Learning English through music

Have you ever tried downloading the lyrics of a song and singing along to the music? Not only will you improve your pronunciation, but you will also learn grammar tenses and new vocabulary. It is also a pleasant experience as you do not feel you are working too hard. I would like to share with you my experience teaching English through poems, nursery rhymes and songs.

Throughout my teaching career, I have taught many children English and noticed that teaching them English through music was much more effective than using a course book. In fact, they seemed happy and more collaborative in this type of task activity. However, it does not work just with children, but also with adults, especially at Christmas time, adults were happy to be using their English in this way. Why don’t you try!

Let’s take an old-time favourite from the Beatles “the yellow submarine”, you can download the lyrics from the web. First read the song quickly to find out what it is about then read it carefully sentence by sentence. Look at the tenses the song writer uses and see if you can identify them.

“In the town where I was born
Lived a man who sailed to sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines”

We can see here that the main tense, which is being used, is the past simple. We understand that the singer is talking about someone in his past who spent time in a submarine.

The new vocabulary depending on the language learner’s level could be town, sea, life, land and submarine. We also have a relative clause who “a man who sailed”. Another exercise could be to ask a friend to remove some of the words from the text, for example,

“In the —— where I was born

Lived a man —- sailed to sea

And he —- us of his life

in the —– of submarines.

Try to put gaps in different parts of the sentences and then ask your partner to listen to the song and fill in the gaps. You can then check the original one for your answers.

You can do this with an entire song. I have only used part of the song to give you an example. You can then ask each other questions about the meaning of the song. What is it really about? What does the singer want to say? How does he feel? what is his attitude towards certain topics?

Is he trying to convey a message? Do this exercise with many songs and remember at the end of the activity, sing along to the music with the words in front of you. You will find that later on you will be singing it without the words and will remember it more easily.

Learning English through nursery rhymes or poems

You can do the same exercise with nursery rhymes or poems. Let’s take the famous nursery rhyme “London Bridge is falling down”. I will use only part of the rhyme just to give you an example.

“London bridge is falling down,

falling down, falling down.

London bridge is falling down,

My fair lady.”

We can see that the main tense being used is the present continuous or progressive. It is something that is happening at that moment. There is also a lot of repetition which means something is being emphasised. There is a message here. There are many meanings to this song.

Some believe the bridge was in need of repair, others because of a Viking attack and many because of the Great fire of London in 1666. It is also a fun game for children and they sing this while playing. Nursery rhymes written for children help them remember words and tenses more easily and they will help you too.

Once you have done all your work on the song, go onto the internet and type in “meaning of song the yellow submarine by the Beatles”. You will be able to read lots of different responses and opinions and learn more English. You can also write your opinion to the song on the different forums.

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