My kid can't sing, but can recite just like me - what's this called?
December 18, 2013 8:07 PM   Subscribe

Our two year old loves songs and poems and has learned a bunch of them - but she recites them all as spoken poems, even when other people are singing them with her. My other kids are adopted and sang, and my husband points out that I cannot remember lyrics except as poems, so it appears to be an inherited trait. I can remember teaching myself to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep as a kid with great effort. Melodies and tunes don't connect to lyrics at all in my memory - hum a few bars and I will stare at you blankly. Both of us enjoy music - it's specifically lyrics that just don't compute. What is this particular quirk called? We're not worried at all, but my husband would like to know more about it because he'd like to have her enjoy singing too.
posted by viggorlijah to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Being two years old? I don't mean to be glib, but 22-24 months is juuust at the age when the can sing a song; some take longer than that.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:35 PM on December 18, 2013

Does she ever hum or sing wordless tunes to herself, random nonsense lyrics, etc?

Do you recite poems/lyrics to her in lieu of something like singing lullabies? She may simply be mimicking your behavior. Does your husband sing to her? Do either of you sing or hum around the house?

If your daughter isn't getting a lot of singing input, it's not surprising that she doesn't put out a lot of singing into the world at such an incredibly young age, basically right on the threshold of when she might be able to start singing.

I would be much more concerned if she can't/won't sing when it comes time for the kindergarten pageant or something like that.
posted by Sara C. at 8:38 PM on December 18, 2013

Response by poster: Everyone else in the family sings to her often and there's music playing all the time, and she does hum tunes but without words. She is an early talker ("I cut Monkey's hair now" she has just announced as she takes a pair of scissors to her soft toy) and this reciting has been going on for several months now. She will recite instead of singing when there's singing at nursery school too. It is a noticeable quirk. Her first thing that she "sang" was the alphabet, and she gets stuck on the LMNO part unless she has the letters in front of her to sound out, rather than treating it as a song.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:47 PM on December 18, 2013

Best answer: Dysmusia is the word for being tone deaf - trouble hearing the difference between two tones. I've never heard of a word for a problem associating specific words with the notes of a song.
posted by metahawk at 9:38 PM on December 18, 2013

Best answer: Maybe something in the realm of an auditory processing disorder? (Also known as central auditory processing disorder).

From research I've done, and what I've heard from other homeschoolers, there are similarities/connections to dyslexia, but I really get the impression that it's something that they're still in the stages of learning a lot more about. They're considered a type of learning disability. I think an audiologist might be someone good to seek more info from, especially if you're pretty sure that her presentation is very similar to yours.

It may or may not "allow her to enjoy singing" but because there could be the potential for a type of hearing issue that isn't identifiable by standard hearing tests, it might be a good idea to check into it more.
posted by stormyteal at 10:24 PM on December 18, 2013

Response by poster: There's a good discussion here on the related issue of lyrics/tunes but no-one in those threads mentions difficulty joining lyrics to a tune, rather a strong preference for processing one above the other. I have a nephew with CAPD, so we'll keep an eye on this as I expected this to be a lot more common than it seems to be.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:03 PM on December 18, 2013

Okay, music and lyrics do in fact live in totally different head spaces. If she hums tunes, she does at least pick up the music around her. It's only that words put themselves someplace else in that little head, and it's a lot to process to get both aligned.
Could even be that she's especially musical, you know. Music doesn't need the lyrics at all.

It is a little early to find out about handedness, otherwise I'd guess that she may be a leftie. Why? Because speech comprehension is such a righthander/left hemisphere thing whereas music appreciation isn't.
posted by Namlit at 11:57 PM on December 18, 2013

You may want to bring this up with your pediatrician at her next appointment. Certainly they will be more familiar with the various bell curves for different milestone behaviors, what's typical for kids her age, and what are warning signs for serious problems. As opposed to "our kid is tone deaf", which, well, that's life.
posted by Sara C. at 10:55 AM on December 19, 2013

Just to make this very clear:

she does hum tunes but without words

Means she is not tone deaf.
posted by Namlit at 12:15 PM on December 19, 2013

Response by poster: This was actually helpful in that there is no clear answer - we thought it would be a common quirk, and searching on the terms above realised it's not, and is worth keeping an eye on over the next year. Thanks!
posted by viggorlijah at 9:54 PM on December 25, 2013

Inspired by this question, I observed some singing or humming kids when I was in town the day before Christmas. There are lots of kids on the Bremen Christmas market, and there's lots of absent-minded singing and humming to be heard. Now one would think that everyone knows the lyrics of all the standard Christmas songs, but no: a lot of the tinier kids just hum. Which makes it seem that singing versus humming is a developmental stage thing. As others said, two years is pretty young: an age where you assemble a lot of skills, but haven't yet learned to combine them. Thinking of it, that actually is a clear answer.
posted by Namlit at 1:38 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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