Music to learn languages

music to learn languages

Music is a great way experience culture. Here are my top tips to use music to learn languages.

I use songs sparingly in languages for several reasons. Songs are essentially poems and they don’t always make a lot of sense. Using them to teach students how to communicate isn’t particularly useful. With that said, there are lots of sounds, structures, vocabulary, and culture that can be taught and practiced through songs.

Music to learn languages: immersion

I love to go on YouTube and find dance tutorials. I teach Spanish, so I’m lucky. There are so, so many. They are completely immersive ways to learn languages. Students can learn merengue, salsa, Sevillanas, flamenco. It’s fun, it’s cultural, it’s total immersion in Spanish, and it’s high interest.

Music to learn languages: study and sing lyrics

A whole site dedicated to learning languages through song lyrics. And you can of course use this to do your own version of karaoke. So many talented people go through our classrooms. And I know some of them can sing. And even the ones that don’t can really enjoy it or sing with a friend. It’s great practice for pronunciation, patterns, and sounds in the new language.

Lyrics training.

Music to learn languages: Playlists

I love playlists to learn languages. I tend to use them more for files and structure. So for example, I might make a playlist that is themed around checking into a hotel when I’m starting a new language. I would make a playlist out of all those MP3s. I might also make playlists of useful videos I find on YouTube for learning. Do the same with songs. Learners absolutely love them and it’s great to play in the background. There’s an abundance of playlists on Spotify and YouTube for learners of many languages. One of my very old school activities is a cloze activity, where I take the lyrics to a song and I find a structure that I want to teach. So for example, Gloria Estefan sang the song Ayer. It has a lot of preterite, a real rough spot for learners of Spanish. I go through and white out every time she sings a preterite, and the students have to fill it in. We listen a few times. It’s a great way to learn that verb tense.

Here is a French playlist I created.

While I don’t recommend heavily relying on music, it is a great way to learn vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar, all while experiencing culture. If you love a song, you’ll listen again and again. That repetition will make it all stick.

Looking for more ideas to get languages into your life and enjoy doing so?

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