10 Ways Music Helps with Language Learning

Listening to music has many benefits for language learners — read about why it’s so effective and how you can use it in your language learning

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Music is everywhere. And, guess what? You can learn a new language by listening to it. There’s lots of research (more on that later) showing that music helps you to learn a language — both your mother tongue and any new languages you learn.

We’ll go into more detail later on in the article. But briefly, music is good for learning a language for two reasons. First, it evokes emotions. This makes language learning memorable and motivating. Second, it engages the brain. There are many cognitive benefits to listening to and learning music.

Songs have been a part of second language teaching for decades and for good reason. In this article, you’ll learn why and how songs can help you learn a new language. And you’ll get some tips how to start learning through music.

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10 ways music helps you learn a language

Let’s take a research-based look at how music can help you learn a language.

1. Better pronunciation

Listening to songs is a great way to learn better pronunciation. That’s because they include a bunch of important features. Things like individual sounds, connected speech, word stress, weak vowel sounds and intonation. Listening to songs is an excellent way to hear and learn these elements of pronunciation.

Research shows that language students who also have musical skills and knowledge perform better on pronunciation tests. But don’t worry if you’re not musical. You can still benefit from listening to songs.

2. More vocabulary

Everyone wants to learn new words. Luckily for you, song lyrics often include tons of new words for you to learn. Sure, some of the words (especially when the lyric is metaphorical) will be difficult to understand. But research shows songs are a great tool for increasing vocabulary in second-language learners. Research into native speakers also shows that taking music lessons helps young people to learn more words.

3. Improved memory

To remember words, you need to encounter them multiple times. Songs are a fantastic way to hear the same words over and over because of their structure. Lyrics and choruses repeat. And if you listen to your favorite artist, you’re happy to put songs on a loop. This kind of repetition can really aid your memorization of words.

You can also use songs less directly to help your memory. Research shows that background music can help you remember things. So don’t feel you need to study in silence.

4. Increased motivation

People love music. It’s a huge part of many people’s lives. One of the best ways to increase motivation is by doing fun things. And what’s more fun than listening to your favorite music? Research shows that using motivation in second language classes increases motivation to tackle difficult challenges. So try to find ways to make your learning enjoyable by listening to, and learning from, the music you like.

5. Boosted listening skills

This one’s pretty obvious but when you listen to music in your new language, your listening skills improve. No surprises here. Sometimes lyrics aren’t easy to hear so you need to listen carefully. But that’s good. Because when you really pay attention, you’ll become more aware of the pronunciation features and vocabulary you hear.

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6. Relaxed mood

Music is also great for our state of mind. When teachers play music in the classroom, their foreign language students have more attention and less anxiety. This leads to better learning outcomes for students. You don’t have to be at a language school to benefit from this. Use songs as listening materials, listen to background music as you study, and keep nerves and stress in check.

7. Heightened cultural awareness

Music reflects a lot about the culture, history, and traditions of a country. When you use songs to learn a language, you indirectly learn about the culture of that country. Your cultural awareness grows through the use of music.

When you learn a new language, you also learn about a culture and its people. To really understand a language, you need to understand its people. Music is one of the best ways to do this. It’s an art form — like literature, or classical art — that can teach you so much about a group of people and their customs. It’s a window into what makes people in that culture tick.

8. Consistent exposure

Language immersion is a popular way for people to learn a language. To do it successfully, you need access to consistent content in your new language. If you have that, you can surround yourself with the language. Finding enough content is one of the challenges for language immersion students who stay in their home country.

Music can help. You can find endless songs in your new language online. You can listen to them when you commute, when you work, when you cook. You can fill your life with the words and grammar of the language, through music.

9.Engaged emotions

Music is emotional. It excites people. It makes them happy or sad. Emotions have a huge effect on learning and academic achievement — both positive and negative. Emotions make learning experiences more meaningful and memorable. So use music to make you emotional.

10. More confidence

Research shows that people who listen to a lot of music in their new language, become more confident communicators. Being a fluent and confident speaker is the main goal for many language learners. Listening to as much music as possible might get you there.

Tips for learning a language through music

Now you know that music is a fantastic tool for learning a new language. It’s fun. It’s effective. And it has benefits for mood and confidence. Here are some simple tips to get you started using music in your language learning.

  • Choose songs carefully. Using music in your learning is supposed to be fun. So if you love rock music, don’t choose folk music. Make sure the music you choose matches your preferences.

Next, be aware of difficulty and complexity. When consuming content, a good difficulty level to aim for is: At or slightly above your current level. That means you can understand almost everything, but it’s still a challenge. If you choose music with difficult and complex lyrics, you can actually harm your progress. So think carefully. And don’t be afraid to give up on difficult songs.

  • Listen actively. Sure, background music is great for many things. You can use it to control your mood, to immerse yourself in language, and to boost your memory. But being more active is also good. Here are two ideas for you.

First, sing. It’s fun and it engages the brain. I’m not asking you to sing in public (and you don't need to be a great singer). Sing at home or wherever you’re comfortable. It’s a great way to practice pronunciation and rhythm. And it ensures you’re paying attention to the music.

Second, read and analyze the lyrics. This is easy nowadays — Spotify, for example, has the lyrics on its app. Treat it like a reading exercise. Analyze the vocabulary and grammar. Do it while you listen to make it even more effective.

  • Be consistent. Listen to music in your new language every day. Yes, every day. Even if it’s just 15 minutes per day. Little and often is an effective way to learn a skill. And it’s also an easy habit to stick to because of the small time commitment.

  • Create playlists. Add your favorite songs to a playlist. Repetition is important for language learning. So listen to the same songs over and over again.

Music is a fun and effective way to learn a new language

Learning a language should be enjoyable. The more fun it is, the more motivated you’ll be. And the more likely you are to have the dedication to master a language — because, let’s be honest, it can be a long and bumpy journey. We need all the motivation we can get.

Learning through songs also boosts your listening and vocabulary skills. And makes it possible for you to immerse yourself in a language from your own home. Follow the tips in this article to start using music in your language learning.

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