Playing an instrument for just six months can noticeably improve a child’s linguistic ability, according to the latest research.
The findings suggested that piano lessons may have a specific effect on the children’s ability to distinguish different pitches, which helped them to better distinguish different words.
The study, performed in Beijing, suggests that musical training is at least as beneficial in improving language skills, and possibly more beneficial, than offering children extra reading lessons.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, included data from nearly 100 children aged four or five years, who were divided into three groups — one that received 45-minute piano lessons three times a week; one that received extra reading instruction for the same period of time; and one that received neither intervention.
After six months, the researchers tested the children on their ability to discriminate words based on differences in vowels, consonants, or tone.
The results showed that, children who had piano lessons showed a significant advantage over children in the extra reading group in discriminating between words that differ by one consonant.
Children in both the piano group and extra reading group performed better than children who received neither intervention when it came to discriminating words based on vowel differences.
“That’s a big thing for kids in learning language: being able to hear the differences between words. They really did benefit from that,” Desimone added.
The researchers hope their findings could encourage other schools to keep or enhance their music offerings.