Do you like listening to music? Do you like going to concerts? Do you like singing in the shower? All these things can help you improve your English skills, specially listening and speaking.
Listening is the most obvious since that is what you are doing: listening to the music. But if you have no idea what the song is about, you will never improve. Songs are usually short and repetitive, so they are ideal language bites that you can handle better than a film or a TV show. By singing along, you let yourself experiment at the same time as you have fun. It is a great way to practice your speaking and feel safe. And eventually try your skills at karaoke night.
As I have mentioned in other post about listening, there are many things that can go wrong when you listen to something, which can be summarized into “whatever is new and or unexpected“. It could be a new or unexpected grammar item, complex, unfamiliar vocabulary or an accent you have not been exposed to. Many of these things could happen to you occasionally in your own language – it happened to me on a trip to Seville years ago. In any case, none of those problems are related with your ability to discriminate words or even sounds. They just make it harder. If it is new, you can not possibly understand it.
Songs, specially pop music are a controlled territory, a sandbox where you can play. In the old times we swapped photocopies of the lyrics. However, now there are lots of online resources. But beware, more often than I would like, those lyrics have been uploaded by fans and their listening skills can not be trusted. Even if they are native speakers. Why?
Because they have their own problems with grammar, vocabulary and spelling, and unless they take the trouble to check things… and you know, nobody likes to admit that they have to improve their spelling or their grammar in their own language! That’s why grammarly and similar services thrive.
So provided you got the lyrics right, you kill several birds with the same stone:
- you learn some new vocabulary and expressions but without being overwhelmed.
- you are going to listen to the songs you like many times… repetition is good practice.
- you may probably learn new cultural aspects.
Other useful resources you may need to use are genius and urban dictionary. These two are very useful: genius is a database of song lyrics. Those with a green tick sign have been verified. The others… up to you! Urban dictionary, like genius, is a collaborative platform in this case people upload definitions and explanations, as well as examples of slang terms and expressions (which may well be what you were not understanding in the lyrics). Careful with the definitions, sometimes they are not very scientific.
A warning: these days in commercial hip-hop music and other types, they include commercial brand names (drinks, clothing, fast cars…) in the lyrics (and you can see them in the music videos). That is product placement, just like the breakfast room in “Médico de familia” where all possible brands were visible, even on the calendar on the wall.