9 Reasons Why You Should Use Songs to Teach EFL

- - Using songs

Larry Lynch tells us why songs should be an integral part of any EFL teacher's repertoire of resources.

Language teachers can and should use songs as part of their classroom teaching repertoire. Songs contain authentic language, are easily obtainable, provide vocabulary, grammar and cultural aspects and are fun for the students. They can provide valuable speaking, listening and language practice in and out of the classroom. Some key reasons songs can work exceedingly well in the foreign language classroom include the following:

1. Songs almost always contain authentic, natural language.
This often contrasts the contrived, stilted language found in many student texts. Of course songs can also go to the other extreme by using overly crude, foul or otherwise objectionable language. With careful screening, an extensive library of usable songs for language learning can be compiled.

2. A variety of new vocabulary can be introduced to students through songs.
Looking to boost student vocabulary with useful phrases, vocabulary and expressions? Songs are almost always directed to the native-speaking population so they usually contain contemporary vocabulary, idioms and expressions.

3. Songs are usually very easily obtainable.
Cibemba and Silozi non-withstanding, songs are usually not that difficult to obtain. Local sources may be available including the students themselves. There's always the internet which can connect you with song downloads in all but the most obscure languages.

4. Songs can be selected to suit the needs and interests of the students.
In English especially, so many songs are available that selection of songs with suitable themes, levels and vocabulary is not at all difficult. Allowances can also be made for complexity or simplicity of language, depending on the students, by selecting and using suitable songs.

5. Grammar and cultural aspects can be introduced through songs.
Most if not all songs have a recurring theme or story. So excerpting cultural elements is usually a possible, but often overlooked aspect of using songs. I still use "Hit the Road Jack" sung by the late Ray Charles to illustrate spoken contractions. He uses spoken contractions is virtually every line of the song.

6. Time length is easily controlled.
Whether you have an hour, 30 minutes, or only 15 minutes or so, a song can be used in the course of a planned lesson. Use of songs is very flexible.

7. Students can experience a wide range of accents.
A good thing about songs is that you can expose the students to many different kinds of English. British English, American English, Caribbean English are all widely available through songs. Accents too are well represented by songs from different regions and in a variety of types and formats. Gospel, soul, R & B, Pop, Rock, Reggae, Jazz and other styles change not only accents, but vocabulary and usage too.

8. Song lyrics can be used in relating to situations of the world around us.
Songs have been used as vehicles of protest for civil rights, workers' rights, even prisoners' rights along with an untold number of other causes. They've expounded on pollution, crime, war and almost every social theme or cause. We won't even mention how many songs are about, related to or explore the theme of sex.

9. Students think songs are natural and fun.
Well actually they are, aren't they? Fun, even silly songs abound in English. Some singers actually made a career out of them. (Ray Stevens, anyone?) They make offbeat, fun changes of pace with classroom use.

These are only some of the many reasons songs are useful in the language learning classroom. They contain authentic language, are easily obtainable, provide vocabulary, grammar and cultural aspects and are fun for the students. They provide enjoyable speaking, listening, vocabulary and language practice both in and out of the classroom. So EFL, English as a foreign language, ESL, English as a Second language and foreign language teachers should all consider using songs as a regular part of their classroom activities.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is a bi-lingual copywriter, expert author and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. He now lives in Colombia and teaches at a university in Cali. Want lots more free tips, help and information on language learning, public speaking, writing and mental skills development? E-mail Prof. Larry M. Lynch at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com for professional consulting, EFL Teacher Training or ELT multi-media presentations at your conference or facility.


What do you think of this article? Add a comment ยป

Efren on 17 February 2006

The article is very enriching to tutors like us. We are using songs to motivate our students to participate at the same time as learning the pronounciation of words.

Maureen on 21 February 2006

I agree with the idea that songs should be helpful in the language classroom. However, I am having some difficulty finding material to suit the older student. It is much easier to find songs to suit young students, but the secondary and adult student can also do with songs. Please tell me where I can find suitable songs for this age group. Thanks.

Frank on 3 March 2006

Have you any suggestions where to find songs for all ages?

Carol on 28 March 2006

I have used songs on many occasions, with great success. It has been particularly useful to have the lyrics written down. This is however now much more problematical for me. My supplier of lyrics for current popular songs is no more and my commitments leave no spare time to decipher these myself. Does anyone have a short cut to obtaining - free - currently popular song lyrics??

Smrits on 18 April 2006

I have incorporated songs in my classes a number of times. I can say that they have been a great success. The students have enjoyed those classes and it has also helped them to develop an interest in listening to English songs.

Frank, you can use Beatles, ABBA and various country songs for your classes. Just google it.

Shujaat on 2 May 2006

It is a fantastic idea. It's a decoy to attract the attention of the most flippant and unruly of students. It can stimulate them to learn real language and also to develop their aesthetic sense. The most interesting thing in my view is that it will be a life-long lesson for students. After finishing the course students will study every song they listen to, throughout their lives, with a view to analysing its language and hence learning throughout their lives... ha ha so sweet.

Stella on 11 May 2006

I always use songs in my classes. The students and I love it . This article was very useful for me. Thanks a lot and I hope to receive more articles like this.

Aysenur on 3 June 2006

This is really a good article for creative teachers or for teachers who want to be creative. I think we need to think about it carefully since we should really listen to the song before we teach it in the class and we should be well organised. We need to have time for preparation. We must also follow the interest of our students.

Kati on 21 February 2009

I think teaching english as a second language using music and songs is a very practical way to make both teaching and learning successful. It creates a relaxed atmosphere. It is better to break the classroom routine with some music and at the same time help students learn in a different and fun way.

Shelley on 8 July 2009

I am a songwriter of adult songs and childrens songs. Basically, a song is a poem set to music. So if you know how to write a basic poem, you can use a list of set words, then create a little simple song to go with it. I have a youtube channel, which some may not be able to access, it is 'AChildSings'. It only has one song, I think, on there so far, and I've got to re-record it because I haven't had my music equipment long, but you can see I did my own pictures with a free download of a paintbrush type program. I also downloaded MovieMaker for free to create the little video. I'm off to China, hopefully, soon, but feel free to take that song, (or any other song I may upload in the future), and use it to teach the English words with. Of course, you can't 'keep' or sell the song, but use it to teach English with. Photocopy it - write it up - record it - do whatever you have to do, to teach English with it, if you want, that is.

Taj on 5 October 2009

Songs are very helpful in the language learning process. They are good not only for audio visual but also for kinesthetic learners. They can give good training in listening and speaking activities. They are the best means to learn different accents and improve pronunciation, enrich vocabulary and cultural knowledge. I love to play songs in my class.

Reza on 11 December 2009

Hi Everyone, I just came across a website which offers graded songs with animated lyrics. You might find it helpful: www.rezaarazm.com

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