Music is a powerful force in the world. It has the ability to stir our emotions, comfort us, and bring us together. It also has the ability to teach us, and one of the things it can teach is language.
A lot of the most popular pop music today comes out of the U.S. and is in English, and some of the best music from the last 70 years or so is also in English: The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Led Zepplin – the list goes on and on.
Knowing English enables you to understand the lyrics to these songs, but listening to songs in English is also a fantastic way to learn English. In fact, there is scientific evidence to support this. Music can teach you vocabulary, grammar, slang, everyday English, pronunciation, intonation, and more.
Below we’ll discuss some of the best activities to learn English with songs. These activities work best for middle schoolers, teenagers, and adults. Easy, slow songs are better for beginners, and faster, more complicated songs are better suited for intermediate and advanced learners.
These activities can be done in a classroom or on your own!
Activities to Learn English with Songs
1. Follow along with the Lyrics
You may be able to understand parts of songs just by listening, but it’s likely you’ll need to see the lyrics (the words to the song) to understand the whole song. And don’t feel bad about this: native speakers usually can’t understand every word either.
Search for the lyrics online (you can Google the name of the song with the word lyrics) and read along as you listen. There are also many videos of songs on YouTube that show the lyrics.
2. Study the Vocabulary and Grammar
In addition to just reading the lyrics, try to dissect them. Study the vocabulary and the grammar. Choose one type of grammar to focus on, maybe the dominant grammar you see in the song.
For example, if the song uses a lot of articles (a, an, and the), look at how they are used in the song. Look up words you don’t know; you can even make flashcards with these words and study them later.
3. Sing along
Yes, sing! Look at the lyrics and sing along with the song. Sing in your car; sing in your room; sing in the shower – it’s up to you.
This is a great way to train your mouth to make the correct sounds, and it’s also a great way to memorize the song and sing it from memory. This will also help build your English fluency.
4. Write the Lyrics Down
Listen to the song once (or maybe twice), then listen again and try to write down as much as you can. Then, check your answers by finding the lyrics online.
You can also find cloze exercises (an exercise with blank spaces where you write answers) for songs in English. The exercise will have the song lyrics but some of the words are missing, and you have to listen and write down what you hear.