Music Integration to Reduce Experiences of Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety in Early Childhood Education

Music Integration to Reduce Experiences of Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety in Early Childhood Education

Jennifer Yvette Fortin (EMJMD PETaL, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2503-6.ch004
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Music and language are humanity's most powerful auditory symbol systems. They are connected neurologically early in life, develop similarly, and are linked academically. With communal function, similar learning processes, and neurological proximity, could the intersection of music and language each facilitate the other? This chapter explores the benefits of music integration in language learning, particularly to improve classroom affect and reduce students' experiences of foreign language anxiety (FLA). Exploring the benefits of integrative curriculum, music in the classroom, and language learning theory and methodologies, this work offers a theoretical foundation for further research. By illuminating the connection between music integration and positive classroom affect, further opportunities to develop and implement more effective linguistic classroom practices can improving education's impact in early childhood education.
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Music and language are the most prominent auditory symbol systems humanity converses through. An essential communicative tool, language allows for expression and definition of self and helps construct perception of the world. In sharing language, speakers exchange intellectual ideas, emotional sentiments, and cultural notions. Undoubtedly, language connects humanity. Music procures similar effects, from the expression and sharing of ideas and emotions, to fostering cross-cultural connections. Both of these symbol systems are innately connected through neurological consistencies in the early stages of life (Chen-Hafteck & Mang, 2018), follow similar developmental tracks (Willis, 2008), and have been linked in the fluency of key skills necessary in reading and music (Register, 2004). With communal function, similar learning processes, and neurological proximity, could the intersections of music and language each facilitate the learning of the other? Such questions foster the notion that music integration in foreign language learning builds positive affect and may reduce students’ experiences of anxiety. This chapter explores the benefits of music integration in language learning, particularly to improve classroom affect and reduce students’ experiences of foreign language anxiety (FLA).

Music’s offerings to educators, parents, and most importantly, young learners grows clear in exploring its ample benefits in development, general classroom welfare, and support of language instruction. However, in the expansive field of early childhood education, music is often deemed a narrow, specialized skill, concluded to offer little relevance to mainstream pedagogy for varied reasons. First, cultural and theoretical assumptions foster a general lack of conviction in young children’s musical exposure. Based on the notion that conventional musical skills are essential, young children’s imminent acquisition of such skills fuels the belief that there is not yet a viable benefit from music (Young & Ilari, 2019). Reduced to the constricting confines of ‘arts’ education, music maintains the faulty presumption of prerequisite skills necessary to teach or learn. What’s more, these notions further the basis that musical learning and progress is simply the acquisition of a narrow set of performance abilities. Researchers have even found that educators without musical backgrounds involve music and singing less in their teaching (Kim & Kemple, as quoted in Young & Ilari, 2019). Constricting assumptions of music limit opportunities for integration and inclusion in mainstream educational interests, especially in early childhood and educational studies. Dispelling reductive beliefs and cultivating a broader view of musical development can enable educators, researchers, artists, and young students to reap the vast benefits of music integration in early childhood.

A variety of benefits have been found in early and primary educational settings, linking music with an array of academic and social advancements. Studies link students with musical exposure to improved memory and immediate recall (Rickard et al., 2010), enhanced cognitive functioning (Carmilleri, 2012), higher national test scores (Petress, 2005), increased reading ability (Janus et al., 2015; Register, 2004), and enhanced linguistic skills (Engh, 2013). Along with these positive effects, music can bring interest and relevance to instructional content (Brewer, 1995). The cognitive effect of music training in children has even been found to boost metalinguistic ability (Janus et al., 2015). Recent research has linked musicianship with foreign language development, including verbal memory and retention (Rickard et al., 2010), vocabulary knowledge (Janus et al., 2015), and having a “good ear” for discriminating and analyzing foreign speech sounds (Slevc & Miyake, 2006). Above all, music provides the opportunity for innovative expression in generating powerful pathways for creative observation, communication, and synthesis (Reif & Grant, 2010). Finally, social benefits conclude that students exposed to music possess greater self-esteem, relational skills, and overall confidence (Gove & Vaizey, 2012). Undoubtedly, advocating for music’s integration through the language learning process grows more evident in deeper analysis of existing research and literature.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Content Language Integration Learning: An interdisciplinary approach to language learning where a target language is used to teach both content subjects and the language.

Acquisition-Learning Distinction: Differentiates between the subconscious acquisition of language without knowledge of rules and reliance on a “feel” for correctness; contrary to the conscious learning of language, with an awareness and ability to define linguistic rules.

Anxiety: Feelings of worry, apprehension, or nervousness, in response to an unknown or uncertain outcome, stimulating the nervous system and producing physical reactions.

Input Hypothesis: A process of acquisition, where students’ linguistic advancement relies on their comprehension of language structure just beyond their current zone of understanding.

Monitor Hypothesis: The belief that learning and acquisition contribute certain functions in the language learning process. Learning sole function is considered the Monitor, or editor; and acquisition is seen as the initiator, encouraging utterances and fluency.

Natural Order Hypothesis: The idea that acquisition of grammatical structures follows a predictable order of command and usage.

Foreign Language Anxiety: Anxiety experienced in the language learning process that may include questioning self-perceptions, uncertainty of beliefs, uncomfortable feelings or behaviors uniquely experienced in the language classroom.

Affective Filter Hypothesis: Considers how emotional and intuitive factors impact the language acquisition process including motivation, self-confidence and anxiety.

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