Transparent Language Blog

The Language of Music: Using Music as a Learning Tool Posted by on Feb 26, 2014 in Archived Posts

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” -Aldous Huxley

You’ve tried every language-learning method out there: books, audiotapes, classes, immersion, computer software, but you’re still struggling. You’ve reached a point where learning a foreign language is no longer fun and you begin to lose hope that you’ll ever attain even a modicum of proficiency.

So where do you turn next? What will help you break through the monotony of memorizing vocabulary words and repeating the same simplistic phrases ad nauseam?

Let me suggest using music as a learning tool. There is a reason why music is referred to as the universal language. By its very nature, music transcends boundaries of time, geography and culture. One of the highest forms of expression, music is a powerful force that brings people together and has the uncanny ability to draw an array of emotions from any individual. Just imagine for a moment what life would be without music? Have you ever been moved by a piece of music even when you didn’t know the lyrics or had a song stuck in your head for several days?

You probably already listen to music at home, in the car, when you’re sitting in front of your computer, etc. If you’re having difficulty learning a foreign language the traditional way, take some time to explore the world of foreign music through online outlets such as YouTube, Amazon or iTunes.

Nursery rhymes in a foreign language are the perfect starting point. YouTube has a large selection of nursery rhymes in foreign languages. Lyrics are displayed on the screen and you’ll be singing along in no time. Why do you think nursery rhymes exist? They were written to teach children to speak. Everybody knows the A-B-C song used to teach English-speaking children the alphabet. Music facilitates learning by making phrases and concepts easier to remember. I’m sure most of us can sing at least one nursery rhyme we learned as a child. So why not use these same techniques to learn a foreign language?

Pick your favorite kind of music, and try to find artists who sing that style of music in the foreign language of your choice. Many songs tell a story and singing is always more enjoyable than repeating phrases to yourself in hopes that it will eventually sink in. The Internet contains lyrics to practically every song imaginable and you’ll be happy to know that many of these songs have been translated into English. I love French music and have found that learning the lyrics to French songs is a great way to brush up on my language skills. If there’s a word or phrase that is difficult to understand, you can just look up the translation online.

Many artists have recorded foreign language albums. For example, if you’re trying to learn French and happen to be like Céline Dion’s music, take a moment to explore her French catalog. Not only will you become acquainted with some of her best music, but you’ll be learning French in a musical setting.

Learning lyrics to foreign songs is also a great way to become familiar with certain idioms and slang words you might not learn in formal language-learning materials. This is of course dependent upon the genre of music you prefer. On the other hand, the poetic quality of many lyrics will also introduce you to language that is more complex and beautiful than everyday speech. In essence, the breadth and diversity of lyrical content in certain styles of music offers the perfect platform for both rudimentary and advanced language learning.

There are many ways to learn a foreign language today. We have access to more technology and language-learning tools than ever before. However, some of these methods may not produce the results we are looking for. Using music as a tool may help break your routine and make learning a foreign language more enjoyable.

What are your favorite songs in the language you’re learning?



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  1. Simi Silva:

    I listen to Bollywood music and other Hindi music to help me learn Hindi. Besides the singers like Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sonu Nigam and other playback singers, my favorite artist is Navin Kundra. Learning the lyrics to the songs and getting the translations has really enhanced my ability to learn the language.

  2. Marit:

    Going on a musical treasure hunt, is always one of the first things I do when I start a new Language.

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