• Rachael Inwood

Why learning music is like learning a language


Music is a language. Both the spoken and written word, and music is a form of communication and expression.



Like learning a language, a student of music needs to learn to understand what they hear, to be able to speak it, and lastly to be able to read and write it.


However, learning music is not treated in the same way as learning a language. It is very often treated as something that can only be learned through studying with a teacher. This is successful but does take a long time to become a competent musician.

A child starts to learn their native language before they are born, this is because they start to hear sounds outside the womb in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy [1]. When an infant is learning to speak their native language, they have people communicating with them from the day that they are born. They are not sent away to have lessons to speak. They are encouraged to make mistakes with the words that they are trying to make. They talk with people who are already proficient in the language they are learning. “Babies are allowed to jam with professionals.” [2]


Once they are born they start to practice making sounds that form phonemes the sounds needed to create words). These sounds eventually become words that they then learn to attach to the right object/meaning [3]. After they have been speaking for a few years, this is when they often start to learn to read and write it. Again, the words are broken into phonics, that the child starts to slowly speak until they recognise what different of combinations of phonics spell. In time, with regular reading practice the child we are able to fluently read a book without having to break down the words that they see [4].


Learning to read and play music can happen in a similar way. Where a child grows up in a household of other musicians, quite often they start to learn music in a similar way before they having formal lessons.


I try to approach teaching my beginners is as close away as they would learn a language. The next couple of posts that are coming out will outline how I do this. 


Website Links

[1] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/fetal-development/art-20046151

[2]https://ed.ted.com/lessons/victor-wooten-music-as-a-language

[3] https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-do-children-learn-language-1449116

[4] https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2017/08/17/reception-reading-how-your-child-will-learn-to-read-at-school-and-what-you-can-do-to-help-at-home_n_7331438.html