Our Ultimate Guide to Learning English through Music
Do you have a passion for music? It might surprise you to know that listening to songs can be a great way to improve your English, too. Whether you’re looking to perfect your pronunciation, grammar or vocabulary, you can fast-track your English skills by simply plugging in your headphones and turning on some tunes!
Want to know how? Keep reading for our Brighter English Ultimate Guide to Learning English though Music. You’ll discover the best types of songs to choose, the most effective study techniques, and the most useful resources to support your learning.
So, Why Learn English with Music?
Well, it all comes down to science. Not only have scientists found evidence that listening to music can boost your brain power, but that it also helps second language students, like you, learn and remember new vocabulary and grammar structures.
But listening to music can improve your English in other amazing ways, too. Here’s how:
It uses everyday language
English music is produced by native speakers, for native speakers. So, the language you hear is authentic, useful and natural. You’ll also be exposed to plenty of slang words, too. In fact, songs are packed full of up-to-date vocabulary and expressions you just won’t find in textbooks.
It familiarises you with English pronunciation
Listening to lyrics in English helps you to become aware of how words are pronounced by native speakers. It can help you familiarise yourself with English accents, sounds, stress and how we link words together in natural speech.
It teaches you about English culture
Songs are full of emotions and stories. They help you see how English people view the world – what they think about different issues, and how they express and celebrate their culture.
Ever had a catchy song in your head that you just couldn’t stop thinking about? Me, too. In fact, this is a common after-effect of listening to music. This is because words and sound patterns in songs are often repeated, and it’s this repetition that holds them in our memories for longer.
Finding the right time and place to sit down and study can often be tricky. But listening to music is something you can do on the go – on your walk to work, in the car or at home doing household chores. Even if you have a hectic schedule, you can find a way to fit music into your day-to-day life.
Listening to music is something that most of us enjoy. And studies prove that doing enjoyable activities is the best way to learn a language. If you’re having fun, your motivation levels increase, and you’ll be able to recall what you’ve learnt more easily, too.
What types of songs should you choose?
Not all English songs will help you to learn effectively, so it’s important to know the right ones to choose. The genre of music, beat and singing style can all affect how well you’re able to understand the lyrics. Use our handy music guide to make sure you select the best songs to boost your learning, every time.
Music genres you don’t like listening to.
Songs that don’t have lyrics available onscreen or online.
Songs that are too fast or difficult to understand.
Songs written entirely in slang.
Songs that don’t have a clear narrative.
Songs that you enjoy and make you feel motivated to learn.
Songs with printable lyrics, so you can highlight and make notes while you listen.
Songs with a clear singing voice and a slow, steady rhythm.
Songs that use common, everyday language with only a few slang words.
Songs with easy to follow lyrics that tell a story.
Still not sure what to pick? Try our Brighter English Top 10 Song Suggestions:
George Ezra – Shotgun
Adele – Hello
Ed Sheeran - Thinking Out Loud
Lewis Capaldi – Somebody You Loved
Jason Mraz – I’m Yours
Pharrell Williams – Happy
Maroon 5 – This Love
Beyonce - If I were a Boy
Gotye – Somebody I Used To Know
What’s the Best Way to Learn English through Music?
Although listening to background music can still be helpful, if you want to get the most out of your learning, you’ll need to put in some study time. You won’t figure out the meaning of all the lyrics by just passively listening to them, you’ll actually need to get active! There might be some tricky grammar, vocabulary and sounds in the text that will need some extra practice.
Luckily, we’ve put together this great list of activities you can follow while you work. It might feel too difficult to learn a whole song in one go - and that’s ok! Break the activities into chunks and do them on different days. By the end of the week, you’ll be a music master.
Use the suggested online resources to complete each activity – they’re simple to use and they’re free!
1. Play the song and just listen. See if you can recognise any of the words you hear.
Find free songs on:
2. Listen again with the lyrics and try to follow the song.
Get song lyrics from:
3. Read the lyrics without listening and highlight any words and phrases you don’t understand. Use a translator or dictionary to check them.
4. Read the lyrics again and see if you can understand the meaning of the song as a whole. What story is it trying to tell? Try to write a summary of what the song is about.
5. Listen again and sing along. Notice which words you find difficult to pronounce and circle them.
6. Practice saying the words you’ve circled. Listen to how they’re pronounced in your translator and try to get your pronunciation as close to the model as possible.
7. Listen to the song again. How does the singer link the words together? Do they add or take away any sounds to make the sentence sound smoother? Make some notes about the phrases you notice.
8. Practise singing along with the lyrics until you feel comfortable enough to try it from memory. Start with the first verse and then build it up, until you no longer need the lyrics at all.
If you’re feeling brave, you can record your performance and evaluate it, too. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a good singing voice – you’re only checking to see if you can pronounce the words correctly.
9. Get Creative! Find a musical backing track online and try writing your own song. Songs are basically poems set to music, so use a rhyming dictionary to help you find words that sound good together.
Find words that rhyme at:
Discover great free backing tracks at:
If you really like the song you’ve written, why not record it and show it off to your family and friends? Or upload it to your social media account so everyone can appreciate it.
Brighter English Top Resource Pick:
If learning English though music is definitely your cup of tea, we think you’ll love Lyrics Training. It’s a fresh, modern music app where you can listen to the best in up-to-date music videos. You can choose from 30 different musical genres, and play gap-fill games to improve your listening skills. Best of all, you choose the level you want to work at, so you can start off easy and progress to more difficult songs as you improve. You can even sing along karaoke-style to their great library of videos, with lyrics onscreen to help you learn. We give it a 10/10!
We really hope you’ve enjoyed our Brighter English Ultimate Guide to learning English through music. We believe that studying English should always be creative, communicative and fun! If you’d love to take the next step to becoming a better English speaker, join one of our fantastic tailor-made courses here.
What kind of music do you enjoy listening to? Do you have any musical tips for our Brighter English community? Share your great ideas in the comments below.