‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: Using song lyrics for listening practice in foreign language and ESL
Language teachers, whether of world languages or [wikipop search=”English as a foreign or second language”]ESL[/wikipop], have used music in the classroom forever, it seems. Not only is it a great way to encounter the culture associated with the language, but the lyrics of some songs are wonderful to reinforce learned verb tenses, grammar, or vocabulary. Students also enjoy listening to music, even if they don’t always enjoy the style of the music presented in class. The question is, how do we bring the sharing of culturally authentic music into the 21st century?
Because our 21st century learners are video-centric, some teachers are using [wikipop]YouTube[/wikipop] and other video sites to find music videos. This is a step in the right direction, as it enriches and reinforces the cultural experience of enjoying music in the classroom. Often the videos are indicative of the culture from which they come. In addition, students really enjoy seeing the artists, fashion, hairstyles, etc. from other countries, especially from the 1970s and 1980s. In order to reinforce grammar or vocabulary objectives, however, language teachers have traditionally passed out a sheet with the lyrics, with blanks to fill. The students often get so caught up in the “fun” of the video that they miss the objective completely, causing the teacher to have to re-play the video ad nauseam.
One possibility is to use a site like LyricsTraining in the class. This site takes popular music from different countries, using the music videos available from YouTube, and puts a lyrics fill-in with the videos. There is a choice of difficulty both in the songs and in the fill-ins. For Spanish, the songs range from the 1970s to last year, and run the gamut of styles. Teachers can (and should!) submit their favorite songs to the site, so that other teachers can use them as well. Unfortunately, the songs are not search-able by grammatical topic or verb tense, but the site is open to suggestion and may be willing to include such information.
In my personal experiences with using the site as an in-class activity, students are so engaged with the challenge of typing in the missing words with the video, that when they are finished, they will actually look at, and occasionally complete, additional videos. This doesn’t often happen with other assignments!
The LyricsTraining site is probably most helpful to ESL teachers, but songs are available in Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Dutch.
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