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Music improves infant linguistics

A new study confirms that a musical home can aid language development in infants

A new study confirms that a musical home can aid language development in infants.

The University of Dusseldorf questioned over 600 German parents and carers using a questionnaire created by Middlesex University’s Music and Cognition Laboratory. The questionnaire was aimed at measuring young children’s and babies’ reactions to music in the home and established a connection between higher language skills among two year-olds.

Dr Nina Politimou, who gained her PhD at Middlesex, co-authored the report. She said, ‘This is very important because it will allow new studies to be conducted using this tool and therefore measure this kind of experience in very early development.’

Speaking to Nursery World, her co-author, Dr Fabia Franco, a senior lecturer in psychology at Middlesex, said, ‘If you give babies a choice between listening to someone speaking or singing to them, they will pay more attention to the song. This suggests there is more attention given in musical context… If you pay more attention to something, you are more likely to process the content.’

The idea that music aids learning is not new. The ABC tune used around the world is a classic learning tool. But the work at Middlesex and Dusseldorf adds weight to the argument.

A study published by Middlesex University researchers last year concluded that, ‘Distinct musical and language skills are linked in young pre-schoolers, independently of individual differences in verbal and non-verbal memory. Thus, timing and melodic skills are not by-products of other cognitive skills, but rather they are independently associated with language development.’

This, and the other findings in the study offers new insight ‘to establish music-based training for strengthening language development in the early years.’

‘Based on present findings, musical programmes focussing on specific skills could be designed to address language development targets at an age where the brain is still highly plastic,’ the report concludes. This could mean advances in practices to help children at risk of language disorders such as dyslexia.

The report can be read in full here.