Singing to learn English

Singing to learn English with Marcel Wiel — photo credit: Ben White @benwhitephotography on

As an English language trainer, I always advise my students to use authentic materials as a tool to improve their language skills. Nothing beats a watching a cracking BBC series and reading articles from publications such as The Guardian.

Another extremely efficient practice, which is also fun, involves a daily practice of singing to learn English.

The idea behind this exercise is by concentrating on the singing, a learner’s senses are distracted from the effort of mouthing sometimes new English words. This leads to an almost unconscious integration of vocabulary, strings of words and language structures.

And thanks to YouTube, a vast catalogue of songs with subtitles or in karaoke versions are on hand.

The only proviso is to avoid music styles that include swear words or poor grammatical structures. The objective of the exercise is after all to learn correct English.

“Our House” by Crosby, Stills & Nash is a great song for this purpose:

  I’ll light the fire.
You place the flowers in the vase
That you bought today.
Staring at the fire,
For hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long
For me, only for me …

What’s particularly valuable about this song is its relatively slow tempo, which allows an intermediate level leaner to easily sing along with the lyrics.

Similarly, thanks to their extremely catchy melodies, songs by Abba also are very appropriate for this practice, such as “Thank You for the Music”:

   I’m nothing special, in fact I’m a bit of a bore.
If I tell a joke, you’ve probably heard it before.
But I have a talent, a wonderful thing
‘Cause everyone listens when I start to sing.
I’m so grateful and proud,
All I want is to sing it out loud …

Lastly, apart from its fun and learning dimensions, singing out loud on a regular basis has a third benefit: increased confidence for learners who are often anxious about their English speaking skills.

Indeed, nothing beats belting out the lyrics of a favourite song on a regular basis to make us feel less uncomfortable when having to deliver a presentation in the classroom or in a work setting.

Click here for this article in French on LinkedIn