Memory & Cognition

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 41–52 | Cite as

Singing can facilitate foreign language learning

  • Karen M. LudkeEmail author
  • Fernanda Ferreira
  • Katie Overy


This study presents the first experimental evidence that singing can facilitate short-term paired-associate phrase learning in an unfamiliar language (Hungarian). Sixty adult participants were randomly assigned to one of three “listen-and-repeat” learning conditions: speaking, rhythmic speaking, or singing. Participants in the singing condition showed superior overall performance on a collection of Hungarian language tests after a 15-min learning period, as compared with participants in the speaking and rhythmic speaking conditions. This superior performance was statistically significant (p < .05) for the two tests that required participants to recall and produce spoken Hungarian phrases. The differences in performance were not explained by potentially influencing factors such as age, gender, mood, phonological working memory ability, or musical ability and training. These results suggest that a “listen-and-sing” learning method can facilitate verbatim memory for spoken foreign language phrases.


Verbal memory Foreign language learning Singing Speaking Rhythm 


Author note

We thank Krisztina Nagy, Zsuzsanna Kontra, Lucinda Smallman, and Pat Power for their time and help with this study. We also thank the anonymous reviewers who provided useful feedback on an earlier version of this article. This experiment was supported by funding from the Reid School of Music and by a College Award from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen M. Ludke
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fernanda Ferreira
    • 2
  • Katie Overy
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Music in Human and Social Development (IMHSD), Reid School of MusicUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Institute for Mind and BrainUniversity of South CarolinaSouth CarolinaUSA

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