This article presents the role and importance of using songs to teach integrated skills in ESP classes. Common expressions, everyday language, descriptive words and metaphors are all part of the English language and can be found in almost all song lyrics. Through the music and lyrics, students learn about other cultures. Connection to other disciplines such as art, history, environment, economics and others, broadens opportunity of learning English and leads to implement it for ESP students to enhance their language skills through the songs. Moreover, in teaching language through the songs, all integrated skills can be used at the same time.
Key words: song, music, teaching, authentic material, ESP classes, integrated skills.
There are lots of resources available to English language teachers today: from textbooks to online teaching tools, they can all aid and enrich English lessons. Many teachers also introduce authentic English material into their lessons to expose learners to the language as it is spoken in the real world.
Authentic material is any material written in English that was not created for intentional use in the English language classroom. Using this content to teach the English language can make the learning process even more engaging, imaginative and motivating for students. It can also be useful to elicit genuine responses from learners.
The great thing about using authentic material is that it is everywhere, which makes it easy to find, and simple for learners to practise English in their own time. Remember that it isn’t limited to articles from newspapers and magazines. Songs, TV programmes and films, radio and podcasts, leaflets, menus — anything written in English constitutes authentic material.
Selecting authentic material
The best content to select depends on the learners, their level of English and the course content the teacher wishes to focus on. It’s also a good idea to find out the learners’ interests — after all, there’s no point trying to get students fascinated by a text on the latest science-fiction movie if they’re all fans of action films.
The materials should reflect a situation that learners may face in an English-speaking environment — this will help them transition into a world where English is the norm. In this world, people use abbreviations, body language is important and they’ll use “filler” sounds — such as “ummm” — when they are speaking English — and learners will encounter these in authentic material.
It’s important not to overwhelm learners with the first piece of authentic material. So to begin with, choose articles, songs or sections of TV programmes or movies which aren’t too difficult to understand or take too long to get through.
Songs: recognising English lyric
Listening to songs with English lyrics is a great way of boosting skills in listening and pronunciation, and confidence in using the language. And students will always respond positively to a lesson that involves their favourite singer or bands.
Ask your learners to write down their favourite artist and a song by them that they like and have listened to a few times. They can then try to remember the lyrics, or look at the video on YouTube — they only need to write down a few lines of the song.
Then ask them to really listen to the lyrics for useful vocabulary, phrases and expressions for everyday language that includes colloquial speech. The language used in lyrics can be casual, tell a simple story or convey strong emotions, which should help learners to establish a connection with the language because it will give them new ways to describe their feelings in different situations. You could even ask them to come up with alternative words, as a way of further increasing and using their vocabulary.
Some song lyrics are commonly misheard, so you could create a quiz in which learners have to choose the next words — words that grammatically fit into the lyrics. This can be a funny lesson — for you as well as your students!
A song is a piece of music with words that is sung. Song is also a great language package that bundles culture, vocabulary, listening, grammar and a host of other language skills in just a few rhymes. Songs can also provide a relaxed lesson. They can also form the basis for many lessons.
The example of authentic listening materials is listening to song to learn more about well-known bands that sing in English. As we know wherever we are, songs always follow us at home, at office, at cars, and so on. So, we can directly listen to the song and also interest to learn the value of language in it. When designing lessons and teaching materials to further develop listening comprehension skills, students need to be motivated and stay motivated. This is best accomplished by determining the suitable of the listening material such as the use of song as authentic material. The use of song stimulates and motivates students to comprehend the content of materials.
Songs have many value of language. It is possible to suggest that among the methodological purposes with songs used in class, it is possible to rank the following: Practicing the rhythm, stress and the intonation patterns of the English language. Teaching vocabulary and grammar. Developing listening comprehension, writing skills, and speaking. For this last purpose, songs and mainly their lyrics are employed as a stimulus for class discussion.
Skills developed by using songs in ESP classes
Because songs are a natural part of our lives, as already mentioned above, we should keep such an approach to them also in the classroom.
Lyrics can represent an extensive source of vocabulary and grammar, and can also work as an excellent theme for discussion. Teachers can use lyrics in their classes in various ways.
Murphy lists several things we usually do with music in our everyday life. Among these are:
– Sing, hum, whistle, tap and snap fingers while we listen
– Talk about the music, lyrics, singer / group, video clips
– Use songs and music to set or change an atmosphere or mood, as «background furnishing»(Murphy, 1992:9)
He also emphasizes that anything we normally do with a song in everyday life, we can do in the classroom, too. And even more, such as:
– Study grammar, vocabulary
– Practise selective listening comprehension
– Translate songs
– Do role-plays
– Practise pronunciation, intonation, and stress
– Teach culture [Murphey, Tim, 1992. Music and song. Oxford: Oxford University Press]
Using songs in foreign language teaching does not only develop listening skills as many people mistakenly suppose. Students can practise all four skills. Besides listening, it can also be reading, speaking, and writing and it depends entirely on the teacher's approach which activities he or she emphasises.
However, I would like to mention that it is crucial to remember that all of these four skills are interconnected and it is very hard to say about an activity that it practises only one specific skill and it completely neglects the others. Therefore, even though I will divide the activities into these four categories according to skills, trying to emphasize the main skill being developed, it definitely does not mean that the activity develops strictly only this skill. Together with this, I will also try to mention the other skills developed by these activities as well as to suggest different variations of the activities that can completely change their nature and so the skill developed.
Also, I would like to point out that activities mentioned in this article do not cover all the possible activities that can be done with songs in English classes. They just represent a selection of ideas taken from mentioned and cited books or my own ideas.
There are various ways of using songs in the classroom. The level of the students, the interests and the age of the learners, the grammar point to be studied, and the song itself have determinant roles on the procedure. Apart from them, it mainly depends on the creativity of the teacher. Teaching English with using songs is something thrilling to our ESP students. Choosing and planning relevant materials as well as understanding the field of the students are an essential part of professional English or ESP teaching.
Sometimes the reasons for including music in teaching are not necessarily directly related to the language or cultural issues related to it. As already stated for several times, music seems to have many positive effects from a psychological point of view as well. For example, scolars state that “music makes people more positive, more aroused and more present-minded.” This in mind, one could suggest that music could sometimes be used in language classrooms in its own right, without any specific pedagogical aim related to the subject matter being taught and learned. The working environment in classrooms should be motivating and positive, which, of course, depends on several things. In any case, music could be one tool for increasing these positive experiences in language classrooms.
Procedure of any listening activity can be done by activating prior knowledge, helping students organize their learning by thinking about their purposes for listening. In the lesson song can be used to develop all six skills. Through learning the song students use reading, listening, writing and speaking. That brings not only to enhancing their listening skills but also all the other integrated skills.
- Murphey, Tim, 1992. Music and song. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- How Music Helps Language Learning: Farrug, D.; 2008; Language Study Suite 101.com
- Hatch, Evelyn Marcussen — Brown, Cheryl, 1995. Vocabulary, Semantics, and Language Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.