Learning Languages with Singing:


Almost everyone loves music. It is a part of our language and life from before birth onwards. As babies, we hear lullabies. As young children we play, sing and dance to a numerous nursery rhymes. As adolescents, we are consumed by the beat of popular music artists worldwide. As adults, every form of advertising we hear, every special event we experience, is in part music. Music spread through television, movies, theater, and even the nightly news. When we exercise, when we work, when we play, when we worship and even when we die, music is there to reinforce or alter every mood or emotion. A catchy tune is played, hummed or sung, at times in our head, as we go about our everyday lives. So, why not include music and songs in language learning as well?

Sometimes student get bored in spite of their best efforts? Are you looking for some new and different techniques? Could you use a learning activity that would really wake them up? Would you like to get and keep the student,s interest? Then try this classroom-tested technique by using student-selected songs to teach listening comprehension.


Factors Contributing To Listening Comprehension of Song

• Use of new vocabulary, idioms and expressions – You’ll need to address the new material offered in each song. This includes grammar, vocabulary and usage.

• Pronunciation and accent of the singer – Every native speaker doesn’t pronounce or sing with the same accent. Students may be exposed to an accent which is outside the realm of what they might normally hear in context.

• Use of new grammar and structure Song writers and singers are notoriously “loose” when it comes to use of grammar, structure, pronunciation, stress and other language factors applied to songs. The teacher must prepare for this.

If you find that most of your learners have a high musical tolerance you're not alone. Not only that, but did you know that learners can be "programmed", so to speak, to improve their mental function in a classroom using a musical background environment?


Types of Music

You probably don't need me to tell you that all music is not created equal. That being the case, there are both "good" and "bad" types of music that can be employed in an EFL or foreign language teaching and learning setting. First, some "positive" music types useful in lowering learner Affective Filters.

• Classical - A cornucopia f musical selection by the likes of Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, etc can be highly effective when used as background music for learners.

• Instrumentals - with the obvious exception of heavy percussion, extensive trumpeting or marching music, instrumentals can be highly useful in the language learning classroom

• Jazz -Jazz instrumentals are not only highly effective, but the learners often like them as well The exclamation, "THAT'S JAZZ?" is a frequent one in some of my classes. Learners often don't realize the breadth and range of musical genres outside of their normal listening venues.

• Foreign Language Vocals - Another useful musical background venue is playing background music vocals in a language unknown to the learners. Try using Hindi vocals with European learners or Chinese ones with Latin American learners, Portuguese and French vocals can work well with North American, Asian and other language group learners too.


Three Principal Song Selection Criteria:

  1. Use songs that are popular with the students whenever possible. Unfortunately, students frequently select songs for classroom use which are objectionable in some way making the song unusable.

  1. Songs MUST have clear and understandable lyrics. Nothing is worse than a song almost nobody can understand. If you have trouble understanding the lyrics by listening, then another song needs to be selected.

  1. Songs should have an appropriate theme. There’s enough bad news, negativity and violence in the world already. Songs with any type of negative theme should be avoided. There are plenty of positive, upbeat, even humorous songs available.

Use these crieterias for making a proper choice of you song

Types to Avoid:

However, in addition to music types which have proven to be useful, there are those which may tend at times to work against what you are trying to achieve. Some possibly "negative" music types tend to include:

L1 vocal songs - The last thing you want in most cases, is to use music and songs in the learners' first language. Why? Because they'll simply code switch into their L1 without any effort at thinking or functioning in English or the foreign language you're trying to get them to work in

English vocal songs - If you're using musical background, songs in English, even if you're teaching English, may at first be disorienting or confusing. You want to use an Affective Filter lowering matrix, not generate a sing-along

Heavy Metal music, Hard Rock music, Trance - While music of these genres may be pleasant or interesting to some of the learners, it is often not conducive to a positive learning environment. Not necessarily all of it is so, but a generous amount of screening may be called to get a series of musical selections that are suitable for your purposes. The effort to screen lyrics and music are frequently not worth the hours I have to spend in advance to do it so I just avoid these genres in favor of easier ones to set up

In the next segment of this theme, we'll consider some useful requisites for selecting music and genres that will promote foreign language acquisition in the English language learning environment.