Adults sing at religious services, bars, in the shower, and listening to the radio car. Songs have become an integral part of our language experience, and if used in coordination with a language lesson they can be of great value. Furthermore, thanks to the Internet, we can have access easily to music and lyrics (like lyrics.com, metrolyrics.com, etc).
Children enjoy games and music as these activities provide a link with home and school life. The use of songs has some advantages: it provides variety to the range of learning situations, improves the listening skills, the attention span and the concentration, pupil participation is encouraged and reduces teacher’s control.
1. The Importance of Music and Song in Language Learning
Theoretical Rationale: There are some patterns which explain why using songs in the classroom is valuable. These patterns include affective reasons, cognitive reasons, and linguistic reasons. There are two processes involved in listening. One of them is the bottom-up processing and the other the top-down.
Affective Reasons: Teachers have long recognised the need for students to have a positive attitude in regard to learning. For optimal learning to occur, the affective filter must be weal or low, meaning a positive attitude towards learning. If the filter is strong, the learner will not be open to language acquisition. Hence, teacher must provide a positive atmosphere. The enjoyment aspect of learning language through songs is directly related to affective factors.
Cognitive Reasons: Songs also present opportunities for developing automaticity, which is the main cognitive reason for using songs in the classroom, as the songs are usually repetitive and consistent.
Linguistic Reasons: Some songs are excellent examples of colloquial English. According to some studies, music is often the major source of English outside the classroom. The exposure to authentic English is an important factor in promoting language learning. Then, the repetitive style of songs helps to promote automatisation of colloquial English.
Conclusions: The three theoretical reasons are all intertwined and help to demonstrate the value of using songs in the classroom. The next step is to successfully integrate songs into the language lesson. The Internet is a helpful tool for teachers to effectively use songs in the classroom.
2. Classification of Songs
When choosing a song we must keep in mind our aims and choose one that will help to achieve them. Songs and rhymes are divided by Brewster into two types:
Action songs and rhymes: It is about matching words to action so the language is learnt more deeply. Some examples of this kind of songs and rhymes are counting rhymes, finger songs and miming while singing.
Traditional and pop songs: These songs may be used because they fit in with certain grammatical patterns, or to fit in with a topic o thematic category. We can allow the students to choose the song they prefer. The advantages of it are that the topic will hold greater value, responsibility, reduces the time of preparation and it creates a warmer atmosphere.
3. How to Use Songs in Foreign Language Teaching
Songs are useful for practising new grammatical patterns or vocabulary once they have been presented. These songs can be sung by the whole class, in groups, etc. Songs are particularly good for practising pronunciation, both the segmental and the suprasegmental features.
It is also very helpful for learning new vocabulary, specially through action songs and role-play songs. Besides, songs can also give you information about the culture of the country where the song comes from, and learn from it.
Songs can be used for teaching and learning pronunciation, vocabulary and culture. Furthermore, we can work more skills by making a class book of favourite songs or rhymes. At the same time, listening and reading activities based on the oral or written text of a song can also be done.