Richard-Business Eng
Professional Teacher
Learning English from songs and movies may not be so helpful...
My Opinion...

I honestly believe that learning a language from songs or movies may not be as helpful as some people think and suggest.
Once a person reaches an advanced level they will be able to identify the poor grammar and slang in songs, so at that point listening to songs may be enjoyable, but the listener will not be influenced negatively by the poor language used in the lyrics of the songs.

Here's why, in my opinion (IMO), songs and movies may not be beneficial:

1 Songs and movies contain a lot of slang.
But knowing slang is not as important as learning proper vocabulary and good grammar.

2 Songs and movies also use a lot of idioms and colloquial expressions, which is fine if you
plan to live in the country where the song or movie originates. If not, then why waste time learning
these phrases that you’ll never use or might even misuse.

3 Songs are a little like poetry; the words (lyrics) don't always make sense, and are usually not constructed
in a grammatically correct manner.
Don't believe me? Check out the lyrics from the songs below:

"Ridin' on a horse, ha
You can whip your Porsche
I been in the valley
You ain't been up off that porch, now
Can't nobody tell me nothin'
You can't tell me nothin'"

My personal comment: "What the _______? ... :)


4 People often misinterpret/misunderstand the lyrics in songs. Check it out for yourself:

Song Title: Dancing Queen, ABBA
Misinterpreted lyrics: Dancing Queen, feel the beat from the tangerine
Actual lyrics: "Dancing queen, feel the beat from the tambourine."


Song Title: We Will Rock You, Queen
Misinterpreted lyrics: Kickin' your cat all over the place
Actual lyrics: "Kicking your can all over the place"


Song Title: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Iron Butterfly
Misinterpreted lyrics: In the garden of Eden, honey 
Actual lyrics: In a gadda da vida, honey


Song Title: Chasing Pavements, Adele
Misinterpreted lyrics: Or should I just keep chasing penguins
Actual lyrics: "Or should I just keep chasing pavements"


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Want to see more misinterpreted song lyrics? Go to:  


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What's your opinion?
Is learning a language from songs and movies a productive technique?
What has been your English-learning experience watching movies or listening to songs?

Jun 24, 2020 4:05 PM
Comments · 46
I guess I have to be the token contrarian. 

I disagree with pretty much all of that. It seems like all of those problems can be avoided if the student has a teacher or tutor that explains that certain expressions are slang and that they shouldn’t be used in formal settings. 

I also think it is important to know slang and informal expressions since a learner is more likely to come across those words than many words found in the typical work of literature or an academic journal.

With that said, here are reasons why you should use songs to help learn a language

<ol><li>It is a fun, easy way to maintain exposure to the language.</li><li>You can learn slang and informal expressions that you won't learn in a textbook but are important to know to sound more native-like.</li><li>By learning the song lyrics, it is effective way to learn and memorize new vocabulary.</li><li>By singing along with lyrics, you can learn to speak faster.</li><li>It can help you improve your pronunciation and learn how words are pronounced.</li><li>Music is an important part of a culture.</li><li>Shared music interests are an easy way to build rapport with a native speaker.</li><li>Listening to music is a fun activity and helps prevent boredom when studying a language.</li></ol>

Music shouldn’t be your only resource, but I would say it is a helpful supplement and the benefits outweigh the downsides.

June 24, 2020
Some more thoughts on the topic from a discussion started by Richard last year:


I must say I still feel the same way about it.
June 24, 2020
I disagree with you, for precisely the same reasons you provided above. I think it is important to learn slang, colloquial expressions, and poetic language in order to have a well rounded skill set in your language. Otherwise, you're only preparing yourself for formal situations, and when you meet somebody in real life that you need to communicate with, you might not be able to do so.

Additionally, in my second year of learning Spanish, I realized my listening skills were lagging, so I started watching TV shows, which are ultimately just hours of dialogue that you get to listen in on. Within a single semester, my teacher noticed I had made a huge improvement and asked me if I was getting tutored or doing a course outside of school, and I told him I was just watching shows. He agreed that it was a great way to get listening practice, as well as learning how to converse with people in a way that often school teachers will overlook and neglect to teach you.

Now of course, it is also important as a student to recognize what is considered formal language and what isn't, but generally speaking, based on the type of media you're reading or listening to, you can predict if the term is formal or informal. If you're not sure, you can always look it up or ask on italki.
June 24, 2020
"Learning English from songs and movies may not be so helpful..."
Welp, I guess I don't know any English at all since I learned it from songs, cartoons, and movies, I'll go take back my CAE certificate then :(

In all seriousness though, I agree with Ernest. I didn't have a teacher or a tutor, I just knew to be careful with slang and nonstandard grammar. Also, the greatest benefit of learning English from songs/cartoons/movies is constantly practicing your listening skills, which is an aspect often overlooked in public schools, for example.
June 25, 2020
To add to my last comment, completing workbook exercises and classroom assignments can sometimes get very boring and tedious. Becoming engrossed in a good TV show or a catchy song in your target language can be a great way to maintain interest in the language and also practice it in a fun way.
June 24, 2020
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Richard-Business Eng
Language Skills
English, French
Learning Language