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How to Use Music to Practice English

There are lots of ways to practice your English—getting a conversation partner, writing in a word journal, or watching TV shows, to name a few.

Another great idea to improve your English skills is to listen to music! With a wide variety of songs to choose from, you’ll have endless opportunities to brush up on your listening skills, vocabulary, and even pronunciation.

Below, we’ll give you some tips on how to use songs to improve your English.

Why music works

Before we discuss the how, let’s talk about the why. One of the most important reasons listening to music is an effective way to practice English is that it’s fun! There’s a musical style for everyone—so you’re not stuck listening to something you don’t like. And the more you enjoy your study method, the more you’ll keep it up. 

Another key part of using songs to learn English is that they’re full of slang and everyday English; you’ll be able to practice tons of expressions that can be useful in casual conversations.

Music also works because you can stop and repeat a song as many times as you need to, just like you can with a YouTube video or Netflix show. That means you can control the pace of your practice.

How do you choose the right song?

When you’re choosing music to practice with, our number-one tip is to choose a genre you enjoy. If you don’t like country music, for example, don’t choose a country song! Ensure the songs you pick are ones you can listen to over and over . . . and over again. 

On top of that, here are a few other things to think about: 

Make sure the song isn’t too long.

We don’t have endless attention spans. If you choose a 10-minute classic rock song, for instance, you might only be able to listen to it once before you start to get bored. When it comes time to replay the song for the second, third, or fourth time, it’ll begin to feel like work just to get through it. 

Choose a song that’s not too hard.

The thing about songs is that the words can sometimes be very hard to figure out. While that can be a great challenge in a listening exercise, you don’t want to pick something so difficult that it feels like learning the lyrics will be impossible.

When you’re starting out, stay away from songs that:

  • Use complicated language
  • Have unclear pronunciation
  • Have a really fast tempo
  • Use so much slang that it’s hard to follow

How to practice English with songs

Now that you’ve decided on the type of music you want to use, let’s discuss how you can use it to improve your English skills.

1. Listen to English music as often as you can

By simply listening to English music throughout your day—whether you’re relaxing at home, cleaning, or working out, for instance—you’ll begin to get familiar with the way English words sound when they’re being sung (rather than spoken). The more you listen, you’ll also start to pick up some common song vocabulary

2. Find your favourites and put them on repeat

Once you’ve found a few English songs that you love, listen to them as many times as you can. Each time you listen, try to discover new words that you didn’t hear the time before. If you find yourself starting to get sick of a particular song, take a break or move on to another one, then come back to it. Even the best songs can become hard to listen to after the 25th time. 

3. Have the lyrics handy

To make sure you’re getting the most out of your musical English practice, make sure you have the songs’ lyrics nearby. You can use these lyrics in a few different ways: 

  • Pause the song and check the lyrics when you don’t understand what you heard.
  • Test yourself by trying to sing along without looking at the words, and then reviewing the lyrics to see if you were right
  • Read the lyrics as you sing along to practice your pronunciation.
  • Do a listening practice on a website like Lyrics Training (type in the missing words as you listen to a song).

4. Start a word journal

As you learn the lyrics of a song, write down any new words in a word journal. Beside each word, include a definition (in your own words if you can), and create an example sentence. This will help you commit the new vocabulary to memory.

Get in tune with musical English practice 

Using songs to improve your English can add some fun to your practice. So start listening to English music whenever you can, putting your favourite songs on repeat, utilizing the lyrics, and writing down new vocabulary . . . and start having fun while you learn!

Andrea is a Gabby Academy coach and education technolgy writer based in Vancouver, Canada.