Learning Language Through Music: Utilizing Music for Effective Language Learning

Music is a universal language. It brings people together, evokes emotions, and plays a meaningful role in our everyday lives. But more than that, it can also be a great tool for learning a language by making the process more engaging and, quite frankly, more enjoyable.

Every person who decides to learn a new language is unique. We’ve all got our own goals, likes and dislikes, and ways of getting things done. But in all my years of teaching, there’s one thing that has always stood out. The moment I pull out lyrics and we start learning vocabulary by singing, everyone just lights up. Singing is fun!

So as a language tool it makes great sense – not only is it effective for reasons we’ll get into below, but it breaks down the emotional barriers that naturally come with learning a new language. In that sense, it’s like a key that unlocks new facets of language learning, making the process less overwhelming.

In this guide, the focus is on how to use music as a robust learning tool. This isn’t a new method, but it’s a practical one that has proven its efficacy time and time again. Here’s to exploring the harmonious blend of music and language learning together.

Music: A Powerful Tool in Language Learning

Consider this typical scenario: you’re going about your day, humming a tune that’s playing in your headphones. You don’t need any effort to remember the tune or lyrics, right? And you may not even be aware that you’re singing

Why? It’s because our brains are wired to recognize patterns, and music is a veritable kaleidoscope of such patterns. Listening to songs in a foreign language allows us to inadvertently assimilate new words and phrases – it’s akin to uncovering a hidden cache of linguistic gems.

When we begin to engage with learning language through music, it’s similar to stumbling upon an unexplored trail within an intricate labyrinth. Not only does this new path aid our progression, but it also introduces a sense of adventure and excitement to the process. The music guides us through the landscape of a new language, acquainting us with fresh vocabulary, familiarizing us with its unique rhythm and cadence, allowing us to absorb it seemingly without effort.

Engaging with Language: The Shift from Studying to Experiencing

Getting lost in a good song and freeing yourself from the usual constraints of formal studying or tedious memorization is the essence of learning language through music. You replace dry textbooks with diverse playlists, turning what might feel like homework into an enjoyable pursuit.

Listening to music is more than just hearing sounds; you tap your feet to the beat, connect with the emotions, and soak up the vibes of each song. It feels more like you’re part of a jam session than stuck in a dull class. When you connect with a language in this chilled and enjoyable way, it helps you avoid the usual stress that comes with trying to cram facts into your head.

It’s the difference between taking a refreshing swim in a serene lake, as opposed to running monotonous laps on a dusty track. Both may enhance your fitness, but one undoubtedly offers more pleasure.

So while we may not always associate studying with enjoyment, learning through music is a delightful exception.

Pleasurable Repetition: The Delightful Exception in Language Learning

As we sing a song over and over again, we’re actually engaging in a pleasurable form of repetition, which is a fundamental aspect of effective learning techniques like active recall and spaced repetition. In this case, active recall happens when we remember the lyrics without looking at them, and spaced repetition happens each time we revisit the song after some time. This enjoyable practice not only makes the learning process more fun but also greatly enhances our ability to remember and understand the new language.

What’s truly remarkable about this approach is that it allows you to not only learn the language but to experience it. You get to hear it as it’s spoken in real life, packed with passion, and full of the culture of the people who speak it. It’s like getting a backstage pass to the language, rather than just watching it from the crowd.

2 guys playing guitar and singing
Photo by Gustavo Fring

Creating the Ideal Language-Learning Playlist

Selecting the right music that can help you unlock the essence of your target language might seem tricky at first, but it’s quite a straightforward process. You don’t need to be an ethnomusicologist or a linguist, just a music enthusiast with an open mind.

Think of this process as if you’re a gardener planning a well-balanced, visually appealing garden. You wouldn’t merely scatter seeds randomly, hoping for an optimal result, would you? No, you’d carefully choose a mix of plants that harmonize and create a pleasing overall aesthetic. A similar strategy applies when you’re curating your language-learning playlist.

Start with an assortment of engaging, catchy songs in your target language – the ones that make you tap your feet and linger in your mind long after they’ve ended. These songs are like the sturdy hedges or shrubs in your garden that give it shape and form the base for everything else.

Then, from that list choose the songs that have clear and comprehensible lyrics. These tracks are akin to the colorful flowers blooming between the hedges. They provide vibrant bursts of linguistic color, helping you familiarize yourself with new phrases and vocabulary.

Little by little, introduce a variety of genres and artists. This is similar to planting an array of shrubs and smaller plants for diversity. It ensures that your learning experience remains dynamic and engaging, preventing any risk of monotony.

There you have it – a carefully curated, language-learning playlist. It’s a diverse music garden, nurturing both your appreciation for various tunes and your passion for learning new languages. Happy listening!

Digging Deeper with Active Listening: Finding New Words

So you’ve got your playlist all lined up and ready to roll. What’s next?

Consider each song as a treasure chest – as you listen, stay alert for words or phrases that pop up again and again. These recurring phrases are like the gold coins in the chest. Once you spot them, it’s time to find out what they mean, and try dropping them into your own sentences. These words can help you get a better handle on the language, especially as you start using them in different situations. And don’t forget, the more you use these words, the more naturally they’ll start fitting into your everyday vocab. It’s like they become your own personal language guides.

And always remember, learning is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t be concerned if you can’t grasp everything at once. Have faith in the brain’s natural ability to absorb information. Progress gradually, appreciate the process, and don’t forget to acknowledge each new word or phrase you learn as a win.

Singing Along: Making Music with Your New Language

So you’ve got your hand-picked playlist and a stack of fresh words and phrases under your belt, what’s next on the agenda? Time to make some sweet music with your new language. Think of it like a conductor practicing over and over with their orchestra before a big show, it’s your turn to get comfortable with your new vocabulary by singing your heart out.

Picture your living room or kitchen, transforming into a stage where you’re the star. But there’s no stage fright there, it’s all about the joy of song. And as you’re singing the lyrics of your favorite songs in your new language, you’re doing more than just making music—you’re learning.

Singing along is a fun, engaging way to practice pronunciation and rhythm. It’s kind of like going to the gym, but instead of working on your physical muscles, you’re building up your language skills. Just like regular gym workouts, consistency is the magic ingredient. The more you sing, the better you get at the language. So, crank up the volume, pretend your showerhead’s a microphone if you want, and let your language skills ring out!

Always remember, the goal isn’t to sound perfect. If you stumble over a word or miss a beat, no big deal, it’s all part of the learning journey. The main thing is to enjoy the ride, and with every song you sing, you’re getting one step closer to mastering the language.

photograph of an artist singing while holding a paintbrush
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Continuing the Journey: One Song at a Time

Learning language through song is like any journey – you start out with miles ahead of you with a few handpicked companions – in this case your handpicked tunes. They provide entertainment, instill motivation, and before you know it, you’ve gotten miles towards your ultimate destination: fluency in a new language.

Now that you have your music-filled toolkit, you’re ready to continue this journey. Each song you listen to, each word you learn, and each lyric you repeat moves you closer to your goal. But don’t forget, the joy of learning isn’t just about reaching the end, it’s also about enjoying the ride.

The playlist is ready. The first note is about to play. All that’s left is for you to press play on that first song and dive in. Here’s to an enriching and enjoyable language learning experience!

Carolyn Knight

Hi! I've been teaching English as a second language for the past 15 years. If you want to know more about how to learn English quickly and easily, then keep reading my blog.