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Music is a powerful mood-enhancer which has the ability to create all sorts of strong emotions. It can literally take you back in time...who doesn't remember songs from their childhood? Music has also been used to strengthen memory connections and support the sharing of traditions and stories since ancient times.
I have always believed that if music is a language, conversely, language is music-and languages represent a range of music with different pitches and rhythms.
I have used music in a wide range of ways to grab students’ attention, modify their moods and get them engaged with the language and its related culture.
Students listen and/or watch and figure out what the new topic is. The clues can be in the lyrics or in the video.
I have used karaoke versions of music video such as the Spanish version of Beyoncé’s “If I were a boy” for students to concentrate more on the words and to reinforce the learning of specific structures (imperfect subjunctive in this example).
I like to use songs with a clear or repetitive structure such as “Un verbe: aimer” by Grand Corps Malade as a stimulus to get students to write their own made-up song/ rap/ poem. Playfulness with words is the beginning of serious language manipulation! In this example, pupils can use their own nouns to describe what is happening when they first meet somebody they like.
If the song studied has a cover version in English, compare the two versions and get the students to spot the differences as they are listening. Is it a straight translation? Why isn’t it a straight translation? Any important differences in meanings? Favourite cover artists include Sarah for French and Kevin, Karla y la banda for Spanish.
You can use sites like LyricsTraining, LyricsGap or Lirica to practise listening skills with music videos and a range of exercises to focus on the lyrics and learn new vocabulary as well as a range of key structures. LyricsTraining and Lirica even have their own mobile apps.
Although I am passionate about using music in languages lessons, I do understand that it is not necessarily for everybody. However, if there is an emotional connection created by the music, it is a powerful way to reinforce patterns and get key structures embedded in our long-term memory.
Give it a try!