I am reminded of how true this statement is every week in Zumbini®. It doesn’t matter what language someone speaks to communicate; everyone can “speak” music. Everyone can communicate with music, from tiny babies with little verbal language to fluent adults.
When a dancing song comes on, everyone starts to “speak” by tapping their toes, bouncing up and down, clapping, or swaying their body. When we sit to sing, everyone can feel the rhythm from patting our legs, repeating basic words in the song, or copying the gestures we use along with the words. Music works through everyone.
I have families in my Zumbini® class in any given week who speak German, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, Hebrew, French, and Hindi. Through all of these languages, music is the consistent language.
When we dance together, we do not have to speak the same verbal language to understand the next dance step or how to move; we can watch each other and feel it in the beat. Even young children from English-speaking homes still need to become fluent speakers (they are still developing a greater understanding of this confusing English language).
One of the ways we help vocabulary development throughout class is by singing words in context.
For instance, when we sing “no,” we shake our heads left and right, the universal sign for no. In the same way, when we sing “yes,” we nod our heads up and down. When we sing “me,” we point to ourselves, etc. Using gestures helps everyone to understand what the words mean in context.
Singing about opposites is another way to help these vocabulary words develop contextually. Sometimes the best way to learn what one word means is to understand what it doesn’t mean.
“Music is the universal language.”Author unknown
You may have noticed in my classes that we name many body parts in various ways. Whether we touch our toes with our fingers, a scarf, or an instrument, we are constantly reinforcing that the word “toes” happens when we touch the ends of our feet. Using various manipulatives (such as bells, eggs, or sticks) keeps teaching these body parts fun and interesting while developing this vocabulary word.
There has been lots of research on how music helps the brain make associations and affects memory. You can probably remember some jingle you learned to help you remember the 50 states, all of the verbs, or multiplication tables as a kid.