The Secret Method for Learning Any Language: Rhythm

The Secret Method for Learning Any LanguageInterested in learning a new language quickly? Want it to be fun? You’ve come to the right place! In this article, you’ll read about a simple yet little-known method for making any language easier to learn…

It takes a long time to learn a new language. You can spend over 250 hours studying a language and only reach minimum proficiency. Some of the more complex languages, like Japanese and Arabic, can require twice as much studying compared to, say Spanish or French.

If you don’t have much time to learn a new language, you may be asking, “Where are the shortcuts? How can I learn quicker?” You’re about to find out, because we have your answers! And the good news? This language learning method is easy to understand. And the VERY good news? It’s fun!

Ready to learn the secret method? Let’s jump right into it!


What’s the Method?

It’s simple: keep a steady beat. If you can’t quite keep a steady beat, don’t worry – you don’t have to be a drummer to learn this technique. In fact, you don’t need to know anything about rhythm at all; our brains automatically operate by rhythms all the time!

Being able to keep a beat is directly correlated to having a healthy brain. It helps to achieve and maintain focus, clarity, and creativity. You see, accurate beat-keeping activates hearing as well as movement. When your brain synchronizes the two, it creates neural pathways that lead to better cognitive development. Don’t believe us? Just watch.

Why is This Useful?

You already speak in rhythms. Just for fun, recite this sentence aloud: “Who told you about my cat?” Those seven syllables are spoken with a very distinct rhythm. Did you think about it much? No – that’s because you already learned the rhythm associated with speaking English.

By learning how a language’s syllables are spoken, you’ll be able to recognize speech patterns much easier. Processing new information about your desired language will be simpler once you recognize patterns. This applies to reading and writing just as much as speaking.


The Science Behind It

This language learning method isn’t just a bunch of nonsense; it’s supported by countless hours of scientific research. One study in particular outlines exactly what we’re trying to explain.

The Study

In 2013, the director of Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, Nina Kraus, conducted an experiment to further explore the link between rhythmic abilities and language skills. She published an academic paper with her findings, alongside co-author Adam Tierney.

Here’s an overview of Nina’s experiment:

To investigate the relationship between beat-keeping and auditory processing, 124 Chicago high school students visited Kraus’ lab and were given two tests. In the first, they were asked to listen to a metronome and tap their finger along to it on a special tapping pad. Tapping accuracy was computed based on how closely their taps aligned in time to the tick-tock of the metronome.

– Wendy Leopold, The Importance of Keeping a Beat


The Data

The data collected from the 124 students was analyzed through statistical tests to see if a quantitative connection between rhythm and language learning truly existed.

The rhythms were measured by the students’ fingers tapping on an electronic pad, but what information was collected from the students’ brains?

In a “brainwave test,” the students were fitted with electrodes measuring the consistency of their brain response to a repeated syllable. Across the population, the more accurate the adolescents were at tapping along to the beat, the more consistent their brain response was to the speech syllable.

The takeaway from this: the more accurate the students kept a beat, the easier time they had registering speech syllables. Now we’re onto something! Let’s take a look at the experiment’s results and see if the data confirms or denies Nina’s hypothesis.


The Results

The students that tapped more accurately to the beat were classified by the term “low tapping variability.” In this case, the less variability in the tapping, the better. Nina’s official research paper tells us the end result:

We find that the ability to tap consistently to a beat relates to the consistency of the auditory brainstem response to sound, a measure that has also been linked to reading ability (Hornickel and Kraus, 2013) and phonological awareness, the explicit knowledge of the components of spoken language… Furthermore, the increase in response consistency was linked to improvements in language skills.

–  Adam Tierney and Nina Kraus, The Ability to Move to a Beat…


Eureka! The scientific connection is real! Nina’s study proves that rhythmic accuracy and speech patterns are indeed connected. Let’s use this discovery for your advantage.


How You Can Apply This Method

Now that you know the method, let’s apply it to your actual studies. Keep in mind, this language learning method is not meant to replace any other study techniques; think of it as a supplement, not a routine. Just add this method to your list of tips and tricks for learning a new language!

Where should you begin? First, you need to practice your rhythm with a metronome. A metronome will make sure that you have the most accurate time-keeping possible. Here are a few you can choose from:

Free Metronomes

You can’t go wrong with any of these metronomes. Each one loads fast and provides exactly what you need to practice your rhythms. If you want a more mobile-friendly metronome, there are plenty of apps you can download for free. Once you choose one, get ready to practice with it!

How to Practice the Beat

Fortunately, this doesn’t take much explaining. All you have to do is pick a short sound to say aloud, preferably one with a vowel and a consonant. Once you pick a sound, all you need to do is recite it along with the metronome.

Try saying “bup” at the exact same time the metronome beeps. Keep saying it until you feel like you’re completely in-sync with the beat. You shouldn’t even hear the metronome beep if you’re reciting your sounds exactly with the tempo. Once you get eight beats in a row (accurately), try changing the tempo.

In order to get a well-rounded practice session, you should increase and decrease the tempo as you go. This way, you can practice rhythmic accuracy at any speed. This will help you speak your new language slow or fast, depending on your needs. Spend a few minutes playing around with this.

How to Practice the Language

Once you feel comfortable with your rhythmic accuracy, now you can apply this method to your new language of interest. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Write a sentence in your desired language (you can use a translator).
  2. Break down each word into separate syllables.
  3. Recite each syllable with the metronome beeps.

It may feel funny at first, but you’ll get more used to it as you practice. After you recite an entire sentence in your new language, syllable by syllable with the metronome, your mouth should feel more comfortable speaking it. With this language learning method in the back of your mind as you study, you’ll be more aware of syllables and patterns in the dialect. Thus, you’ll be able to read, write, and speak with greater ease.


Other Brain-Boosting Techniques

But wait, there’s more! Keeping a steady beat isn’t the only language learning tip you need to keep in mind. A good balance of nutrition, sleep, and exercise can take your studies to the next level. Let’s find out about a little of each:


Certain foods are brilliant for brain development. You don’t need to overhaul your current diet if you want to learn a new language, but you should try adding these foods into your daily mix: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, and dark chocolate.


It’s important for our brains to receive proper rest, especially when we’re learning new skills. Without deep sleep (REM cycles), we aren’t able to learn and retain as much information. Sleep can even affect your voice, which may put you off from practicing speech altogether.


A healthy body makes for a healthy mind. Even just 30 minutes of light exercise per day can help your brain out! Not to mention, you’ll sleep better with regular exercise.


Congratulations! You now have the game-winning combo for learning any language you want. Of course, there’s much more to learning a language than breaking sentences down into syllables. Schedule a lesson with private language teacher and you’ll learn tons of invaluable tips and tricks that you won’t find anywhere else.

If cost is the only thing holding you back, take a look at our budget breakdown article and see which learning style works best for you. Personal tutoring may seem like a hefty investment, but realistically it’s the best option for learning a new language, in terms of speed and proficiency. We’ll see you next time for some more language learning methods!


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