Music is an important part of most people’s lives. We spend a lot of time listening to music. In fact, most of our time in the car is spent listening to all kinds of songs. The type of music someone enjoys often tells a lot about that person. You even see a lot of fashion and lifestyles associated with different kinds of music. There are a lot of cliches and stereotypes, but music certainly shapes an important part of any culture. Listening to foreign songs can be very helpful in language learning. It may not be the most effective way to learn many new words, but listening to songs in your new language can be helpful in ways that are much more subtle, but just as powerful. In this post, we will talk about how songs and music can help you learn languages.
One of the most important things music can bring you is passion. This may sound silly, but like we mentioned in previous posts, the key to language-learning success is to enjoy and be passionate about what you are learning. Staying motivated is not always easy, but listening to foreign music is a great way to create and maintain interest in the language. By listening to songs from foreign destinations where your target language is spoken, you will experience part of the culture and hear a completely different style of music. Immersing yourself in the culture of the people speaking your target language is essential to build and increase your passion for it. This continued interest will ensure that you constantly make progress and never give up. Make sure to find music you enjoy, don’t settle for a style you don’t like. The point of listening to music in your new language is to develop further interest, not to annoy the heck out of you. You’ll learn a lot more if you enjoy the tunes. There’s a style for everyone in most languages.
Now you might wonder: “Okay, that all sounds good, but will music actually teach me something?”. Research has shown that music activates a large portion of the brain, which can be very useful for language learning. However, it also has to be used in a way that is effective. English-language music is played in several countries where English is not spoken. People hear these songs all their lives without learning much English from them. Music does activate the brain, but when you don’t understand the language at all, the singer just becomes another instrument to your ear. How well do you know your saxophone vocabulary? Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to make songs an effective learning tool.
Possibly the most effective way to learn new words is to read through the lyrics while listening to the song. You can’t do this while driving of course, but reading the lyrics and listening to the song at least once can multiply your results. If you want to make this a complete exercise, look up every word you don’t know in the dictionary. If you understand every word in the song and listen to it multiple times, you will never forget them. It can take a few minutes per song to do this, but it is well worth the time and effort. There are apps out there that will automatically find song lyrics to the songs playing on your device. This can be a very valuable tool to find lyrics in a flash.
If you prefer to make this a listening exercise, you can also listen to the song carefully and write down the lyrics the best you can. Be warned though, this is very challenging because singers don’t always articulate very well. When choosing songs for language-learning purposes, try to choose songs with a lot of lyrics and clear pronunciation. Lyrics are sometimes difficult to understand even in our own native language. If you can’t understand every word, don’t worry about it. Once you write the majority of the lyrics down, compare them with the actual lyrics of the song. You are now interacting with the songs instead of just listening. That is how you can truly learn from songs and music. The songs will then help you remember the words when you enjoy them again in your car or at your favorite club while on a trip (dance songs may involve a lot of booty shakin’ lyrics though…).
Remember, listening to a lot of music in your target language may not only increase your passion for the language, but can also give you the opportunity of learning many new words if you pay close attention to the lyrics. The more active you are with the songs, rather than being passive and only listening in the background, the more you will gain from the material. We believe that in order to be successful in language learning, you must include the language in your life in any way you can. Listening to music in your target language is an excellent way to do so.
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Fair Use: Image Attribution of Michael_jackson_1992.jpg used and modified in this video: By Casta03 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. All rights to their respective owners. Some images used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for educational purposes.
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