Sunday, 4 July 2010

Songs don't help me learn languages

The video above nicely illustrates the point I trying to make in this post, although from a program for small children it is quite funny.
So far songs don't seem to help me learn languages, nor do poems. I have found stories and jokes far more useful for learning Chinese so far and expect to find the same for learning Thai. I have been listening to and recording some Thai radio and over the last few days and have listened to quite a lot of songs, although I can identify a fair few words, they don't sound the same as in conversation so I can't use them as references for speaking.

One problem with songs is that they often use non-standard language and pronunciation particularly in tonal languages (which is possibly why I don't get on with them for learning). When I listen to English songs they don't usually seem to be very useful references for foreign language learners. Another problem for me at least is that although I can often remember a song quite quickly to the extent of being able to sing it (badly) I don't have ownership of the language to be able to use it elsewhere.

I can understand people enjoying songs and using them for study, maybe it is just I pick the wrong ones? In Chinese I gravitated towards punk and rock music and quite liked Shanghai rap (being in Shanghainese not much use for learning Mandarin). Possibly some kinds of folk songs make better learning material.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree that songs are not helpful for language learning. If learners want to listen to them for entertainment, that's fine. But songs cannot be counted towards hours spent learning the language. The prosody of spoken language is not found in songs and prosody is most important.