other possibilities. Having a dual language program where everyone is invited helps our students to learn about each other and learn with each other

As an advocate for educational equity, I would be out of line if I didn’t mention the fact that some of us are born with advantages that others don’t have. Call it a silver spoon, call it privilege, put whichever term applies, because it’s real. I’m not advocating that we take anything away from those students who have. What I’m saying is that we need to ensure that all our students have the most opportunity for success. Expecting our lower income family students to compete with the others on a mass scale is a bit unreasonable, unless those students are given the tools, guidance, and resources that they need for success. Equity isn’t about giving the same thing to everyone, it’s about making sure students have an equal shot at competing with others who have more.

But how do we reach students, and parents, who have never really been exposed to the gift of multilingualism? How do we get them on board and understanding that by learning another language there is nothing to lose, only possibilities and opportunities for the future? We connect learning to their soul.

Continue reading to learn more about Guero Loco’s insights…

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One initial method is by teaching how languages are applied in the real world. While many of our students may have ample experience with this, there are many more who can be served well by teaching them and motivating them with these real-world examples. This not only works as an ice breaker, but as you see how they respond to these techniques, you will be motivated to find more methods and resources. Overall, this can begin the process of bringing groups of students together and helping them find common ground while learning to respect our differences.

Using multimedia, music, skits, and dance can also take your students on a learning journey and allow them to have fun while they’re at it. Sadly, many folks seem to be programmed to reject the traditional “boring” learning methods. But we have so much more at our disposal in order to assist them along their way.

Master the art of applying it to the real world in a fun and entertaining manner. This is the first step to getting them to truly buy-in to the idea of language learning. Remember, it’s OK, and even quite necessary, to have fun in the language-learning classroom.

Rhythm and repetition have been proven time and time again to speed the process of learning and long-term retention. The human brain loves it in this aspect. Many people already recognize music and videos as ways to escape their current situation, to forget for just a little while and be transported to another planet. While this happens, learning is still occurring. Learn to capitalize on this and the results will follow.

Music connects to the soul, regardless of what language it’s in. Once your students see how it applies to the real world and once they’re having fun, it’s easier to use more traditional methods to incorporate with the others that I’ve explained. Just don’t stop having fun. Our kids are yearning for it, and most educators are too.

Use hip-hop, reggaeton, and other contemporary popular music to your advantage in the classroom. Find educational and positive-message focused songs and raps to help transform your classroom and the way your students view learning. Done right and everyone has fun, everyone learns, and the day goes by just a little bit quicker while having the maximum impact. For beginners, you can teach them the Spanish ABC’s with hip hop or the Verb conjugations with reggaeton the GueroLoco way (shameless plug). But for higher-level students, you can build entire lessons out of a few-minute song that has a great message. Break down the meaning, discuss the lyrics, engage your students, and talk about vocabulary. If you find it more effective, start out with bilingual songs to keep attention and then work your way into songs made solely in the target language.

Music can go beyond language, beyond social structure, beyond a previously seen possibility. Music, poetry, and spoken word are very powerful tools for helping students to learn and retain information at much higher rates. How many times has that song on the radio that you only kinda like got stuck in your head for half the day? Naturally forcing you to recite lyrics word for word that you didn’t even know you learned.

Much like language, the two share the superpower of building connections while uniting and bringing us together. Ultimately, they both also have the immense power to break down the walls that exist within us and put our hearts and minds on a new level of understanding.

Language is a powerful tool that can help students every day in communicating with others and enriching their lives. It’s long past the time to give these tools the prominent positions they deserve in our classrooms while giving our students the strategies and advantages they deserve. Show your students a world outside of what they currently know, then give them the keys to get there.

Relax, your only job is to educate the future of our nation and somehow create world peace while you’re at it, but you’re a teacher… you got this!

Guero Loco
Author: Guero Loco

GueroLoco aka Mr. GL is a bilingual, educational hip-hop artist focused on helping students to learn another language through rhythm, repetition and motivation. GL learned Spanish while serving in the Marines Corps at the age of 17. He attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California and later became fluent after working with the newly arrived migrants in his home city of Indianapolis. Mr. GL quickly found work as an on-air personality for 3 Spanish radio stations in Indianapolis and as host of a Spanish hip-hop radio show. It was through this exposure that GueroLoco was inspired to become a musical artist himself. Slowly he began to translate his own life experiences into Spanish lyrics and set them to music. He found himself an audience performing in the US and Mexico. As a commercial Spanish hip-hop and Reggaeton artist, he has won 5 Chicago Music Awards and an international IRAWMA award. He has been featured on various Spanish-language media channels including Univision-Despierta America and has toured Mexico various times as a music and educational artist.

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