Learning language through music

General discussion about learning languages
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Learning language through music

Postby poru » Sun Jan 07, 2018 12:41 pm


I tried browsing the forums and elsewhere on the net for answers to this question, but wasn't really satisfied with the responses.

I have recently been listening to Dutch music while I exercise. I stumbled across it about a year ago and fell in love with the music. I've since studied a little bit from textbooks, but I really don't have the time to seriously incorporate Dutch into my schedule, so the few hours a week or so that I exercise is usually my exposure to Dutch.

I am wondering if there might be some way to make the most out of this exposure to Dutch and try to really make a little progress with it. What I've been doing is translating the songs using google translate, which is quite easy, and just compiling a list of vocabulary words and phrases. I can memorize the song lyrics and their meanings pretty well, but I probably couldn't ask for directions to a museum. (I probably could ASK but I would have no idea what was said in reply).

I am curious about this in general because I have heard people say that they've learned such and such language through music, but I often find out it is supplemented with years of classroom or self-study work.

Thanks in advance all
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Re: Learning language through music

Postby Dylan95 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 12:54 pm

Music can definitely be a helpful resource. To what extent and in what way I think depends on the kind of music, the particular musician or group, as well as the song itself.

I think that listening to music in Russian has helped my listening and speaking skills, although its difficult to measure to what extent. Learning to music can be a fun way to practice. It also helps with vocab and syntax. It's much easier to remember words, phrases, or sentences from a song that you like, especially if you listen to it a lot!

I personally would never try to learn a language exclusively through music, but I think it's definitely a useful resource.
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Re: Learning language through music

Postby Speakeasy » Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:16 pm

A similar question was discussed quite recently under the following post:

Shadowing Music?
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Re: Learning language through music

Postby Serpent » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:47 pm

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LyricsTraining now has Finnish and Polish :)

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Green Belt
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Re: Learning language through music

Postby Tristano » Mon Jan 08, 2018 3:47 pm

I'm curious about which artists you like :)
I like Abel, Miss Montreal and Nielson.
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Re: Learning language through music

Postby neuroascetic » Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:53 pm

If you are using google translate to better understand your songs, you might want to try Readlang (readlang.com). With it, you can import the lyrics and click on any word or phrase you don't understand and it will show the translation (provided by google) above the word or phrase. I think it will work well for your case.

If your songs are also on YouTube, you can import the video and lyrics and follow along with the music. It also has a feature where it's easy to "sync" the music to the lyrics, so it will highlight the words as it plays (like karaoke).
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Re: Learning language through music

Postby languist » Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:39 am

I think music can be wonderful resource for language learning, but only if you really want it to be. The vast majority of the music on my iPod is not in English, and the majority of that is in languages that I don’t speak or understand. I can listen to these songs every day for years and I’ll never come any closer to understanding the meaning - so listening to music alone without any other learning supplement is absolutely useless.

However, I can attribute the fairly high level of French I used to speak to music (mainly Serge Gainsbourg & his friends). This was because I listened intensely, made notes of all the lyrics, tried to get to the bottom of every grammar point I came across within them - it sounds like you don’t necessarily have the time for this sort of analysis, though.

I’ve had some success picking up language from music with less intense methods, so here are my recommendations: read the meaning of the song in English (as you do already - lyricstranslate is pretty reliable for this), read the lyrics in the original language - and sing along whilst reading the lyrics. Could be in your head, that’s fine. It may sound silly but it helped me a lot with listening skills, and probably pronunciation, and subconsciously, knowing the structure of a sentence. And this way you get to really know the words. Of course, you can know the sounds of a song well without being able to use those sounds as functioning words, but because you know the meaning you should find it easier to break it down. And then I recommend playing with the song. You like the melody, you know the words, so start to use that and mix it up. I truly believe I improved a lot in French by messing around with song lyrics on the bus ride to school. For example, I would try to change the words from maybe “I love you” to “you love me” (or whatever), “the sky is so blue” to “the /another noun I know/ is so /another adjective I know/“.

I guess this isn’t directly about learning FROM music, but it did help me learn THROUGH music. Yes, you can do these things without the aid of a melody, but it’s just so much more enjoyable (and I think therefore, more effective).
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