The power of music in second language learning

Source: Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Music, as one of the fine arts, has its own status among its fans, and the influential and contributing role of music in various areas of life is undeniable. In language learning, music has been linked to better linguistic performance and is used as a tool to enhance language learning. Recent research has shown that ”happy” background music positively influences second language learners’ accuracy and fluency. In this blog post, the effective role of music in the language learning process will be discussed from three standpoints: culture, stress, and motivation.


It is known that exposure to a culture plays an important role in the process of learning the language of that culture. Moreover, an important element to any culture is, of course, its music. Music opens doors to cultures. In my teaching profession, as a teacher of both general English courses and ESP (English for Specific Purposes) courses, I have seen students benefiting from music in their language learning. In the case of elementary-level students, many of them claimed that it was the English music and their interest in singing English songs, listening to them, learning from them, and also relating to the culture that brought them to language schools. In my ESP classes I saw the same trend. In this context, as most of the learners were at either an intermediate or advanced level of English proficiency, they didn’t solely point to the educational feature of English songs, but they mentioned that through English music and songs they gained a better understanding of the target culture and developed a of sense of belonging with the language.


At times, some of my students have said that listening to music in general, especially background music, lowered their stress level while studying and before tests. This is an indicator of how powerful music is at reducing tension and anxiety and putting students in a more relaxed state. Using music as a way to create a state of relaxation is nothing new. In language pedagogy, music has already been implemented into a method called Suggestopedia, which has emerged based on the therapeutic nature of music in decreasing stress. The kind of music chosen in the development of this method was Baroque music, as it could put the brain in alpha mode, which  research shows is conducive to both enhanced learning and stress reduction. This method, like all the others, has its own advocates and critics. However, many of my students who had no idea about the research in this area highly advocate the effective role of music. In particular, background music can be highly effective not just in their English-learning process but in learning processes in general.


Another important role of music is in motivating learners. Almost all learners can be motivated by their favourite song or singer to learn the language of that song. Although it is important to note that this effect is more significant among younger learners, whose passions include music. I have spoken with students who shared with me their dream of becoming a great musician or a singer;  they knew learning English was an important step on the journey toward that dream. Alternatively, some students have little familiarity with English music. In this case, introducing them to various genres, musicians and lyrics were incentives for them to keep up with the lessons and the whole learning process. It is amazing to see how just one singer can cause many young learners to get excited about English lessons! This clearly shows how music can be used as a motivating tool for language learners.

In short, music, as one of the fine arts, has been proven to enrich our quality of life in many ways. It is very interesting that when applied in language pedagogy, its contributing effects extend beyond the educational realm, and move forward to be a tool for cultural awareness and stress reduction.

Reading Resources

Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy, by H. Brown

Principles of Language Learning and Teaching by H. Brown

The Influence of Happy and Sad Background Music on Complexity, Accuracy, and Fluency of Second-language Speaking, by Varnosfaderani, Shahnazari, and Dabaghi

Greetings from the bottom of the heart of an educator. I’m Setareh and I have tried to be an agent for change through being an EFL/ESL instructor for over ten years now: change from uncertainty to assurance. I studied English Literature and went on to continue my studies in TEFL. As a learning facilitator, trying to empower learners and helping them get control over their learning pursuit is what I feel passionate about. I like sharing my teaching and learning experiences with my passionate fellows through writing as well. My area of professional interest is writing- be it blogging, short story, translation, or content writing. I see writing as a blue bird of some sci-fi movies with many wings. My writing wings are amazing books, moving movies, great company, healthy food, and physical and mental exercise.


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