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English Through Music: Learn and Have Fun

Azam Akhmedov, Associate Manager, People Experience, shares simple tips on how to learn a language by listening to music. Spoiler: the songs also need to be read and sung, and you’ll also work on your pronunciation.

Azam Akhmedov Associate Manager People Experience

— While I was at school, I noticed that people who liked to listen to English songs learned the language very well. The key is that they not only liked listening to the music, they also wanted to understand the meaning of the songs.

Building vocabulary in context is a great practice. Learning new expressions means not only understanding them, but also developing the ability to use them in different situations, to create a story around them. Songs give us this opportunity.

Moreover, the music itself sets moods and feelings. By associating words with meaning, stories, and emotions at the same time, we increase our chances of remembering what we heard.

Step 1 — Find the lyrics of the song

Don’t just listen, also read. Most modern music services have a built-in function for displaying lyrics — including Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Deezer, and others. Genius, Musixmatch, and other similar sites are also helpful.

Step 2 — Choose a song

Choose a song that you like. It is not necessary to know the words by heart. But, in the early stages of your learning, it may be easier not to choose songs with slang. If you, let's say, really like rap, maybe you should choose a track in a different genre first. If you still prefer a slang song, make sure you know what it means. It is better to start with songs where the language is slow and clear.

Step 3 — Understand the text

Read the lyrics for the first time without listening to the music. Then read them again, but while listening to the music. It is important to get a basic understanding of how to pronounce the words.

Step 4 — Speak carefully

Read the text again without music and try to reproduce the words. Play the song again from time to time to check your pronunciation. Alternate reading the lyrics and listening to make sure you are correct.

At this stage, there is nothing wrong with not knowing the meaning of all the words. It is primarily important to reproduce what you hear. Once you have learned the words well enough, move on to the next step.

Step 5 — Understand the meaning

  • Read the song one sentence at a time.
  • When you come across a word you don't know, check a translator.
  • Try to imagine the meaning of the unfamiliar word: what picture do you form in your mind when you hear it?
  • When reading the text again, form a mental picture of the meaning again, and at the same time try to hear the pronunciation.

Examples:

  • The song "Stairway to Heaven": As you read the words to this song, you can imagine a series of steps leading up to the clouds. Don't forget to listen to the pronunciation.
  • The song "All Star": For the phrase "All that glitters is gold," envision a sparkling gold bar or something similar.
  • The song "Thriller": When you hear "The beast about to strike," you can think about a werewolf, vampire, or something similar moving and ready to strike.

This method will help you associate words with their meaning. It's no secret that for many learners, visual memory works better.

Step 6 — Hear correctly

When you listen to a song, you may have doubts about how a word should be pronounced. Sometimes, it can be difficult to even hear the words correctly — you can't tell one syllable from another. In fact, this is quite normal. The most important thing at this stage is to trust the words you hear, not the text you read. English is more about sound than the written word.

Step 7 — Practice what you've learned

You don’t need to listen to very many songs. The main thing is to get the most out of each one you choose. Think about the words you learned during the day while you are washing the dishes or waiting for the bus, for example. Remember what they mean and how they are pronounced. Our memory works in such a way that if you remember something in the moment, then again over the next few days, and then remember it again in two weeks, you will remember it forever.

Final plan

  • Find the lyrics for one of your favorite songs;
  • Listen to them, say them, and even sing them;
  • Understand the meaning of the song word by word. To remember what the words mean, imagine/visualize their meaning;
  • Play the track again tomorrow and over the next few days, and then two weeks later; and
  • Benefit: you will know the entire song, and all of its words, to perfection.

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