How to Learn Languages Through Music – An Interview With Susanna Zaraysky

Learn-languages-through-music

Susanna ZarayskyToday I’m sharing an interview I had with Susanna Zaraysky. Susanna is not only an accomplished polyglot who has studied 11 languages (and speaks 8-9 of them), she is also a world traveler (having been to over 50 countries), author, filmmaker, guest speaker at universities, YouTuber, and active member of the online polyglot community.

In today’s interview, I asked Susanna to give us pieces of advice on how to learn a language through music. Indeed, Susanna, being the author of a book entitled “Language is Music,” is a proponent of learning languages and pronunciation through music. In fact, what Susanna has been preaching for years has recently been confirmed by scientific studies. According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music, singing in a foreign language can significantly improve learning how to speak it, for example. But how can you go about doing it? Should you just listen to music and forget about grammar? What about textbooks? And where can you find interesting music to listen to in the first place?

Language is Music

These are exactly the questions that Susanna answers in depth in today’s interview. Along the way, she gives some amazing resources to help us find music and radio stations from anywhere around the world – see down below for the hyperlinks.

Finally, Susanna shares with us some additional tips on how to get a better pronunciation when speaking a foreign language, and she tells us what she believes is the most important thing that is required to successfully learn a language. From someone who was told by a teacher in school that she had “no talent for learning languages,” Susanna sure has some skills to show!

You can find Susanna on her website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, or Twitter.

Links to Find Music and Radio Stations From Around the World

Directory of Radio Stations by Regions of the World:
http://dir.yahoo.com/News_and_Media/Radio/By_Region/
http://radiostationworld.com/

Directory of Radio Stations by Language/Ethnic Group:
www.worldtvradio.com/php/radio_channel_language_lineup.php

Directory of Radio Stations by Country:
www.worldtvradio.com/php/radio_channel_country_lineup.php

Pandora:
Free, personalized radio and automated music recommendation service. (Currently only available to residents of the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand).
http://www.pandora.com/

Sites for Language Exchanges/Tutoring:
Italki
LiveMocha
Edufire

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  • Show Comments (12)

  • Doris

    It’s a very interesting interview! Thank’s

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! Glad you enjoyed the interview 🙂

  • Anne

    Is it still advantageous to simply ‘listen’ to the music or do you need those written lyrics? Translation? Transliteration? I’ve only started Mandarin in the last month so I’m still finding my feet. I’ve been studying Japanese for over five years and regularly listen (and try to sing along – albeit badly 🙂 ) to music. Yet, I’ve never had the translations as I’ve listened. I’m not saying I understood what I heard but over time I could ‘hear’ words/phrases and now even recognise grammatical functions. I just wondered what your thoughts/approach to music are.
    Great post
    🙂

    • Hello Anne!

      Personally, I think it really depends on where you are at in your language studies, and your level of understanding of the song. I think no matter whether you understand everything or not a single word, listening to music will help learn the “flow” of the language, as well as improve your pronunciation.

      However, if one wants to learn a lot of new vocab through listening to music, I think it’s a good idea to at least have the lyrics printed out in the target language, and you can always find some words that you don’t understand but that you think are important. Susanna also suggested printing the translation too, so it really depends on your learning style.

      By the way, do you have any recommendations for good Japanese music? Maybe some good rock, acoustic, or else? Thanks!

      • Anne

        I agree. I’ve certainly felt that lately in my starting Chinese. I often spend 15-20mins simply listening to the language without worrying about the words. It’s amazing how you ‘hear’ certain words/phrases repeated but more importantly begin to ‘hear’ the different sounds. Tough going, but I’m not giving up yet – p.s. really enjoyed the video interview with Idahosa Ness and am now on day three of his lessons.

        Anyway, in terms of Japanese music I would recommend the following

        Kobukuro and Yuzu – they’re rather boy-band (or duo in both cases) that young girls probably scream after. But I can get away with tapping my foot as it’s all for the sake of education. 🙂 Even my mum likes them! Always a bit cute when I hear her humming to them when I’m driving.

        Glay and Mr. Children – both groups are also pop-like with easy to hear lyrics.

        Garnet Crow – seemingly moody and I always imagine Cowboy Junkies when I listen to them, don’t know why. Certainly a moody, distinctive sound.

        Mucc – I used to be into this group a few years ago but they can be hard to listen to as they pretty heavy metal. The odd song is do-able.

        Super Butter Dog. I’ve only recently bought one of their albums. I loved the acoustic of ‘Color’. Here’s the album version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SaPgMReoSc
        (video has Japanese subtitles – always handy 🙂 )

        • Awesome! Thanks for the music recommendations, too~ I really enjoyed Super Butter Dog’s song. I’ll definitely check out the other bands too.

  • Dustin Henrich

    Hello!

    Just letting you know your links are not setup correctly. Remove “http://www.lingholic.com/how-to-learn-languages-through-music-an-interview-with-susanna-zaraysky/” before the actual destination link.

  • AlexSt

    Hey, let me share my own little project to this topic. I found that language learning just by listening to a radio station or TV might be a useful tool, but it really only caters to those already quite fluent in the language.. It only enforces what you know – I used to “perfect” my English by watching TV shows with subs. But everything below 90% understanding is really just frustrating.
    That’s why I work on this project: http://www.ThatLanguageWebsite.com, it combines songs with in-depth translation 🙂 Maybe you could put it in your recommendation list 😉

  • Thanks for posting this interesting article.. According to one of the commentators, the broken links are fixed but I still find errors. Remember to include “http://” when you insert a link. I found errors in Directory of Radio Stations by Language/Ethnic Group and Directory of Radio Stations by Country

  • David Toronto

    I’d love to be able to read this in transcript format – much easier to scan than watching a video

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