Learning English Through Music - ISI Dublin

Learning English Through Music

August 11, 2016

Although there are many ways to learn a language, my experience as a language teacher has shown me that students who study songs in English seem to have a wider range of vocabulary and are more likely to ask questions about the meanings of the words.

They also seem to grasp the spelling quicker as they have seen it in the lyrics of their favourite songs.Many people ask themselves the question as to what is the key to learning a language? Is it determination and persitence or is it just a natural instinct that we are born with?  It may be a combination of the two but there is a lot to be said for studying music and songs in the language that you are studying. Not only are you exposed to the langauge but you may get an insight to the culture of the langauge as well. Here are some reasons why it may be a good idea to focus on learning English through music and song.


Everyday Language and Colloquial Speech

 Everyday pop songs contain vocabulary and verbs that are uselful for speech. For example, Coldplay’s “Yellow” contains many verbs in the past tense and U2’s “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” demonstrates the use of the present perfect.  Furthermore, songs may contain more up to date language.


Becoming Familiar with the Sound of English

When listening to artists you may even pick up on different accents. Christy Digman from Aslan for example would at times have a very strong Dublin accent in his music. Many Spanish singers would help us understand the rolling r sounds. Music also helps us focus on the rhythm, tone and beat of the language. There are many Irish songs like Molly Malone and Irish groups such as the Dubliners that could help us understand the stresses and tone of the Irish accent. Music can also help with pronunciation and intonation through the way the artist sings the song.


Repetition in Music

Many songs can get stuck inside our heads because of the repetition of a catchy chorus. The repetition in the song and the pattern of the music make it easier to remember the lyrics and the words in the song. Tunes and lyrics will often come into our thoughts and play over and over in our minds. This repetiton will help us remember vocabulary and phrases and may even become easier over time, the more we listen to the song.


Songs are Emotional 

Many songs and melodies can bring us back in time to a moment or a place that we remember. Our relationship with music is deep and powerful and can trigger many memories. If an English language student is enjoying their time in a different country, a song may evoke an emotional response in them and this may cause them to take an interest in the meaning and the vocabulary of the song. It may even be a summer love song that inspires you!


Music is Readily Available

With the modern technology of smart phones, music can be enjoyed as you go. You can be on the train, in the kitchen or the shower and enjoy the latest artist who may have a new way of portraying music. The problem with studying anything is that you may not have an extra minute to sit down and study but with music you can always find a way to listen to it. You can usually listen to the same music over and over without getting bored. This means that you can become interested in the artists and it may bring up questions about where the artists are from and why they sing the way they do.


Music as a Topic for Conversation

Music often inspires a good conversation. Familiarity with popular songs and artists gives you something to talk about with your English speaking friends. Music gives us an insight into how English people think and feel as it represents the culture around them.

Here are some simple and sometimes obvious ways to go about learning English through music.

  1. Study the vocabulary on a regular basis and break down the song for verbs and phrases.
  2. Games can be played such as cutting out words from a song and then when one hears the word in the song one has to grab the word from amongst the cut out words. This gives the student a focus.
  3. Sing along with the song. It might seem strange as its not in your own language but soon you will get the hang of it once the teacher has explained the lyrics.
  4. Sing from memory. Once you feel comfortable with the words, try to sing without any help from the written lyrics.
  5. Build on the songs you have learned and try to find songs with new vocabulary and that raise new grammar points.

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