Using popular songs to improve listening comprehension language skills

Using popular songs to improve listening comprehension language skills

Do you students sometimes get bored despite your efforts? Are you looking for new and different techniques? Could you use a learning activity that would really wake them up? Do you want to attract and retain students’ interest? Even help you? Then try this classroom-tested technique using student-selected songs to teach listening comprehension.

Almost everyone loves music. It is part of our language and life from before birth onwards. As babies we hear lullabies. As small children we play, sing and dance to countless nursery rhymes. As teenagers, we are engrossed in the beats of popular music artists around the world. As adults, every form of advertising we hear, every special event we experience is part music. Music permeates television, movies, theater and even the evening news. When we exercise, when we work, when we play, when we worship and even when we die, music is there to enhance or change every mood and emotion. A catchy tune is played, hummed or sung sometimes in our head as we go about our daily lives. So why not include music and songs in language learning as well?

Factors contributing to listening comprehension of song

o Use of new vocabulary, idioms and expressions – You will need to pay attention to the new material offered in each song. This includes grammar, vocabulary and usage.

o Pronunciation and accent of the singer – Not every native speaker pronounces or sings with the same accent. Students may be exposed to an accent that is outside the realm of what they might normally hear in context.

o Using new grammar and structure Songwriters and singers are notoriously “loose” when it comes to using grammar, structure, pronunciation, stress, and other language factors applied to songs. The teacher must prepare for this.

Three main criteria for choosing a song

1. Use songs that are popular with students whenever possible. Unfortunately, students often choose songs to use in the classroom that are undesirable in some way, rendering the song unusable.

2. Songs MUST have clear and understandable lyrics. There’s nothing worse than a song that almost no one understands. If you have problems understanding the lyrics by listening, then you should choose another song.

3. Songs must have a suitable theme. There is already enough bad news, negativity and violence in the world. Songs with any type of negative theme should be avoided. There are many positive, upbeat, even humorous songs. Use these.

Music permeates almost every aspect of our lives

Music permeates almost every aspect of our lives. Students love it. It contains many useful elements for language learning and is fun for both the teacher and the students. So why not include music and songs in your language learning lessons as well?

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