Can you learn language by listening to music? It is possible, yes! You'd have to listen to a lot of music to become fluent! But using music is a great strategy for getting to know your target language a little better.
Here are some of the reasons why:
Singers' pronunciation is usually very clear, which makes songs wonderful resources for getting your pronunciation spot on from the beginning. Reception should always come before production and repeated listening to a song you like, combined with a healthy dose of noticing, tunes your ears into the sounds of the language.
Languages have a natural melody to them, especially lyrical languages like Italian and Portuguese. Talented songwriters exploit this and reveal the inner melody of their lyrics.
Melodies are very memorable – you will find words sticking, even those words that you've never heard before and you may think are beyond your level!
You're Exposed to a Broader Range of Grammar
The language of songs is often poetic and showcases a broader grammatical range of expression than you might expect from everyday speech. If you learn languages through music, it will give you lots more options when it comes to speaking.
It Makes Learning Enjoyable
If you like the song you will instinctively begin singing it to yourself. This can be a useful first step in speaking, and allows you to practice producing the language in a safe environment – there's no time pressure or interlocutor to worry about. Singing in the shower, anyone?
I've learnt a lot of songs in my time, starting with old standard broadway songs (the basis of modern jazz) in my musical days, moving on to songs in other languages from many different places – sambas, tangos, boleros.
I play a lot of Brazilian music and I must have learnt hundreds of bossa novas and sambas in Portuguese. I've also learnt Japanese and Hong Kong pop songs and Mexican boleros.
There are without a doubt a hundred and one ways to learn songs in a different language, but one thing's for sure: it takes work!
Here's what I do:
1. Find your song
How to find a song in a different language? The internet is your friend, check YouTube for songs in your language of choice.
Choose your song and make it portable (making it available offline on your phone is the best bet).
2. Search for the lyrics
Find the lyrics and print them out on a piece of A4 (I like to have them printed, rather than stored on my phone) so I can make notes on the page. Fold up and stick it in your pocket.
Listen through it many, many times until you're familiar with the song.
3. Research the Vocabulary
Look up anything you don't understand, if you haven't already done so.
4. Get Memorising
Start to memorise it line by line. Listen to a line, pause it, and sing it back to yourself. Do this until it's more or less right, then move on to the next one.
What I tend to do then is learn up to around 4 lines – or else an entire verse/chorus – then stick with that for a day or two. If you do too much more you risk getting to overwhelm stage and forgetting what you've already learnt.
5. Break it Down
Take your verse and just sing it to yourself over and over. You'll find yourself forgetting bits and pieces the following day, so you just go back and brush up until you've got it back.
After a couple of days you'll have it down, so you can move on to the next bit of the song, then repeat until finished.
The key in this routine is not to do too much in one go. Try to stagger your learning, making sure that you learn each section of the song thoroughly before moving on. Discipline! 🙂
Start Learning Languages With Music
There you have it! Using this method, it really is possible to learn language through songs! Good luck, and let's have some YouTube videos of your accomplishments!