Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Language learning through song

Music is a great tool for learning a new language - whether you can or cannot carry a tune. You get a feel for the rhythm of the language and word pronunciation. It can be easier to sing a song than to read aloud. When the song becomes an earworm and you can't get it out of your head, you begin subconsciously (and likely involuntarily) acquiring new vocabulary.

In my beginner Tagalog classes, we've been nurturing our musical talents. We listen to simple (slow-ish) songs, fill in the blanks of an incomplete set of lyrics, translate them into English (both word-for-word and by phrase), and practice many times. Here is a sample of the ones we have learned in class.

Biyahe Tayo! was made in the early 1990s as a shout-out to Filipino emigrants to come back and visit the Philippines. Twenty-one artists for Philippines Tourism contributed to the song. During my exploratory field season last year I experienced / visited roughly half of the places and activities they mention / show.

Apo Hiking Society's Pumapatak na naman ang ulan should sound familiar. The song is similar to Raindrops are falling on head. The members of Apo Hiking Society began their musical partnership at Ateneo de Manila High School, and continued making music together during their years at Ateneo de Manila University. The group became popular in the 1970s and are known for their humour and political outspokenness as well their their music.

Bahay kubo is a song about all the vegetables and legumes that you would grow in your garden. A bahay kubo is a traditional nipa hut (nipa is a kind of palm).

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While yours truly has been tactfully told to avoid singing outside the shower, I am convinced that exceptions can and should be made when learning a new language. And so, if your ears happen across a not-so-melodic version of these or other Filipino songs, please make a small allowance. I am merely practising my limited repertoire of Filipino songs so that my spoken Tagalog will improve.

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