A report found that an average person spends 18 hours per week listening to music. Even if this listening might be passive (background) most of the time, it still equates to about 2.6-hours-immersion daily. Imagine if we can take one step further – put some one-time-effort in our favourite songs and make them work for us, we can learn English much more efficiently in a more entertaining way.
5 steps to make your songs work for you
So, what you are going to do is very simple, you pick one song and follow below 5 steps. Try not to pick rap or very complicated songs. Our purpose is to learn from this song so if it takes you too much efforts to understand, the result will be limited.
Step 1: Listen and write
Listen to the song and try to write down the lyric. Write down as much as you can, if you can’t catch the sound just leave it blank.
Step 2: Listen one more time and try to fill out the blanks
When you finish listening for the first time, listen one more time with extra attention to those you failed to understand in step 1. Of course, there will still be a lot of words you don’t know but that’s OK. Just write down what you can.
Step 3: Repeat the previous step
Again, focus on those blanks, but this time try to guess the lyrics from its context and sounds if you still don’t get it.
Steps 4: Look at the lyric and correct your own
Google the lyrics, mark your mistakes and write down the correct one.
Step 5: Practice and repeat
Now that you know where your weaknesses are, practice those phrases and sounds, read it out loud and repeat it until you can sing it smoothly.
And now it’s Karaoke time!!
Once you have completed these 5 steps, it means that you have dominated the lyrics and are able to sing this song wherever you go! In another word, THIS SONG HAS NOW BECOME YOURS!!!
This is exactly why I love this exercise so much and wanted to recommend it to you guys. As someone who loves singing so much, I would love to take my favorite songs to go, and to be able to sing it (or at least in my head) at any time I want.
This method helped me a lot when I learned English, and it works perfectly as now I learn Spanish as well. (Click here to see how I learn Spanish with songs with English subtitles).
So, let’s break down the method and understand why.
Step 1 ~ Step 3 (Listening and comprehension)
Listening and comprehension is the crucial and necessary ingredient for language learning. At this stage, NO dictionary should be used. Because we want to train our ears to recognize the lyrics by voice – listening; or by its context – comprehension. Either one you use to catch the lyrics is good as this is exactly how we understand people in our everyday conversation.
The reason for writing it down is because when we have a clear purpose in mind, we tend to listen harder and more focused, and therefore we know where our shorts are later on.
Another thing worth mentioning, is that this is not a classroom activity despite some extent of focus is required. Instead, we want to keep it entertaining to enjoy it and to stay consistent with it. So don’t be too obsessed with getting everything perfect, give 3 tries and move on.
This is probably the most painful step, not because it is difficult but for you will be seeing tons of tomatoes if you are using red pen to correct your mistakes. But that’s OK, it happened to everyone.
Songs are complicated in sounds, that’s why they are called songs. Sometimes when we listen to songs in our owned language, we have no idea what the singer is singing, but we still enjoy it. So again, don’t be too hard on yourself, maybe try using a black pen to make it less bloody.
This is the most important part. I want you to LEARN the sound. Chances are you won’t see many new phases or vocabularies; you didn’t get the lyrics correct because you didn’t get the sound patterns.
Now that you have the lyrics and know how they sound, you can copy the singer, shape your mouth, and exaggerate the sound like they did. You’ll notice as you do that, your accent starts to drop off, and you sound more like a native speaker. This is because when we are trying to copy someone, we stop thinking in our languages. Our brain is therefore more flexible in adopting what has been taken in.
Practice at a speed that is challenging but allows you to pronounce clearly, the goal is to sing with the song.
It’s not easy but that’s exactly what we want. It makes us conscious in what we are doing, aware of the muscles used to produce sounds. And most importantly, it motivates us to repeat it until we are happy with the result.
Bonus: Karaoke Time
The reason I called it a “bonus” is because after step 5, you don’t need anyone to tell you what to do next. I always like to stress “Repetition is the king” in anything I teach, but here I believe your music nature will do this for me. Although being spontaneous, it is so powerful in our journey to fluency. Remember all those characters that benefit from the above practice? The sound patterns, the accent, and some new phrases or vocabulary that you might have learned from the songs? They get strengthened again and again as you repeat singing that song on your way back home.
Conclusion and Questions
Now, my question for you, are you ready to embark on this journey and to take your English to the next level? If yes, congratulation! Here you are, one of the best ways to start with.
Remember. ENJOY is the key, if you are not happy, you are NOT going to learn.
Share this method with people you know who are also eager to improve their English, or any other languages. Then share your progress and which songs you used in the practice in the comment section below, let’s fire up the discussion!