Published 12th January 2017

Using music in the English as a Foreign Language classroom can seem like a bit of a cop-out. We all know everyone loves music, but how does listening to a few songs actually contribute to language learning? Well, you may be surprised to find out that it is actually a remarkable tool in the language learning classroom.

Songs can be used to introduce a topic or present a vocabulary set or they can be utilised to focus on a particular language structure. What you want to achieve with a song will determine which song you will use. Songs like I got life, by Nina Simone can be used when dealing with body parts; Billionaire by Travie McCoy can be used when discussing money and wealth;  I haven’t met you yet by Michael Buble can be used to teach the present perfect. And because there are so many songs, there is usually a song which can be used to achieve your aim.

So we know how to use songs, but how are they effective in language learning?

They expose our learners to authentic language

Songs are a source of natural language. While coursebooks have listening texts which are often contrived or unnatural, songs, in contrast, use authentic language and phrases.

They are memorable

Songs are catchy and easier to remember than dialogues. Plus, they usually repeat the language which also makes it easier to remember.

They help develop automaticity

To be able to speak fluently requires a degree of automaticity and songs can help with this. They can include set structures or phrases which are then learnt as chunks as the lyrics of the song are memorised. This helps learners speak more naturally.

They appeal to different sorts of learners

According to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, learners learn differently. In an EFL classroom it is necessary to incorporate a range of activities which caters to the different needs of our learners. Using songs and music allows us to appeal to musical-rhythmic learners.

They maintain interest and motivation

There are very few learners that don’t enjoy music so using songs is an easy way to sustain interest in your lessons and encourage participation. Music has a way of appealing to a wide range of people, regardless of age, profession or background.

Using songs and music in the English as a Foreign Language classroom is a great idea for so many reasons. Besides the fact that sthere are songs for any and every teaching occasion, you will find your learners enjoy lessons which incorporate songs and they are an effective tool for language learning.