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English Language Institute

How to Use Music to Learn English

Studying is hard work and it can be exhausting! To help relieve this stress and keep an overwhelmed student motivated, I encourage my students to take short, five-minute breaks from their studies to do something they enjoy. One of the activities that many of my students have said they enjoy doing during these intermittent study breaks is listening to a favorite song on YouTube. This is a wonderful activity to get your second wind with because many songs are around 5 minutes and they make us feel great!

But did you know that songs are also effective in helping us to acquire language? That means that if we take a break from our difficult study material by unwinding with a song, we can also improve our language skills (Purcell, 1992). This fun allows us to study smarter, not harder!

Below, I have provided a few music related websites and explained how to use them to improve your English language skills, like speaking and listening, in fun and entertaining ways. is a site that gamifies listening to music. Here are a couple of activities to use with this site.

First, you can put the song into “karaoke” mode and sing along. Start by carefully listening to the singer’s pronunciation of words and phrases as you read along with the lyrics. Then play the song again and practice repeating the language in the same sounds, rhythms and intonations you heard as you sing along (Villalobos, 2008).

Second, if you want to practice your listening skills, you can listen to the song in “game” mode. This lets you write or choose the word you hear in the song. If you don’t write or choose the correct word in time, the song will stop and you will lose points. This active listening exercise is a great way to improve your listening comprehension and it’s a lot of fun!

In either of these modes, if the music gets you into a groove , you can just dance. &

Songs are a great way to acquire new words and phrases in English (Milton, 2008). There are two sites we can use to help us understand new vocabulary words, collocations and idioms: and is fantastic because it gives you lyrics to read as you listen to the song. If there are any words or phrases you don’t know, you can simply look them up in a dictionary.

It also has comments by other users that explain what some lyrics mean. These comments not only help to understand what the words mean but they are also a great way to learn about cultural references in songs. Songs are an excellent way to gain cultural insight (Keskin, 2011)!

If you want to have the lyrics of a song translated into your mother tongue, you can use This website provides lyrics of English songs and defines some idioms from song lyrics. This site also gives the translation of English lyrics into other languages. The content of this site is user generated, so that means you might not find a translation in your native language.

If you don’t find the lyrics translated into your first language, there is a “request” feature, where you can ask the community to translate the lyrics to a song of your choice. Or you could join the website and translate them yourself! This might take longer than the 5-minute study break you promised yourself but that’s ok; the time will fly by if you are having fun!

If you want to learn English in New York using music and much more, visit the ELI website, contact the ELI or apply here.

Word List:

  • exhausted (adj.) – To feel very tired, both mentally and physically
  • overwhelmed (adj.) – To feel overpowered, to feel like something has defeated you
  • motivated (adj.) – The desire to do something
  • intermittent (adj.) – Occurring every once in a while
  • (to) get your second wind (idiom, v.) – To renew your energy or endurance so you can continue to do something
  • unwind (v.) – Relax
  • gamify (v.) – To turn something into a fun game
  • get into a groove (idiom, v.) – To start to operating successfully
  • mother tongue (n.) – Your first language, the language you grew up speaking

Works Cited

Keskin, F. (2011, September 30). Using Songs as Audio Materials in Teaching Turkish as a Foreign Language. Retrieved from Eric

Milton, J. (2008). Vocabulary uptake from informal learning tasks. Language Learning Journal, 36(2), 227–237. doi: 10.1080/09571730802390742

Purcell, J. M. (1992). Using Songs to Enrich the Secondary Class. Hispania, 75(1), 192. doi: 10.2307/344779

Villalobos Ulate, N. (2008). Using Songs to Improve EFL Students’ Pronunciation. LETRAS, (44), 93-108. Taken from Magazines