Hahn, L. E., Ten Buuren, M., Snijders, T. M., & Fikkert, P.
(2020). Learning words in a second language while cycling and listening to children’s songs: The Noplica Energy Center. International Journal of Music in Early Childhood, 15(1), 95-108. doi:10.1386/ijmec_00014_1.
Children’s songs are a great source for linguistic learning. Here we explore whether children can acquire novel words in a second language by playing a game featuring children’s songs in a playhouse. The playhouse is designed by the Noplica foundation (www.noplica.nl) to advance language learning through unsupervised play. We present data from three experiments that serve to scientifically proof the functionality of one game of the playhouse: the Energy Center. For this game, children move three hand-bikes mounted on a panel within the playhouse. Once the children cycle, a song starts playing that is accompanied by musical instruments. In our experiments, children executed a picture-selection task to evaluate whether they acquired new vocabulary from the songs presented during the game. Two of our experiments were run in the field, one at a Dutch and one at an Indian pre-school. The third experiment features data from a more controlled laboratory setting. Our results partly confirm that the Energy Center is a successful means to support vocabulary acquisition in a second language. More research with larger sample sizes and longer access to the Energy Center is needed to evaluate the overall functionality of the game. Based on informal observations at our test sites, however, we are certain that children do pick up linguistic content from the songs during play, as many of the children repeat words and phrases from the songs they heard. We will pick up upon these promising observations during future studies.