Learning Languages with Music: A Taste of Ugandan Culture

Studies have proven that music can help when it comes to learning, boosting your mood and helping you to form memories. But when it comes to learning languages, in particular, there’s another way that music can help—they’re direct exposure to your target language! In this blog post, we’ll be looking at music from Uganda, as Luganda is our language of the week, and talking about how you can use songs to help boost your language learning.

Uganda has been in the news recently for a few reasons, the main one being the emergence and popularity of Fresh Kid, an eight-year-old rapper from Luwero, a village 60km away from Kampala, Uganda’s capital.

His most recent song, Bambi—the Luganda word for ‘please’—is a plea to the Ugandan government to allow him to keep making music; last year Uganda’s minister for children’s affairs tried to ban him from performing under child labour laws. A strange case, for sure, but Fresh Kid is making music again after his parents, his manager, and the government struck a deal. The 200,000 YouTube views the song got probably helped a little with that, too!

Music, then, has the ability to make a great social impact and it isn’t just important in Uganda. It carries weight across all cultures and can be used to help facilitate communication, too, as happened in Uganda a decade ago.

After a landslide destroyed several villages in the Bududa district, survivors were relocated to the Panyadoli Camp in the southwest of the country, where they had trouble communicating with the other communities who already lived there. They turned to song to air their grievances, couching complaints in musical metaphors to get through to potential mediators because they felt they could not approach officials with these issues. 

So music can be used as a form of communication and as protest, but how can it help with language learning?

How Listening to Music Helps You Learn New Things

Music can do all kinds of things to your brain. It can help you pay attention; studies have found that it engages areas of the brain ‘involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory.’ In fact, the linked study above, carried out by researchers at Stanford University, found that peak brain activity happened during a short period of silence between musical movements, suggesting that the brain focuses during this time and starts to put things together.

Music also creates a positive atmosphere, which can boost learning potential; it can be distracting, depending on the listener, but generally has been shown to promote retention—provided the music played has no lyrics.

This is why we added a new feature in one of our most recent updates—you can play music while you learn! Cool, huh?

How Can You Learn Languages Through Music?

So if listening to music in general can help you learn, how can you learn a language with music?

No matter your level, music can be helpful. If you aren’t feeling particularly motivated to study, then try playing a couple of songs in your target language and see if you want to do something after that. Maybe listen and see if you recognise any words that are being sung, or even find the lyrics and sing along. 

Music is also a very accessible way to learn about the culture related to the language you’re learning. Like most art, music is rooted in the culture and experiences of the person making it—so you can learn a lot from it, which is another very important part of your learning journey.

uTalk’s Ugandan Playlist

To help you with this, we’ve put together a playlist featuring music from various Ugandan artists! Not all of these songs are in Luganda—Uganda has speakers of over 40 different languages, after all!—but if you’re learning one of Uganda’s languages, there will probably be something on there for you.

And if you’re not, well, it’s still good music.

Let us know what your favourite song is in the comments below.

Check out some other music-related posts!

5 Great Songs to Help You Learn English

3 Surprising Facts About the Relationship Between Language and Music

The Power of Song in Language Learning

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