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Using Music in Second Language Instruction
Mark Mallinder and Hsiang-Ni Lee, Taiwan
Mark Mallinder is an English instructor at National Changhua University of Education. He has been teaching a variety of college-level courses to Taiwanese EFL learners. His research interests include reading instruction and using multimedia in language classrooms.
Hsiang-Ni Lee is a professor at National Taitung University. She is interested in children’s literature, family literacy, literature-based reading instruction and material development. In the future, she also wishes to explore the multiple possibilities of utilizing technology in language education. E-mail: email@example.com
Strengths in aspects of language learning
When carefully planned and implemented, music can effectively promote one’s second language proficiency, including listening comprehension, speaking skill, grammar knowledge and intercultural understanding. To maximize such strengths, teachers need to select music that matches students’ learning needs and current linguistic development. They are also advised to avoid songs which are sung at an extremely rapid speed, use incorrect grammar or contain profane language.
Music is widely utilized to teach content courses and promote language learning. Profound research has discovered that ESL/ EFL learners welcome such intervention because English songs not only use authentic language, which yet often are simplified, rhymed and repeated, they are also presented usually at a much slower speed. Drawn on the discussion of strengths and limitations of using music in the classroom, this article will attempt to recommend a number of potential activities for fostering students’ overall language competence.
Strengths in aspects of language learning
One’s listening skill is likely to improve when s/he listens to songs. Possible listening comprehension activities can be:
When one sings or talks about a song, s/he is practicing speaking in terms of pronunciation, intonation and word stress. Some speaking exercises are quite fun:
Owing to the nature of rhyming and repetition, songs serve as a friendly reading material for beginning or struggling learners. Different activities can be:
Songs can be used in a number of ways to assist students with their writing:
Intercultural understanding plays an essential role in one’s language development. Properly utilized, music can be a window to world cultures.
Vocabulary and grammar
Through music, students can acquire more vocabulary and grammar. Some songs, according to the website “Helping you Learn English”, teach about essential grammar knowledge:
Teachers can simply have a fun time with students listening to or singing songs that have nice melodies. “Silly songs” sometimes can successfully build class rapport and promote students’ motivation to learn.
Problematic songs can be those which are sung too fast for the listener to understand, such as Rap and Dance music. Additionally, songs in which the words are not clear would not be a sound choice in the classroom; many singers “stretch” lyrics, or mumble, or combine words so they become difficult to understand. Next, songs using too much slang or incorrect grammar can be harmful. Finally, songs dealing with violence, sex, or racial bias are potentially offensive to certain cultural communities. Madonna’s Erotic, for instance, might cause great embarrassment in the classroom.
Speaking about “Yesterday”
Possible discussion questions are:
Cultural information about top pop music icon The Beatles
Hey Jude is a song which Paul McCartney wrote for John Lennon’s son, Julian. John divorced his son’s mother and married another woman. Paul was speaking in “Hey Jude” to Julian, telling him to learn to get along with his father’s new wife.
Using “Hey Jude” as a discussion starter, students can study Beatles music and take a quiz:
Ivana, George, Peggy, Paul, Remus, Ringo, Florence, John.
Paris, America, New Zealand, England.
Writing about “Tears in Heaven”
Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton reveals the singer’s feelings about his young son’s tragic death. Students can respond to the singer in the form of a condolence letter.
In summary, music plays a favorable role in facilitating all aspects of one’s second language development. As the modern technology has made it possible to access songs and lyrics freely online at any time, teachers are highly recommended to incorporate music in their curriculum design so that students can gain a deeper appreciation for, and understanding of, English language.
Beasley, R. E., Chuang, Y., & Liao, C. C. (2006). Determinants And Effects Of English Language Immersion In Taiwanese EFL Learners Engaged In Online Music Study. The Reading Matrix, 6(3), 5th Anniversary Special Issue-CALL Technologies and the Digital Learner.
Bonner, G. (2007). Singing the Praises of Songs: Some Practical Ideas for Using Music with your EFL students. Developing Teachers. Com.
Brown, H. D. (1980). Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. New Jersey. Prentice Hall, Inc. (pp.129-144).
Lems, K. (1996). For a Song: Music across the ESL Curriculum. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. Ed 396 524)
Lems, K. (2001). Using music in the Adult ESL Classroom. ( ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. Ed 459 634)
Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Teaching English Through Multiple Intelligences course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the CLIL: Content and Methodology for Secondary Teachers course at Pilgrims website.
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