Friday, February 03, 2017

Mandarin Makes You More Musical?

Mandarin makes you more musical - and at a much earlier age than previously thought. That's the suggestion of a new study from the University of California San Diego. Click here to read the full article.

An international team of researchers shows that among the preschool set – or young children between the ages of 3 and 5 – native speakers of Mandarin Chinese are better than their English-speaking counterparts at processing musical pitch.

The researchers conducted two separate experiments with similar groups of young Mandarin Chinese learners and English learners. They tested a total of 180 children on tasks involving pitch contour and timbre. Where the English and Mandarin speakers performed similarly on the timbre task, the Mandarin speakers significantly outperformed on pitch, aka tone.

Mandarin is a tone language. In a tone language, the tone in which a word is said not only conveys a different emphasis or emotional content, but an altogether different meaning. For instance, the syllable “ma” in Mandarin can mean “mother,” “horse,” “hemp” or “scold,” depending on the pitch pattern of how it’s spoken. Mandarin-language learners quickly learn to identify the subtle changes in pitch to convey the intended outcome, while “ma” in English can really only mean one thing: “mother.” It’s the linguistic attention to pitch that gives young Mandarin speakers an advantage in perceiving pitch in music, the authors conclude. “We show for the first time that tone-language experience is associated with advanced musical pitch processing in young children,” the study co-authors write.

But that said, don’t ditch music lessons for language, or language lessons for music. It’s still true that to succeed at music, you need to study music. And learning an additional language is a demonstrably good thing in itself, too – whether or not it makes you a better musician.

Written by Inga Kiderra and Anthony King and published in UC San Diego on January 18, 2017.

1 comment:

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