Tuesday, November 27, 2007

You Call THAT Music?

You Call THAT Music?
Using Music to Teach English as a Foreign or Second Language

You Call THAT Music?

“What are you listening to? I asked a student in a seeming state of euphoria from the sounds being fed into his ear.

“I’m listening to some music.”

“I’d like to hear what you’re listening to”, I remarked.

He hesitatingly passed me the other earphone dangling from his shoulder. I listened, but what assaulted my ear was neither melodic, pleasant or discernable.

“You call THAT music?” I blurted out incredulously.

He laughed a bit, then grinned sheepishly. “You kinda have to get used to it”, he added.


There Was a Time
There was a time, I pondered, when in order to be called a singer, you actually had to be able to sing. That is, you needed a good voice and a melodic way of producing lyrics. This required some natural talent, likely some voice training and an extensive amount of practice. Even emotion was conveyed through songs; sadness, joy, concern or worry and regret came through clearly in the singer’s voice.

Nowadays, much of what passes for music relies on high volume background instrumentals overlaid with what sounds like a “vocalist” screaming at the top of their lungs. Either that or “raps” with lyrics that feature a stream of profanity that could make a sailor blush.

Using Songs as an Aid to Teaching and Learning EFL
Let’s consider using songs as an aid to teaching and learning English as a foreign language. The same principles could easily be applied to teaching and learning almost any foreign language as well. For using songs, there are a number of useful possibilities. Some adaptable ones include:

• Illustration and modeling of connected speech aspects
• Pronunciation practice
• Use in lowering the learner’s Affective Filter
• As part of a grammar or other themed lesson plan (holiday, festival, vocabulary, etc.)
• Vocabulary acquisition or reinforcement
• Simply to have a bit of fun in the EFL classroom

What Kind of Music?
Just what kind of music works best in teaching or learning English or other foreign language? That depends on many different factors of course, but certainly songs and lyrics should:

• Be clear and understandable
• NOT contain profanity or objectionable language
• NOT contain or “promote” violence, explicit sex, race hatred, crime or other objectionable themes
• Be a positive influential element on the learners
• Provide some discernable didactic value

One era which is ripe with large numbers of enjoyable songs is the American 1970’s. Music produced by such artists as the following. I’ve also provided some links to audio or video examples so that you can listen for yourself.

• The late Minnie Riperton (pictured above) who was famous for her ability to sing very high notes.
Song: “Inside My Love”
Link: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=LJwgffbjjsU

The Isley Brothers
Song: “Footsteps in the Dark”
Link: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=dXkP5Bae3xg

The Emotions
Song: “Don’t Ask My Neighbor”
Link: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=9u7O1LBFICE

Teddy Pendergrass
Song: “Come Go With Me”
Link: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=S1Q8izAflak

Toni Braxton
Song: “Another Sad Love Song”
Link: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=LN9R2HB1J68

Isaac Hayes
Song: “Never Can Say Goodbye” also popularized by the Jackson 5
Link: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=P-yKMgG-DRw

Dionne Warwick
Song: “Déjà vu”
Link: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=nvJ1NggZ0bM

Not only are these and many songs from this era useful for teaching English as a foreign or second language, but are in themselves, beautiful to listen to. They will certainly provide a soothing alternative to what in many instances passes for “music” in our present era. So listen, enjoy and make use of these and other examples to practice English with you learners. Now these and many other examples from this era are what I call music.

Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. Now YOU too can live your dreams in paradise, find romance, high adventure and get paid while travelling for free. For more information on the lucrative, fascinating field of teaching English as a Foreign Language, get your copy of his no-cost, full multi-media, hypertext-linked pdf ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know” by sending an e-mail to lynchlarrym@gmail.com with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. Need professional, original content and photos or images for your blog, newsletter, e-zine or website? Want more information, have a comment or special request? E-mail the author for a prompt response.

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