Learn English with music

Chris Parker
If you’re trying to improve your English language skills, here are some tips on how to use music to your benefit
music and lyrics

Listening to music that includes lyrics (words) is an excellent way to learn new English vocabulary. Music is such a popular form of media that it’s quite easy to find different genres, styles, and artists to listen to. Best of all, music can be listened to practically anywhere and while you’re doing just about anything, so it’s a medium for English that you can constantly expose yourself to throughout the day.

Benefits of learning English with music

  • Words/phrases paired with melodies are more easily remembered
  • English can be learned through music both passively and actively
  • High frequency and repetition of words leads to better retention
  • The spelling of lyrics heard in songs can be easily found online

Techniques

1. Start by listening online with lyrics on-screen

Almost all popular music today can be found on YouTube, and luckily, most songs have the option of listening to them with subtitles turned on, by using the “closed captioning” option. Also, many video creators upload music to their accounts with lyrics on screen, and when the lyrics can’t be found with a video, you can almost always find them posted in whole on different websites dedicated to song lyrics. 

Listening to music while initially looking at the lyrics can help you learn new English words, though as you get more familiar with them, you should try to listen without the lyrics in front of you, which is how you’d often encounter these words when hearing them in everyday life.

2. Practice passive listening while doing other activities

When you first learned your native language as a child, much of what you learned was acquired through passive listening. This is also how native English speakers learn much of their vocabulary and grammar as children.

With music, you can replicate this type of passive listening because you can go about your day doing all your regular activities while listening to music. As you gain more familiarity with the songs you’re listening to and the words being used in them, you’ll start to remember these words, even when you’re not actively trying to do so.

3. Actively listen and engage by singing along to songs

While passive listening can be a great way to learn English with music, active listening can be just as beneficial. Some words you will simply remember because you’ll hear them over and over again in songs, and this is especially true when it comes to high-frequency words, which are those that are used repeatedly in a song or that are commonly found in many different songs.

But when it comes to low-frequency words, actively listening by paying attention to them and even engaging with them is the best way to remember them. To engage, all you have to do is simply sing along to songs, which you should first do by looking at the lyrics.

After you’re able to remember the words without looking at the lyrics, you can then try to sing the songs on your own without the music or by singing to the karaoke versions of your favorite songs, which can boost your English-speaking confidence as you learn to sing more and more songs on your own.

4. Improve spelling and memorization with transcription

Transcribing (writing down) what you hear is a highly effective way of learning and retaining the words that you hear in songs. When listening to songs, you can simply write the lyrics down as you’re listening. Once a song is finished, you should then look up the lyrics online to see if you spelled the words correctly.

Learning from our mistakes often leads to better language retention, so when you realize that you’ve made mistakes, this will stand out to you and, over time, you’ll learn to avoid these mistakes by spelling the words correctly. While transcribing lyrics, you can use an online dictionary or refer to Google Translate whenever you’re unsure about the meaning of a word.


Parting advice: explore beyond your interests

Lastly, you should always explore different things beyond your interests when it comes to learning with music. An interest in songs from the United States won’t expose you to British accents, and an interest in British songs won’t teach you how the Irish talk.

Accents can differ between singers, as can vocabulary words and how they’re spelled in different English-speaking countries. So never be afraid to explore different genres and styles when it comes to music.

Related links:

Written by Chris Parker for EnglishClub.com
Chris has been studying linguistics academically for several years and has taught ESL in both primary and secondary schools.
© EnglishClub.com

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