It’s time to warm up your singing voice and dig out your dancing shoes because this month we celebrate World Music Day. On 21 June, the annual celebration will see musicians taking to the streets and revellers enjoying the melodies. There’s something infectious about music – it gets in our heads – and maybe that’s why using music and lyrics to learn English can be both fun and effective.
There’s scientific evidence that music can help second-language learners acquire vocabulary and grammar, improve spelling and develop the linguistic skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. For most learners, listening to music and singing songs is enjoyable, so they are relaxed in a potential learning environment. By opening your mind to the music, you could boost your confidence, pick up new skills and expand your vocabulary. It could even open up a whole new world for you. For example, when Brazilian actress and singer Marielle started to learn and write songs in English, she found that her new skills meant that she could reach a much wider audience.
If you’re inspired, don’t limit yourself to enjoying music just one day this month – here are some tips to help you continually learn English with music and lyrics…
1. Get familiar with English
Pick some of your favourite international artists and listen to plenty of songs with English lyrics. This will allow you to get used to hearing the language, focus on your pronunciation and understand the different rhythms and tones of English.
2. Really listen to the lyrics
Songs and lyrics contain useful vocabulary, phrases and expressions – including both everyday language and up-to-date colloquial speech. The language used in lyrics can be casual, tell a simple story or convey strong emotions. These lyrics should help give you a connection to the language, possibly giving you new ways to express your feelings in different situations.
Which lyrics are your favourite? Let us know in the comments section below. Here, our Pearson English blog readers give us some of their suggestions for songs with useful lyrics – there may just be one you have never listened to that might be useful…
Tomasz Walenciak points out that the list of useful lyrics is endless – and he’s right! He uses Yesterday by The Beatles with beginners to practise the rhythm and rhyme patterns of the English language:
Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks like they are here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday
Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly
Anna Gdulska recommends the lyrics in Where the Wild Roses Grow by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Kylie Minogue for helping to gain an understanding of the past tense:
From the first day I saw her, I knew she was the one
She stared in my eyes and smiled
For her lips were the colour of the roses
That grew down the river, all bloody and wild
Scott Morris enjoys Since You’ve Asked by Judy Collins and describes her lyrics as “pure poetry”:
What I’ll give you since you’ve asked
Is all my time together
Take the rugged sunny days
The warm and rocky weather
Take the roads that I have walked along
Looking for tomorrow’s time
Peace of mind
If you want to find out more about the meaning of lyrics, you could Google the song or use Spotify’s Behind the Lyrics function that reveals more about the story behind the song and what the lyrics mean.
3. Break it down
In addition to digesting the music, it’s important that you review the lyrics on a regular basis. Break the song down, word by word, and try to master each word so that it becomes part of your vocabulary. Of course, there’s no better way to practise your pronunciation than to sing along. It doesn’t matter if you’re the worst singer in the world, singing can help you remember your new words and get used to saying them.
4. Sing from memory
After a while, you should find that you’re starting to memorise the song. And then you’re ready to take the next big leap – try singing the song without looking at the lyrics. By this point, you should be able to find that you can embrace your new vocabulary and start including it in your everyday speech.