Why you should happily sing to your bilingual child

by | Nov 18, 2015 | Babies, Family life, How to motivate a bilingual / multilingual child to speak a family language, Language development | 6 comments

Why you should happily sing to your bilingual child

Children learn language best through interaction and dialogue, and singing is a great way of engaging with children long before they can speak. All babies love the voice of their mothers and fathers, so the “I can’t sing!” excuse does not fly.

“If you can walk you can dance, if you can talk, you can sing”
– Zimbabwean proverb

Frequent, child-centered, and highly simplified communication between a parent and a child is “a strategy that is eminently more successful than conventional language instruction”.

When parents sing to their babies, they naturally “adopt a conversational or turn-taking style […], pausing to accept infants’ contributions of coos, gurgles, yawns, and smiles.” Babies are very much engaged by this positive way of singing and parents can attract and keep their babies attention longer. The happy sound also develops the babies’ social skills, helps them learn to pick out individual words and to remember them.

It should be noted that the benefits were found when parents sung to their children, instrumental music or recorded songs did not have the same effect.

(reference and further reading: Language, Music and the Brain, edited by Michael A. Arbib)

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Not only is singing beneficial for the small child’s language development, songs are also magnificent representations of the parent’s cultures. By learning to love this part of their heritage early on in their lives, children feel closer to the culture and can go on to learn more about the music of their background.

Children who are sung to become used to and interested in music – it is great if parents can build on this and have the chance to let children study music early on. According to research children under nine who had one hour of music tuition a week showed a “higher ability to learn both the grammar and the pronunciation of foreign languages, compared to their classmates who had learned a different extracurricular activity.”

Once you get going, why not have the whole family sing together – singing is great for all ages!

… and now excuse me, I need to go and sing my little grandson a lullaby!

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  1. Elodie

    We sing a lot at home in both our minority languages. At first we were shy because we really can’t sing… But since we visited a playgroup and we’d been told that kids don’t care about who can sing or not, they just like the melody, the tunes etc. And so we do sing!

    • Rita

      That sounds fantastic – and I am sure you do, too! And you are so right, children really do not care if you can hold a tune or not. They just love their parents’ singing 🙂

  2. emilia

    Dear Rita,
    as always you give us precious and beautiful tips to implement our activities!!! thank you! I think it every time I read your posts. I mean, somewhere in my mind I know that singing is a perfect way of interacting with my baby, but then I forget it, so it’s very important that you remind me of it; and then I love to dig into all the links you add. Wonderful job!!!!

    • Rita

      Dear Emilia,
      thank you so much for your lovely comment – it is feedback like yours that keeps me going!

    • Joanna

      I find singing is a great substitute when you have no ideas for what to ‘say’ to baby. 🙂

      • Rita Rosenback

        Yes, Joanna, you are so right! … and you can repeat yourself as many times as you want 🙂


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