Songs have been a common feature of young learner classrooms for decades, and numerous publications describe how songs should be employed in order to improve motivation and facilitate the acquisition of various aspects of language, including vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and listening skills. However, empirical research examining the effects of songs as used in young learner classrooms remains scarce. This article reviews nine such studies in order to draw general conclusions and pedagogical implications. Findings indicate that songs may be effective at promoting vocabulary acquisition and improving classroom motivation in young learners; other aspects of language such as pronunciation, general oral proficiency, and receptive skills have received little focus in the empirical literature but the research that does exist also shows promising results.
Almost all mammals communicate using sound, but few species produce complex songs. Two baleen whales sing complex songs that change annually, though only the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) has received much research attention. This study focuses on the other baleen whale singer, the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus). Members of the Spitsbergen bowhead whale population produced 184 different song types over a 3-year period, based on duty-cycled recordings from a site in Fram Strait in the northeast Atlantic. Distinct song types were recorded over short periods, lasting at most some months. This song diversity could be the result of population expansion, or immigration of animals from other populations that are no longer isolated from each other by heavy sea ice. However, this explanation does not account for the within season and annual shifting of song types. Other possible explanations for the extraordinary diversity in songs could be that it results either from weak selection pressure for interspecific identification or for maintenance of song characteristics or, alternatively, from strong pressure for novelty in a small population.
One explanation for the very high song diversity in the Spitsbergen bowhead whale population could be that the animals occupying this area in modern times include immigrants from both the BCB and the eastern Canada–western Greenland bowhead populations. Until recently, these populations have been assumed to be isolated from each other due to extensive, impenetrable sea ice cover in the High Arctic. However, in the past few decades, extreme declines in sea ice extent and thickness may have facilitated contact between these populations . However, even if this region contains bowhead whales from multiple populations, this does not fully explain the high numbers of different song types recorded in this study or the lack of recurrence of song types from year to year.