Why is it that we can sing along with songs that we haven’t heard for 20 years? Even when these songs first came out, did we work at memorizing them? Probably not. They just became part of our life.
Music sticks with us! Hearing a fragment of music can take us back to a time and place in a heartbeat. That makes it an important language learning tool. I recently saw an online article discussing what Canadian adults remember from their schooling in French immersion. Among other happy and funny memories, they remembered singing ” Je suis une pizza“(Charlotte Diamond). Add music and rhythm to the words of your new language and you might just remember them forever!
Music also helps with pronunciation. You can sing along with Aux Champs Élysées (France) or Gens du Pays (Québec-Canada), perfect your pronunciation and absorb the culture of the songs at the same time. You really want to make use of all the wonderful music resources out there to help you learn your new language more quickly. Here are just a few recommended resources, mostly for learning French.
- YouTube and Vimeo: I have talked about these before. You can search for songs with lyrics in almost any language and they will be available there. (You can learn to count in Mandarin Chinese, French, Spanish Gujarati and many more languages when you put children’s counting songs in ________ in the YouTube search bar. Both Aux Champs Élysées and Gens du Pays are easy to find on YouTube.
- From France
One of my go-to sites is www.chantefrance.com. (There are apps available for your phone.) When you go to the site, you will see that you can click on any decade or on “Songs with Emotion” or on “Nursery Rhymes” Here’s a TIP: The songs from the 60’s tend to be a bit slower and easier to follow.
- From Canada
Go to http://www.cbcmusic.ca There, you will find French-Canadian music and more.
If you are an independent language learner who is studying language on your own, how can you use music to help you progress? Here are a few suggestions:
For the beginner:
- Start with children’s songs which have simple vocabulary, rhyme, repetition and strong rhythm. Listen without seeing the words a few times- see if you recognize any words. Then look for the lyrics and follow along. Pay attention to how various words are pronounced in the song.
- Sing along! Do this every day for a few minutes until you learn the song, then go on to a new
For the intermediate student:
- Select songs that are not too fast and have a refrain that is repeated.
- If you can find a video that goes with the song, think about what the images tell you about the meaning of the song. What does it tell you about the culture?
- Print out the lyrics and analyze the written language. Do you understand all of the words? What verb tense(s) do you see?
- What can you find out about the artist?
- Have other artists covered the song? Which one do you prefer?
And finally, a question for you:
If English is your first language, what songs would you recommend for English students? Here are my three picks for beginners:
- The Alphabet Song
- Down by the Bay (where the watermelons grow)
- Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes
Write your suggestions in the comments below. (Your email is never published or shared.)