November 21


Language learning with fun: translating, listening & singing songs

By Laura Bacher

November 21, 2020

Which song do you like at the moment? Music is a fantastic way to learn a language – we guarantee great fun! We will explain to you how to proceed best.

1. Translate the song word by word into the native language (called decoding)

Decoding means “to decipher”. The tool for this is our mother tongue because we know it inside out. Write the WORD-BY-WORD TRANSLATION of the foreign words under the unfamiliar term. It is essential that you translate word for word. The result is a two-line text:

German: Hast du meine Nachricht bekommen?

Decoding: Did you my message get?

By decoding, you learn two things at the same time, which are learned independently in the conventional learning method:

  1. The meaning of each word (instead of cramming vocabulary)
  2. The sentence structure and the use of the words in the foreign language, i.e., the grammar

You can find details on decoding here: Easy language learning with decoding, according to Vera F. Birkenbihl.

2. Listen to the song over and over again and read the created word-for-word translation

This exercise is called karaoke listening—you listen to the song and read the native language. Repeat this until you understand the words. After a few short karaoke listening sessions, you will experience considerable progress and soon be familiar with the new language.

3. Sing along silently

Now you read or sing along with the foreign language text; you already understand it. In the beginning, however, do this only in your head. Your brain needs a little more time to create the nerve tracts it needs for independent speech. If you start speaking too early, you risk a “foreigner accent”, which is challenging to get out of your head afterward.

4. Sing along loudly

After a few repetitions, you will know the lyrics by heart. Now hum or sing along – loud or soft, in the car or the shower. We call this exercise choir speaking or choir singing. When you speak along and repeat, your brain automatically compares the native speaker’s pronunciation with yours and can almost completely compensate for the differences, entirely automatically. The more often you do the exercise, the better your accent will be.

5. Background listening

From the beginning, you can listen to the song in a continuous loop. If this is too much for you, integrate the piece into your playlist. Listen to it a few times a day (and in the best case also at night).

Do some routine work while listening to background music. While listening, the words and sounds are slowly transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory, and you develop a good feeling for the new language. Passive listening does not require any additional studying time. It is a simple and super easy process – like a mini vacation. The more you passively hear, the faster you will master speaking.

Laura Bacher

About the author

Laura has been a big fan of foreign languages since her childhood. She grew up bilingual - English and German - and through international vacations, she got a taste of many other languages.

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