Learning English Through Songs


As teachers, we often encourage learners to expose themselves to as much English as possible. One way for learners to do this is by listening to English songs. They are readily available through apps like Spotify and YouTube and can be enjoyed ‘on the go’ as people go about their busy lives. In the classroom, many teachers use songs to enhance their lessons, especially when teaching children. Using a song from a children’s story, one study found songs could potentially contribute to vocabulary learning (Medina, 1993). However, we know very little about the impact of listening to popular ‘everyday’ songs on vocabulary learning as very little research has been conducted in this area (Maneshi, 2017).

In a recent study with Thai children, participants saw an increase in their vocabulary knowledge after listening to two popular songs. Furthermore, the number of times participants listened to the song and also the number of occurrences of a word within the song showed effects for incidental vocabulary learning (Maneshi, 2017). The more students listened to the song, and the more a word occurred in the song, there was increased incidental learning. While more research is needed, these are encouraging results.

An excellent resource for students and teachers is the website www.lyricstraining.com. The site uses embedded YouTube videos of popular songs along with their lyrics and allows learners to complete gap-fill exercises. These can be done at various difficulty levels and the video does not continue until the missing word has been correctly filled in. It is a valuable tool that allows listeners to “enjoy their favourite songs while improving their pronunciation, listening skills and vocabulary use” (Floris, Renandya, & Bao, 2018, p. 163). For those of us learning other languages, it has songs in French, Spanish and a host of other languages, allowing teachers to try it on their own.

With such resources, and the steady availability of songs, it seems highly logical to encourage learners to listen to English music to enhance their language learning. While we have little specifics in terms of research, the early results appear beneficial.

Do you use songs in your classroom? How? Do you encourage learners to listen to English songs? Please share below!


Floris, F.D., Renandya, W.A., Bao, D. (2018). Mining online L2 learning resources: From SLA principles to innovative task design. In D. Bao (Ed), Creativity and innovations in ELT materials development: Looking beyond the current design (pp. 154 -177). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Maneshi, N. (2017). Incidental vocabulary learning through listening to songs (Unpublished Master’s Dissertation). Western University, London, ON, Canada.

Medina, S. L. (1993). The effects of music on second language vocabulary acquisition. National Network for Early Language Learning, 6(3), 1-8.

Hello, my name is Michael, and I am the Blog Administrator for Guest Bloggers. I am currently working on my PhD in the Faculty of Education at Western University. My thesis is focused on language teacher education and teacher preparedness, but I take a general interest in many topics related to TESL, including teacher efficacy, learner silence, and others! I live and teach in Toronto, but I also make the journey to London on a weekly basis to teach at Western while I complete my degree. Before coming home to Canada in 2014, I taught EAP in China for two years. Prior to China, I worked on my Master of Education in TESOL at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. I have also taught in Korea and lived in France. I miss living and teaching abroad, but it’s great to be back home! I enjoy my two roles as a novice researcher and an English teacher and I hope to add my unique perspective to the TESL Ontario Blog.


5 thoughts on “Learning English Through Songs”

  1. Thanks for this great resource! I have used The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot) and Tragically Hip music and lyrics to teach about Canadian culture.

  2. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for your article. It introduced an interesting and meaningful topic.
    Could using songs for English learning be more suitable for children than adult students?
    It is difficult to find out effective research approach to revealing how much listening to English songs can help, but many students do enjoy this kind of learning experience.

    Wish you a wonderful day!

    1. Hi Amilie,

      I think, generally speaking, songs are more often used in the classroom with children, but that’s why some of this new research is so exciting! It may not be something that has to be only in the classroom. Anyone can listen to songs and potentially benefit. Furthermore, they can be ‘normal’ songs that we all listen to, not just songs made specifically for learning.

      1. Hi Michael,
        I agree with you on this point. Probably, we can say songs can create an immersive learning environment and make students learn English anytime and anywhere, even without realizing the learning practice.
        Thanks for your wonderful article again!

        Wish you a wonderful week!

  3. I only teach adults and try to make a habit of using music in my class. In fact I enjoy making or finding worksheets for music that is currently popular because after students have learned more of the lyrics they will hear it on the radio while driving and understand it ergo practice outside class time. It’s always nice to receive a message from a student telling me they heard the song we worked on in class, on the radio. Also classic old songs like bohemian rapsody, hotel California, wonderwall etc, are also great because the students recognize them and get nostalgic and excited to learn what the lyrics are. I have colleagues who always try to find songs that work on the grammar or vocabulary students are currently learning. I personally try to engage adults and if it happens that it works with the skills at hand then great and if not than that is okay too because it all counts.

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