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What's the Best Music to Learn English? 20 Broadway Hits You'll Sing Along With!

Learning English doesn’t have to be a chore.

In fact, you can sing and dance while you do it!

Have you tried to learn English with music yet? If not, you’re in for a treat. This is the perfect way to have fun while you improve your English skills.

Not sure where to start? That’s okay. There are many different genres of English music, so you have plenty of choices. But if you’re looking for easy-to-understand lyrics and catchy music that’ll get you dancing, you should try listening to Broadway songs (also called “show tunes”).

Broadway music comes from famous musicals—you may have heard of “West Side Story,” “The Sound of Music,” “Rent” and others.

Sure, it might not be the first genre you considered to learn English with music. But Broadway tunes are an incredible tool to expand your English vocabulary and learn common grammar structures.

We’ve gathered 20 of Broadway’s best songs to learn English, plus tons of tips and exercises to get the most out of them.
 


 
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Active Listening Strategies to Learn English with Music

When you’re ready to learn English with music, it’s important to be an active listener. Unfortunately, playing Broadway songs in the background or while you sleep isn’t going to help you learn English. You need to spend time carefully listening to the music and practicing the words in the lyrics.

Along with the tips below, we’ll give you lots of specific ideas for how to learn with each Broadway song in this article.

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  • Take notes: As you listen to each song, write down new words or words you don’t understand. Then, you can look up the definitions and practice these words further.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary website is a great place to look up each definition and this is what we used for most of the terms below.

  • Be willing to rewind: If you don’t understand a word, skip back in the song and listen to the lyric again.
  • Listen on repeat: Listen to the same songs on repeat to get more familiar with the words. Over time, you’ll start to recognize the lyrics and might even be able to sing along.
  • Be patient with yourself: Learning English takes time. Don’t get upset if it takes a while for you to understand the words in the Broadway songs and other English music. Continue practicing and, with time, your English will improve.

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Pro tip: you don’t need to do all of this yourself. You can learn English with music on FluentU, where there are built-in learning tools and exercises.

FluentU provides authentic English videos—including music videos as well as movie trailers, news reports, inspiring speeches and more. Every video comes with interactive subtitles. That means you never have to search for a song’s lyrics yourself. Plus, you can click on any word in the subtitles for an instant definition, grammar info and useful examples.

When you’re done watching and listening, there are fun quizzes and flashcards to make sure you remember everything you’ve learned.

With FluentU, English music is transformed into personalized language lessons. And just like your favorite songs, you can take FluentU anywhere with the iOS and Android mobile apps. Try it for free with a FluentU trial.

Why Learn English with Music from Broadway?

  • This is an entertaining way to learn English. By trying to learn English with music, you can break up your routine learning process. Instead of sitting in a classroom or reviewing flashcards, you can belt the lyrics to your new favorite English song.
  • Broadway performers enunciate (pronounce very clearly) their words. Show tunes are used to tell the story of a Broadway show. Unlike other types of music, they don’t contain a lot of filler language. And in order to help the audience understand the story, the performers often enunciate their words.

This can help you get a better understanding of the words that are being sung.

  • You’ll practice listening in English with a wide variety of topics. Unlike pop songs that mostly focus on romance, Broadway songs cover many different themes. History, religion, high school drama, monsters and magic are just some of the topics covered in Broadway songs.

By listening to a variety of songs from different Broadway shows, you can significantly expand your vocabulary and comprehension skills.

  • Broadway music tends to be slower than pop songs. Since the music is typically slower than pop songs, it’s easier to understand the lyrics in Broadway music. This is perfect for new language learners who are trying to learn English with music.
  • As a bonus, you can learn more about American culture. Lots of this music incorporates pop culture references and some shows even became pop culture icons themselves, like “Hamilton.” By listening to the music you’ll get a taste of this aspect of American culture.

Places Please! Where to Listen to Broadway Music in English

Ready to practice your English skills with Broadway music? Don’t worry—even if you don’t live near the Broadway theaters in New York City, you can still listen to this music whenever you want!

  • Access Broadway songs from a music streaming service. Most Broadway cast albums are available on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services. Just download the songs or albums you want to listen to and you can practice English on-the-go!

  • Watch performances on YouTubeYou can often find performances from top Broadway shows on YouTube. By watching these performances you can practice listening to English while also getting a better idea of the context for each song.

The Broadway World “show clips” playlist is a good place to start.

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  • Watch musicals on TV streaming services. Many Broadway musicals were made into movies, which you can often find on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Browse the selection on your streaming service to see what’s available.

You can even set up the English subtitles so you can practice reading and listening to English.

  • Catch a live performance on TV. Recently, many TV networks have started producing live versions of Broadway shows. “Peter Pan,” “Hairspray” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” are just a few of the Broadway shows that’ve aired on TV in the last few years. Consider watching a future live performance to help you practice your English skills.
  • Attend a live performance. If possible, consider attending an English musical performance. If you’re near New York City, you could attend one of the shows on Broadway. Otherwise, look for a schedule of traveling shows coming close to you. If the shows are in English, you can immerse yourself in the language and practice following along to the story.

Learn English with Music: The Best Songs from Broadway (with Lyrics Tips)

What’s the best Broadway music to use to learn English?

Now that you know why and how to learn English with music from Broadway, are you ready to get started? We’ve gathered 20 of the best songs to improve your English. In this section, we’ll discuss how you can use each song in your language learning process.

“I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”

“I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” is an upbeat track from Disney’s musical “The Lion King.” Simba excitedly sings this number (song) when he thinks about all the benefits of being the future king.

As you listen to this song, can you pick out the directional terms used? Also, try to take note of all the freedoms Simba think’s he’ll have as king.

If you’re not familiar with each of these terms, look them up before moving on to the next song.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • monarchy (system of kings and queens)
  • roar (loud noise that lions make)
  • free (not constrained)

“Summer Nights”

“Summer Nights” from the classic musical “Grease” focuses on the main characters’ summer romance.

This song uses a lot of adjectives to describe the characters and their fling (brief romance). As you listen to the song, write down all the adjectives you hear and look up the definitions to help learn these descriptive words.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • drifting (slowly moving away)
  • splashing (motion in water that causes sprays)
  • love at first sight (a common expression to describe an instant connection/romance)

“Ya Got Trouble”

“Ya Got Trouble” is one of the most famous English songs from the 1957 Broadway hit “The Music Man.” This song is performed by Harold Hill, the traveling musical salesman.

This song is a combination of dialogue and singing, so it’s a perfect choice for English language learners.

Focus on the slow, enunciated sentences while listening to this song. Harold Hill even spends part of the song discussing the letters that certain English words start with and what these words rhyme with.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • ya (casual form of “you”)
  • tell-tale (obvious sign that something is going to happen)
  • dandelion (a type of yellow flower)
  • sloth (laziness)

“There’s No Business Like Show Business”

“There’s No Business Like Show Business” was featured in the 1946 musical “Annie Get Your Gun.” In this song, a performance group tries to convince Annie to join them.

As you listen to this song, pay attention to the rhyming words. Thrilling, filling and billing are rhymed near the end of the song. By paying attention to the song’s rhyming patterns you’ll start to recognize the “-ing” sound, which is extremely common in English.

This will help you pronounce other English words ending in “-ing” that you encounter in the future.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • thrilling (exciting)
  • spotlights (lighting used in theatrical performances)
  • baggage (luggage or suitcases)

“One Day More”

“One Day More” from the musical “Les Misérables” is an emotional song performed by most of the show’s cast.

Since this song is performed by multiple singers, use this to practice understanding different English accents. Also, the song switches between the past tense and future tense.

As you listen, try to recognize which words and verb conjugations are used to talk about events in the past versus the future.

Interesting English Words in the Lyrics:

  • barricades (obstacle, usually to stop an enemy)
  • dare (to do something bold or courageous)
  • revolution (uprising or movement for change)

“Don’t Rain on My Parade”

“Don’t Rain on My Parade” is an iconic ballad from the show “Funny Girl.” This song has been covered (recorded by a different artist from the original) many times, so if you have trouble understanding Barbara Streisand’s accent in this version, try listening to a cover for variety.

While this song makes a powerful statement in the show, the lyrics are fairly simple. Use this song to start learning some basic, short English words. Write down any words you’re unfamiliar with and look up the definitions after listening to the song.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • freckle (small mark on the skin)
  • juicy (filled with juice, like a fruit / interesting, filled with drama)
  • drummer (someone who plays the drums)

“All That Jazz”

“All That Jazz” from “Chicago” has become a classic Broadway song.

The lyrics in this song are very enunciated and sung slowly. Unlike in lots of other Broadway music, some of the lyrics are repeated multiple times in this song.

Pay attention to the repetition and try to learn the words you hear multiple times.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • paint (to cover or decorate with a colored liquid)
  • noisy (making a lot of noise)
  • buckle (object that attaches two loose ends of material)

“Defying Gravity”

Idina Menzel iconically performed “Defying Gravity” in the Tony-award winning Broadway show “Wicked.” Menzel’s character uses this song to express her desire to break free from expectations.

In addition to belting (loudly singing) the lyrics, Menzel speaks portions of the words. Listen to her well-enunciated words and try to write down any that you’re unfamiliar with.

It’s easy to get lost in the beautiful performance, but try to focus on actively listening to each individual word in the song.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • defying (breaking away from)
  • gravity (the force that pulls objects towards the ground)
  • flying (moving in the air, like a bird)

“Seasons of Love”

“Seasons of Love” from the show “Rent” (which also featured Idina Menzel) is another classic Broadway song that has been covered by many different artists.

Use this song to practice listening to English pronunciations of numbers. The number five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred (525,600) is repeated throughout the song.

Listen for this and use it as inspiration to start learning other English numbers, too.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • sunset (when the sun falls below the horizon and day turns to night)
  • daylight (light from the sun during the day)
  • measure (the process of determining the weight, height, amount, etc. of something)

“Suddenly Seymour”

“Suddenly Seymour” is performed by the characters Seymour and Audrey in the show “Little Shop of Horrors.” This is a conversation between the couple that helps shape their relationship.

Like many Broadway songs, “Suddenly Seymour” is essentially a conversation that’s sung instead of spoken. Most of the words aren’t repeated, so listen to this song and notice how many new words you hear.

Feel free to keep a list of the words you don’t recognize and look these up later.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • pretend (to make believe)
  • condescend (talk to someone like you’re superior to them)
  • snap (noise made when two fingers are quickly pressed together)

“Tomorrow”

“Tomorrow” is perhaps one of the most famous English songs ever. It’s performed by the title character in the musical “Annie.” She sings this cheerful song to help remind those around her to have a positive attitude.

“Tomorrow” is an easy English song that’s performed slowly. The song is fairly short, so listen a few times in a row to help learn the words. Use the associations in this song to help you remember what certain words mean. For example, “sun,” “love” and “grin,” which are all associated with happiness, are grouped together.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • lonely (feeling of sadness brought on by being alone)
  • grin (smile)
  • chin (the pointed part of the face below the mouth)

“You Can’t Stop the Beat”

“You Can’t Stop the Beat” is a fun, upbeat song from the musical “Hairspray.” The main character sings this song near the end of the show once she accepts who she is.

This is a long song that uses a blend of repeated and non-repeated lyrics. The pace varies throughout the song so use the faster parts of the song to practice listening to English words that aren’t enunciated well.

Remember, you can always pause and rewind the song if you have trouble learning any of the words.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • motion (movement)
  • shake (to move vigorously back and forth)
  • paradise (mystical place that’s considered perfect)

“My Favorite Things”

“My Favorite Things” is a classic number from the movie musical “The Sound of Music.” Julie Andrews’ character uses this song to cheer up the children in her care.

This song is very enunciated and slow. Use this to your advantage as you listen to the words. After listening to the song a few times, try to think of your own favorite things and learn the English words for each item.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • mittens (accessories worn to keep hands warm)
  • packages (boxed items, sometimes wrapped in paper)
  • whiskers (long hairs near an animal’s nose)

“I Feel Pretty”

The character Maria sings “I Feel Pretty” in the musical “West Side Story” to express her happiness after falling in love.

When you listen to this song, write down every word Maria uses to describe how she feels. Do you know what all these words mean?

Use context clues to take your best guess, then look up each definition to confirm the meanings. Learning these English words for feelings and emotions will make your own English much more interesting and natural-sounding.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • attractive (appealing)
  • mature (developed or grown-up)
  • dizzy (feeling confused, unbalanced, light-headed)

“What I Did For Love”

“What I Did For Love” comes from the musical “A Chorus Line,” but has also been covered by many different performers including Bing Crosby and Josh Groban.

This is a somber ballad, so the song is slow and well-enunciated. Many of the lines are repeated so use this song to simply take note of some vocabulary words you might not be familiar with.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • remember (act of holding on to a memory)
  • borrow (to take something with the intention of returning it)
  • regret (the feeling of looking back at something with remorse)

“Memory”

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memory” is a famous song from the musical “Cats.” The character Grizabella sings this as she decides to start a new chapter in her life.

In “Memory,” Grizabella discusses past sorrows and her hopes for the future. So, there are words with both positive and negative connotations scattered throughout the lyrics.

Try creating a list of the words you think fall into each category as you listen.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • moonlight (light from the moon during the evening)
  • warning (signal telling about potential danger or another significant event)
  • dawning (the start of a new day, event or era)

“Mamma Mia!”

“Mamma Mia!” from the musical with the same name was originally released as a pop song written by Abba.

Pay attention to the lyrics that describe emotions. Take note of these emotional words and try to think of any English synonyms for these words. Feel free to use a dictionary to help!

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • resist (to avoid temptation)
  • missed (avoided)
  • strong (powerful)

“Friend Like Me”

“Friend Like Me” from Disney’s “Aladdin” is performed by the Genie when Aladdin first releases him from the lamp.

This song includes a few made-up words. Use this as a test to determine if you can recognize the true English words from the nonsense words.

Write down any nonsense words you hear and look these up to see if you were correct.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • column (vertical pillar used to support a structure)
  • mood (an emotional state such as happy, sad, annoyed, etc.)
  • lucky (having good things happen by chance)

“Dear Theodosia”

We can’t discuss Broadway songs without including music from “Hamilton.” This song is performed by Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton when they think about their newborn children.

“Dear Theodosia” is a sweet and slow song. Actively listen to the words and try to determine the hopes Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton express for their children.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • someday (a time in the future)
  • nation (country)
  • foundation (the groundwork for something larger)

“You Will Be Found”

“You Will Be Found” is a powerful song from the Tony Award-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen.”

This slow song includes lyrics that are both spoken and sung. So, listen to the well-enunciated words and write down any words that sound sad or negative. Look up the definitions to see if you correctly identified these words.

Interesting English words in the lyrics:

  • shadow (dark reflection)
  • empty (hollow or unfilled)
  • disappear (to vanish)

 

So, are you ready to get started? Stream or download these songs, grab a notebook and start to learn English with music from some of the best Broadway shows.


Stephanie Brown is a New York City-based freelance writer. You can find her at The Adventuring Millennial.

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