Rhythm and Moves: How Music and Dance Supplement Learning

July 9, 2014

While the Field Day activity this past Saturday epitomized the spirit of friendly competition that characterizes inter-academy activities, other events both formal and informal, demonstrate how another theme - music - pervades life at MMLA. In the Spanish Academy, song and dance have been on the menu since the first day of classes. In addition to weekly concerts and workshops by outside performers, not one but two cultural exploration classes have exposed students to genres of dance from merengue to bomba y plena, while in a third class teachers and RAs have joined forces to introduce students to their favorite artists and periods of Spanish-language music. Lyrical analysis, whether the source is reggaeton, 80’s dance music or a modern-day pop song, provides a window into the particulars of language use in music. This is a welcome break from the rigors of studying formal Spanish in an academic manner.

Students channel this musical energy into the rest of their day, joining in with dance demonstrations at evening assemblies, punctuating study hall sessions withspirited (a cappella and wordless) renditions of English-language songs, translating favorite pieces into their target languages and gathering for impromptu sing-a-longs in dorm rooms and lounges. RAs and teachers get in on the fun too, penning their own songs about the Language Pledge® or teaching choreography to the students. Learning opportunities are abound in these moments; how do you teach another musician to play a song without knowing the words in your language for chord, note, key, chorus and melody?

For beginners and long-time students alike, music has been an appealing and powerful gateway to further language knowledge. Seeing them unite around this common passion inspires and energizes the academy as a whole, and we know they’ll leave MMLA eager to share these newfound interests with friends and family back home!

-Charlie, Spanish Academy RA