Using Music to Improve Listening Comprehension Skills

 I nodded knowingly the instant I saw the title of this article. Larry M. Lynch is a teacher of English and writer working in South America. He uses music to take some of the boredom out of learning languages in the classroom for his students and for himself as a teacher. As a student of languages myself, I know perfectly well how effective it can be to supplement formal study of a language with something a little more entertaining.

Using Popular Songs to Improve Language Listening Comprehension Skills
By Larry M. Lynch

Are you students sometimes bored in spite of your best efforts? Are you looking for some new and different techniques? Could you use a learning activity that would really wake them up? Would you like to get and keep the students’ interest? Even have them helping you? Then try this classroom-tested technique by using student-selected songs to teach listening comprehension.

Almost everyone loves music. It is a part of our language and life from before birth onwards. As babies, we hear lullabies. As young children we play, sing and dance to a myriad of nursery rhymes. As adolescents, we are consumed by the beat of popular music artists worldwide. As adults, every form of advertising we hear, every special event we experience, is in part, music. Music pervades television, movies, theater, and even the nightly news. When we exercise, when we work, when we play, when we worship and even when we die, music is there to reinforce or alter or every mood and emotion. A catchy tune is played, hummed or sung, at times in our head, as we go about our everyday lives. So, why not include music and songs in language learning as well?

Factors Contributing to Listening Comprehension of Song

• Use of new vocabulary, idioms and expressions – You’ll need to address the new material offered in each song. This includes grammar, vocabulary and usage.

• Pronunciation and accent of the singer – Every native speaker doesn’t pronounce or sing with the same accent. Students may be exposed to an accent which is outside the realm of what they might normally hear in context.

• Use of new grammar and structure Song writers and singers are notoriously “loose” when it comes to use of grammar, structure, pronunciation, stress and other language factors applied to songs. The teacher must prepare for this.

Three Principal Song Selection Criteria

1. Use songs that are popular with the students whenever possible. Unfortunately, students frequently select songs for classroom use which are objectionable in some way making the song unusable.

2. Songs MUST have clear and understandable lyrics. Nothing is worse than a song almost nobody can understand. If you have trouble understanding the lyrics by listening, then another song needs to be selected.

3. Songs should have an appropriate theme. There’s enough bad news, negativity and violence in the world already. Songs with any type of negative theme should be avoided. There are plenty of positive, upbeat, even humorous songs available. Use these.

Music pervades virtually every aspect of our lives

Music pervades virtually every aspect of our lives. Students adore it. It contains numerous useful elements for language teaching and it’s fun for both the teacher and students. So, why not include music and songs in your language learning classes as well?

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is a bi-lingual copywriter, expert author and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. He lives in Colombia and teaches at a university in Cali. Want lots more free tips, help and information on learning English or another foreign language? Go now to:

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Being a guitar player, music is a big part of my life. Incorporating music into my language learning routines has been very successfull. It is a motivating factor as well as providing another source of learning. Also, it doesn't take away from my scheduled learning time with books, tapes or software.

I had already begun using music as part of my learning process when I read this article. If I hadn't, it would have convinced me. I recommend you add this to your learning routine as well. For a little more of my personal experiences visit my page on using music for language learning.

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