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.