Listening to music is a great way to relax, pass the time, or make other activities (like exercise) more fun. But did you know that music can also be a great way to learn English? In fact, listening to English songs can help English learners at just about any level, from young children to advanced-level adults!
Unlike movies, listening to songs doesn’t require a huge time commitment. The average song only lasts for a few minutes, which means that you can easily squeeze some extra English into your day. All you have to do is plug in your headphones and turn up the volume!
However, not every song can help you learn English with music. Instrumental songs (songs without words) won’t help improve your English. Additionally, some English songs feature speech that is too fast, distorted, or complex for many English learners to follow.
So, how can you learn English with music? And what are some great English songs to add to your next playlist? We will answer both of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at some strategies you can use to understand and learn from English songs:
Tips to Understand English Songs
Listening to music is a fun activity, so you may not want to spend time taking notes or thinking too much. Even if you prefer to turn your brain off when you listen to music, exposing yourself to English through music is still a great way to make English a part of your daily routine.
That said, there are a few strategies that will help you understand English songs and improve your English at the same time:
- Identify familiar lyrics – The first time you listen to a new song in English, you probably understand some of it without any help. So, take note of words and phrases that you already understand. This will help you understand the general mood of the song, which might help you with some of the words you don’t know yet.
- Listen more than once – Even native English speakers don’t always understand every word the first time they hear a new song. Listen to a song as many times as you need. Each playthrough will give you another chance to catch vocabulary, pronunciation, or grammar that you missed the first time.
- Read the lyrics – For many people, it is easier to understand a song when they can see the lyrics written down. Thankfully, you can easily find the lyrics for most English songs online. Once you’ve found the lyrics, you can read along as you listen, giving you a chance to match the words you see with the ones you hear.
- Look for meaning – Once you recognize most or all of the words in the song, it’s time to learn the meaning. You can do this with or without the written lyrics. Simply listen to each phrase and see how it connects to the subsequent (next) phrase. It’s important to remember that many songs are poetic, so the meaning may be hidden in metaphors and cryptic (mysterious) language.
Now that you have the tools to understand English lyrics, let’s look at some great songs to help build your grammar, vocabulary, and listening skills!
8 Songs to Help You Learn English With Music
Not only is this a catchy tune, but it also provides great descriptions of ordinary activities. In “The Lazy Song,” Bruno Mars sings about all of the things he does (and doesn’t do) when he’s feeling lazy. The song also includes some common English idioms like “chillin’,” “mess around,” and “birthday suit.”
Queen has released some of the most popular songs of all time, including “We Will Rock You” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Though both of these songs have something to offer, “It’s a Hard Life” is particularly useful for English learners. Some Queen songs have lyrics that don’t make much sense, but “It’s a Hard Life” is a straightforward song about the difficulties of falling in love.
“Eleanor Rigby” has a good mixture of simple language and more challenging poetic phrases (…wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door…). The song tells a simple story, making it relatively easy to follow for non-native English speakers. Moreover, Paul McCartney sings the lyrics clearly, so you won’t have to worry too much about missing new words.
Many English love songs are difficult to follow because the language is too vague, but that’s not a problem in “Every Breath You Take.” The lyrics are easy to follow, and the same words are frequently repeated. So, even if you miss a word, you will have another chance to catch it later on!
Do you enjoy slow, relaxing melodies? If so, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” is the perfect English song for you. This classic American song makes good use of contractions like sittin’ and evenin’, as well as idioms like “headed for.”
“Chasing Cars” is an English love song with a melancholic (sad) tone. However, the lyrics are sung very slowly and clearly, making it a good choice for non-native speakers. While the lyrics are poetic, the imagery is simple and easy to understand.
This song is all about describing another person. Have you ever wanted to talk about someone’s personality or actions but couldn’t find the right words? Well, Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman” will give you a few dozen new ways to get the job done!
“From a Window Seat” uses the present tense to describe first-person observations. The protagonist of the story is riding a plane and singing about everything that he sees. This song works really well for English students because the lyrics are formatted like a casual conversation.
Additional Resources to Learn English with Music
The Internet makes it easy to listen to English songs from just about anywhere using a smartphone, tablet, or computer. However, you may want to find additional resources to supplement your learning. Below you will find some useful links to help you get started:
- Songs for learning English grammar
- Easy English songs to sing
- Listening exercises with songs
- Famous English songs with lyrics
We hope you found this guide helpful! If you’d like to learn more about English songs or how to learn English with music, visit Magoosh Speaking today.