Using Songs to Learn English

Using Songs to Learn English

Have you ever got a song stuck in your head?

It’s so easy to remember the words to songs - why not use a similar principle to improve your English?

Baby shark! Do do do do do do doo! Baby shark! Do do do do do do doo! BABY SHARK!

Do you recognise this song? I think that most of us had this song stuck in our heads last year at some stage or another! It was quite annoying, but through this song, many children around the world learned the names for different family members – Baby Shark, Mummy Shark, Daddy Shark, Grandma Shark, Grandpa Shark. 

There’s something about the combination of words and music that makes things memorable. Here are four reasons why we can remember songs so easily.

Repetitive

Music tends to repeat itself over – either in the words or in the tune of the music. When something is repeated, our brain starts to make connections or pathways, and to guess what will come next. This helps us remember the words of a song (the lyrics) or the tune. 

Rhyme

Often in poetry, stories or songs, rhyme is used to make it memorable or more impactful. If we know the sounds at the end of the line are the same, we can more easily guess/remember it. In a popular English song for children, we learn about a lamb whose fleece was ‘as white as snow’. In the next line, we easily remember that ‘Everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.’

Meaningful

We often associate songs with different experiences, places or times in our lives. I can always remember the year that one particular pop song was released in my home country, as every girl at my summer camp that year was singing it into their hairbrushes and creating choreography to it!

There are other songs that connect with us when we have a sad or emotional experience. Perhaps the words of the song are similar to our own feelings, or the melody of the music connects with our emotions. Either way, we are more likely to remember a song if it is meaningful to us.

Attractive

Sometimes songs are just more attractive than a stack of books! Both songs and books can contain the same information, but, for some people, songs are just more interesting and attractive as a way of taking in information. Here is a song that might help you remember the most common irregular verbs in English!

So there’s lots of reasons why songs can be easy to remember. With that in mind, why don’t we use this to our advantage? – You can improve your English through listening to songs! Here are some of our recommendations. 

Listening to new songs is a great way to learn lots of vocabulary. You can click on the Closed Captions or Subtitles to help you understand what they are saying if you are watching a video, or search for the song lyrics. However, you don’t need to know every word to understand the story of the song, or enjoy the tune!

 

For those at the very beginning of learning English, you need to know the English alphabet! Here is the song that the majority of learners use to remember the alphabet.

Next, you need to know the sounds of the letters (phonics). This is important for everyone to remember, whatever level of English you have! 

You can also use songs to learn lots of different types of vocabulary. For example, learn opposites through Hot and Cold by Katy Perry.

Thinking out Loud by Ed Sheeran, is a great way to practice imperatives. In the chorus of this song, he uses lots of imperatives when talking to his love.

You can also learn more phrasal verbs through songs. In Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi, look out for these phrasal verbs: to go under, to drive crazy, to let your guard down.

Perhaps you want an introduction to a British accent. Hello by Adele is a classic example of a London accent. Her clear pronunciation makes her easy to understand, especially if you are new to English. As well, this song is a great way to practice the present simple.

So, to sum up, you don’t have to just learn English from books! Why not use the easy-to-remember qualities of music and song to help you improve your English in 2021? Whatever genre or style you go for, fill your life with music and at the same time, fill your head with English!

Activity

 Match these music related words to their definitions.

  • Chorus
  • Lyrics
  • Tune / Melody 
  • Rhyme
  • Choreography
  • Music video
  • Genre
  • Type of music 
  • A video to accompany a song
  • Words of a song
  • Dance moves
  • Sounds that are similar to others
  • A series of musical notes 
  • Repeated set of phrases that breaks up a song
  • Genre: Type of music 
  • Music video: A video to accompany a song
  • Lyrics: Words of a song
  • Choreography: Dance moves
  • Rhyme: Sounds that are similar to others
  • Tune/Melody: A series of musical notes 
  • Chorus: Repeated set of phrases that breaks up a song

Activity

How many different music genres can you name?

Here are some of the most popular music genres:

  • Blues Music
  • Jazz Music
  • Rock Music
  • Country Music
  • Soul Music
  • Dance Music
  • Hip Hop Music
  • Classical Music
  • K-Pop Music

What genres of music do you enjoy? 

Do you listen to different music at different times?

What is your favourite song?

What is the last song you listened to?

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