Teaching band to Filipino student with very limited English

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    I just had a new student enter my band class as a percussionist. He apparently had some musical training before coming to the US but not very much. He seems very talented and picks up rhythms very quickly but we have a severe language barrier. He speaks almost no English and even though he is getting ESL services it is very slow going. My question is if anyone knows any resources I might be able to use to get him and I go a little faster with music terminology. For example, the words quarter note or crochet do not seem to hold any significance to him. I know this will come along in time but just wondering if there is a specific system or terminology they use there that would help me communicate a little better?

    Thank you for any help you might be able to provide.

    Chad Criswell


    Dear Mr. Criswell,

    There are a number of very good Tagalog (the most widely distributed Philippine language) on the internet. I am sure that a few musical terms wold be easy enough to use and apply with him, especially if you have the chance to meet with him one-on-one from time to time. Many people in the Philippines also have a basic Spanish vocabulary, too. Did he study formally in the Philippines, or did he participate in one of the many folk ensembles that they have there? Philippine kids often have very rich musical backgrounds, and they do exceedingly well in rote learning situations. The complexity of some of the forms and rhythms from that part of the world are simply incredible, but notation is often not the way that they have learned. The other thing that comes to mind is if the other kids are receiving him well. If he has a friend in the section who can reinforce the ideas you are trying to teach him, he will come along much quicker. Linguistically, a youngster put in a situation where they must learn an entirely new tongue will undergo a period known as the “silent period” in which they will verbally withdraw while their brain process all the new information. Musical study is one of the places in which youngsters undergoing this phenomenon tend to feel the best. I would suggest emphasizing the symbol rather than the term for a while and see if this helps. Please let us know about the progress of your percussionist!

    John Truitt

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