8 Tips and Tricks for Learning English with Song Lyrics
Listening to English music is a lot more fun than drilling grammar concepts (although you should do that, too!).
But there’s a difference between simply hearing English songs and actually learning from them.
In this article, I’ll show you how to learn English with songs successfully.
- 1. Know Where to Find English Songs
- 2. Select the Right Songs
- 3. Get “Scaffolding” and Vocabulary Support to Understand the Lyrics
- 4. Study the Lyrics and Vocabulary
- 5. Sing Along
- 6. Try to Sing from Memory
- 7. Periodically Review
- 8. Find New Music That Builds on What You’ve Learned
- Why Learn English with Songs and Lyrics?
1. Know Where to Find English Songs
Video Sharing Sites
Start by searching video sharing sites, such as YouTube and Vimeo. They have vast libraries of music videos and will very often lead you directly to English songs with lyrics.
If you search “songs with lyrics compilation” you’ll find collections of songs in one track or playlists. Here’s a playlist for 2023.
Spotify, a subscription music streaming service, is fantastic because it has a huge selection which you can take on-the-go. It’s also useful to see the top English songs that are popular and trending.
2. Select the Right Songs
Before getting started, you need to select the English songs you want to learn from. Here are some things you should look out for when choosing songs:
- Find English music with simplistic language. The lyrics should have many commonly used words and shouldn’t be too easy or too hard for you. Sometimes singers won’t pronounce the lyrics clearly, so perhaps heavy metal isn’t the best place to start.
- Listen to mainstream artists. Nothing against independent artists, but part of the goal is to connect with English speakers, and it’s more efficient to do that by learning through top English songs that the rest of the English-speaking world is already familiar with.
- Choose songs that have lyrics readily available. It’s much easier to find lyrics for popular songs. Sometimes fans post the lyrics, but more and more, artists themselves are sharing lyrics on places such as Spotify and YouTube.
- Start with slower songs. Upbeat songs are some of the best! However, at the beginning, try to select songs that you can easily follow and understand. This might mean that certain rap songs will have to wait. You can always build up to them.
- Pick music you love. There’s no point in learning English through songs if you don’t really enjoy the music. This is the fast track to boredom. Especially at the beginning, make sure to choose genres that you would also listen to in your native language.
- Listen to songs that tell a story. This can make them easier to understand and visualize. If you’re a beginner, you might even want to try learning with children’s songs or Disney songs. These are great options for easy English songs to start out with.
- Begin with pop music, then branch out. Mainstream pop music tends to be about love and romance, which also means they have a lot of repeated words. When you’re ready to branch out, you can try different genres to pick up a wider range of vocabulary.
3. Get “Scaffolding” and Vocabulary Support to Understand the Lyrics
It would be nice if you could learn English purely by listening to the music. In practice, you will have to spend some time digesting the lyrics and their meanings to understand the song fully.
This is what teachers often refer to as “scaffolding.” (Scaffolding is something which holds up and supports something that is being built, like training wheels for a bicycle).
Instead of trying to figure out the lyrics on your own, you can use resources like Genius and Lyrics.com, which offer extensive libraries of lyrics for English songs. They often have other interesting information about the songs, and you can even discuss the lyrics with other music fans.
4. Study the Lyrics and Vocabulary
In addition to digesting the content, it’s also important that you review the vocabulary on a regular basis. Break the song down, word by word, and try to master each word so that it’s a part of your vocabulary.
You can do this through a flashcard service like Anki or Studies App. Another way to study vocabulary is by using a language learning program like FluentU. This app and browser resource uses authentic English videos, including music videos, with interactive subtitles.
This means you can see accurate lyrics to any music video you’re watching, and you can check the definition of any word in the lyrics without leaving the video. Plus, you can add words to flashcard decks to learn later.
5. Sing Along
Unless you’re singing in front of an audience, it doesn’t matter if you’re the worst vocalist in the world. Don’t worry if you don’t have an abundance of natural musical ability.
Regardless of your singing prowess, you should try singing out loud to the music. This forces your mouth to adopt the right shapes and move to the rhythm of the song.
6. Try to Sing from Memory
After a while, you should find that you’re starting to memorize the song. This means you’re ready to take the next big leap: try singing the song without looking at the lyrics. By this point, you should find that you can do a much better job of including those words in your everyday speech.
7. Periodically Review
You don’t have to complete learning one song all at once. After you get comfortable with the song, you can always move to the next. After enough time passes, try going back to the first song.
This is called “spaced repetition” and it’s been shown to be more effective than trying to learn something perfectly all at once.
8. Find New Music That Builds on What You’ve Learned
This is perhaps the most difficult step. Each new song that you learn should have a balance of totally new vocabulary and in-progress vocabulary. The right level of overlap can help keep you motivated, and it naturally reinforces what you’ve previously learned.
Why Learn English with Songs and Lyrics?
So, what is it about English songs that makes them such effective language learning tools?
- Music is good for your mind. There’s a lot of scientific evidence that demonstrates how music can help second language learners learn grammar and vocabulary and improve spelling. As pointed out by the video below, what starts out as just a catchy tune will become something you remember throughout your language learning journey.
- You’ll hear everyday language and colloquial speech. English music almost always contains lots of useful vocabulary, phrases and expressions. Since the intended audience is native speakers, music tends to include up-to-date language and colloquialisms, and plenty of songs include idioms.
- You’ll get familiar with the sound of English. Listening to songs will also allow you to focus on your pronunciation and understand the English language’s rhythm, tones and beat.
- You’ll get English stuck inside your head. Many of the words and sound patterns within a song are repetitive, making them more likely to stick in your mind. All of which will help you to learn English with songs as you easily memorize vocabulary and phrases.
- Songs are emotional. Our relationship with music is deep, powerful and hugely rewarding. It’s a key that unlocks our emotions and enhances our mental and physical well-being. When something is emotional, then of course it will also be easier to remember.
- Listening to music is an easy habit. When you’re learning English through songs, you don’t need to set aside too much time because you can take the music with you wherever you go. You can have English songs playing in the car, the kitchen and the shower. And by picking music you like, you can listen to the same material over and over again, without becoming bored.
- Music teaches you English culture. Music can give you insight into English-speaking cultures and how English-speaking people think and feel. Familiarity with popular songs and artists can also give you something to talk about with your English-speaking friends.
Music is a universal language and one that we can all enjoy and relate to.
When you incorporate language learning into fun activities like listening and singing aloud to English music, you won’t even notice that you’re picking up a second language.