Do you think learning a language should be fun?
That’s music to our ears.
Music and language go together like peanut butter and jelly but without the risk of anaphylactic shock (unless you’re allergic to fun ways of learning).
However, finding music in your target language isn’t always as simple as finding music in your native tongue, so where can you learn with songs?
Check out these seven tuneful resources for pitch-perfect language learning!
Why Use Songs to Learn a Language?
Songs are fantastic learning tools!
- They’re repetitive. How many words do you actually think are in Bieber’s “Baby?” In your native language, this often leads to super annoying earworms. However, in your target language, the repetition is ideal. Since learning a language is usually built on repetition, songs and language learning are a natural match.
- They invite participation. Perfecting a language requires speaking and listening practice, but speaking practice can be hard to come by. Songs, however, make you want to sing along, so you get some speaking practice without even having to focus on it.
- They help you learn vocabulary and perfect your pronunciation. Vocabulary is much easier to remember when you can play through a catchy beat in your head to get to the word in question. Pronunciation, too, seems much easier when it’s conveyed so melodically.
- They let you sneak in more language practice disguised as recreation. You can take a study break to listen to music. It’ll still feel like a break, but you won’t even halt your learning!
7 Tuneful Resources to Learn a Language Through Songs
If you want to sing along, LyricsTraining has your back.
That’s because as you watch music videos, LyricsTraining will highlight the lyrics for you. In karaoke mode, you’ll be supplied with all the lyrics. For a more challenging option, you can also try a game in which some words are omitted from the printed text and you’re asked to supply them as you listen. There are four different game levels, so LyricsTraining is appropriate for any level of language learning.
Plus, there are plenty of great song options. For instance, Japanese students might enjoy the cutesy “Ponponpon” by Kyrary Pamyu Pamyu.
Available Languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.
Learning a language with music is great, but what if you don’t understand all the words? What if you wish you could see a particular word in a different context? Or what if you want to reinforce your learning with flashcards and exercises? If these are the questions that plague you, FluentU might be your answer.
FluentU offers a flexible, in-context learning experience appropriate for any level of language student. Using real-world videos, like music videos, movie trailers and news, FluentU enables you to understand what you hear on a deeper level. That’s because all videos are captioned and the captions are annotated to give you easy access to any word’s definition, example sentences and an associated image. Plus, if you’d like to see how a word is used in a different context, just click the word to see other videos that contain it.
FluentU also offers “learn mode,” which takes videos, pictures and example sentences and transforms them into exercises and flashcards to provide you with a different perspective on the language.
Additionally, FluentU’s lessons are personalized by using a unique algorithm that takes into account learner history. This way, the questions you’re presented with are relevant to your studies.
Available Languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Can’t find a song option that’s right at your level? Try LyricsGaps!
LyricsGaps offers some of the most flexible and specific leveling available. Each song is labeled with the difficulty level. However, you can also set your level of difficulty for gameplay, making it particularly easy to find learning options at your level.
With LyricsGaps, you’re given the text of the song but a few words are missing. You select the missing words from a drop-down menu as you listen. Plus, you can click any of the provided lyrics to see a word’s definition (though this might not work with some pop-up blockers). For instance, students learning German might like “Wie Schön, Dass Du Geboren Bist,” (“How Wonderful That You Were Born”) a children’s birthday song by Rolf Zuckowski.
LyricsGaps also allows you to challenge your friends. This competition can drive language learning (or at least bring out your competitive streak).
Available Languages: A nice array of different languages, including popular options, like Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and less common options, like Basque and Visayan.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell at a glance what accent a singer is using? Or maybe you just wish you had easy access to a brief description of the performer. With language Zen, you have this information at the tip of your fingers.
That’s because for each song Language Zen features, there’s a description of the performer along with the genre and accent, making it much easier to peruse the songs for your ideal match.
Language Zen offers six different levels, ranging from “Beginner” to “Advanced Plus.” There are plans to include even more advanced levels in the future, so even near-native level speakers may benefit.
For each song, you’ll have two options. You can use the “learn” mode, which is a quiz-based approach to teaching you a song’s vocabulary, or you can opt for the “play” mode, which shows the lyrics as the song plays. Want to repeat the same line or skip ahead? Just click the line to move through the song as you like. If you prefer, you can also read in English as you listen.
Students can enjoy popular options like “Vivir mi vida” (“Live My Life”) by Marc Anthony.
Available Languages: Language Zen currently offers Spanish but plans on adding more languages soon.
If you can’t resist a good karaoke night, check out Smule.
Smule is a karaoke community. You can listen to songs that others have uploaded or use the platform (and accompanying lyrics) to upload your own videos. This can provide you with both listening and speaking practice. Plus, since you can record your own videos, this gives you the opportunity to rewatch yourself to review your pronunciation.
Since there are millions of songs, you can find popular songs in countless languages. For instance, Korean students might enjoy singing along with 택시로 5분 (“5 Minutes by Taxi”) by Mimi Sisters.
Available Languages: Smule boasts a large selection of languages, including Korean, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and more.
You might already be familiar with Genius. When you just can’t understand a lyric, it’s your go-to resource for figuring out exactly what you just heard.
But Genius can also be useful for language learners. That’s because Genius lists lyrics for popular songs in a huge array of languages. For instance, Russian students may enjoy the popular song “Медина” (“Medina”) by Jah Khalib. Conveniently enough, Genius also links to the music videos of the songs on YouTube so that you can listen as you read the lyrics.
Since this resource doesn’t provide translations, it’s best for more advanced students. However, anyone who uses it will find some great learning material. After all, users can upload annotations on lyrics, so you might even get explanations of certain parts of a song in your target language.
Available Languages: As mentioned above, you’ll find lyrics in many different languages on Genius.
Yes, your favorite source for cat videos and beauty tutorials can also help you improve your language skills with music. All you need is the right search term.
Just try searching the name of the language and “subtitles” in English or your target language. For instance, you might search “Chinese songs subtitles” to find great options like “Wo Hao Xin Ni” (“I Miss You Much”), which offers subtitles in Chinese, pinyin and English.
If you try different search terms, you’re likely to find a nice array of options that’ll help you follow along with the lyrics as you listen to songs.
Available Languages: Practically every language in existence!
These seven resources to learn language through songs are sure to strike a chord and help you fine-tune your language skills!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.