Teaching English through texts, the inductive approach and the deductive approach may become a routine. Students want to break this routine. Teachers can add songs as ways and methods of teaching English. Songs develop all four skills and teach listeners all types of rythm, rhymes, parts of speech, grammar patterns, pronunciation and vocabulary. Moreover, students are more relaxed when they listen to songs and they are not afraid that they might make mistakes which are seen as natural in the learning process.
Songs motivate students to study and understand English culture. Rythm, rhyme and stress make learners perceive the language as a whole even if language is traditionally divided into grammar structures. In other words, students have the opportunity to see how linguistic diversity becomes a whole and how songs transmit messages, feelings, moods and ideas.
Music appeals to students’ musical intelligence which does not work in an independent way; it works together with the other seven types of intelligence; that is why teachers should come with tasks that activate those types of intelligence which support the musical one. Students are not equally intelligent in music; so teachers ought to make use of those techniques that stimulate musical intelligence even if this intelligence is a weakness or a strength.
The Romanian system of education mainly develops two types of intelligence in most highschools: mathematic and linguistic; this means that the other types are neglected to a great extent. Although language is generally described by precision and music by emotion, language and music have a lot of things in common. Music and speech are connected to each other through sounds and are both used to convey messages. Music can be seen as a universal language that children and teenagers all over the world understand. Song lyrics describe experiences and express feelings which all teenagers lived through and in this way students sense that they defeat isolation.
One advantage of teaching English through music is that students come into contact with natural words and expressions. Learners acquire new language, in most cases slang terms, that will become part of the long term memory thanks to the association between words and rythmic sounds; in this case, the linguistic and musical intelligence interweave helping the student to learn much faster both rythms and words. It is worth mentioning that music accompanies teenagers through their entire life providing a part of their permanent education and it is music that develops their four skills; it is interesting that the skills (listening, reading, speaking and writing) do not develop separately, but together shaping teenagers from an emotional and cognitive point of view.
Moreover, music encourages the acquisition of new grammar through its attractive rhythms; much information is assimilated in an easy and natural way; students do not feel that they make any effort; on the contrary, they are given the opportunity to create their own grammar and their own ways of expressing themselves.
Learners can also discriminate between denotative and connotative meanings of words because songs contain within themselves a lot of figurative language. Figurative language becomes a means of enriching students’ grammar and vocabulary if this grammar is taught in the proper way. Teachers could perform a pre-listening activity in which they could present the concept of figure of speech. There may follow a while-listening activity when students listen to songs. And the last stage is the post-listening activity when teachers could discuss with their students all those lines that contain figurative language.
Music is often associated with teaching vocabulary, but songs may also become the background for successful grammar lessons. Listening to the song „I’ll be missing you” by P. Diddy, for example, can turn into a grammar lesson for those learners who want to discriminate between adjectives and adverds and who want to learn about future continuous. Teachers and students should follow the three stages of any listening activity: pre-listening, while-listening and post-listening. At the pre-listening stage, students have to know how to discriminate between adjectives and adverbs. At the while-listening stage, students listen to the song and silently read the lyrics on the sheet of paper underlining the adjectives with the black colour and the adverbs with the red colour. At the post-listening stage, all kinds of grammar exercises and activities with adjectives and adverbs could be performed. This is a way of teaching grammar through songs.
Teaching grammar and vocabulary through songs is beneficial for students of all ages because students share the feelings and ideas conveyed by song lyrics. It is soothing for learners to see that some other people have already gone through the same emotions and experiences and suffered the consequences. Listeners feel that they are not deserted. Thus music is a good companion for listeners throughout their way in life.
Scrivener, J., Learning teaching: A guidebook for English language teachers, Macmillan, 2009
Rodgers, T., Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, Cambridge University, 2001
Brown, H.D., Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, Pearson, 2000