The complete relationship between music and language at the neurological level is still a subject of research and, to some degree, a mystery. However, it’s no mystery that music and language certainly do share some brain space when it comes to how we process sounds. There is strong evidence to suggest that when you listen to a song or to someone speak, your brain is processing those two actions in the same place. See, there’s overlap happening in your brain. This overlap is important because it can open doors for using music as a tool to improve language development (Patel 2012).
But why does this overlap happen? Well, some aspects of music and language are structurally similar. Just like notes are strung together to form a song, words are strung together to make a sentence. And if these two things have a similar structure, we can see how they would be sent to the same processing center deep in our brains to elicit a response. So, on a basic level, it makes logical sense that music and language are partly processed in the same part of our brains — I hear a song, I hear my friend speak to me, I hear the TV — all of these sounds translate into some thought or emotion. This idea is called “resource sharing” — that means that music and language are sharing processing power in the brain (Patel 2012).
That translation, the processing of these sounds in the same part of the brain is remarkable because it suggests that listening to music can benefit how you perceive speech. This is especially important in infants and children, whose language centers are constantly developing. Research has suggested that exposing young children to music can drastically improve the way that they interpret speech. This early exposure to music is crucial because it opens those translation centers in the brain and aids in their development (Patel 2012). That means they will be better trained when the time comes to learn to speak, read, and write.
Citation: Patel, A.D. (2012). Language, music, and the brain: a resource-sharing framework. In: P. Rebuschat, M. Rohrmeier, J. Hawkins, & I. Cross (Eds.), Language and Music as Cognitive Systems (pp. 204-223). Oxford: Oxford University Press.