Learning Songs To Stay Motivated In Language Learning

I had a bit of free time this afternoon so I decided to sit down and record a song in Cantonese.

I discovered this song – 愛是永恆 – some time ago and really loved it.

You can find the lyrics here.

Learning songs perhaps isn’t an immediately obvious language learning activity, but I’ve found it to be one of my favourites.

Above all, I think what happens is that it endears you to the language more than almost anything else you can do.

You find a song you like…

You learn the lyrics…

And you sing!

Apart from being pretty cool, there are naturally lots of benefits:

  • You learn new vocabulary
  • You refine your pronunciation
  • You improve your comprehension (thanks to listening intently to the lyrics)
  • You get a new party trick

How to learn songs in a foreign language

To be honest, it can definitely take some time to commit a song to memory.

A lot of repetition is required to get the lyrics into your head, and practising the performance itself can take just as much work as memorising the words!

Sometimes people ask if they need to know what the words mean… and the answer is yes!

I’ve learnt songs before without learning the meaning of what I was singing, and I regretted it.

It’s a huge wasted opportunity to spend all that time memorising something, only to not be able to use anything you’ve learnt in conversation. Apart from anything, the time it takes to learn the meaning of the lyrics is probably only 5% of the total work of learning a song — so it’s definitely worth it.

In terms of how to memorise a song, I wrote a detailed post here.

So, can I set you a little challenge?

I’m sure you have a favourite song in the language you’re learning, so why not take some time to learn it? Apart from anything, it’ll give you a nice break from your regular routine, and I guarantee you’ll get some newfound motivation!

Good luck, and post the video here in the comments where you’re done 🙂

Steal my weird trick for memorising words Faster

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This article was written by Olly Richards.

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  • Victoria Minnear

    I love learning songs! I’ve learned quite a few Russian songs, and it’s great because they contain words I had trouble remembering, and now there’s no way I’ll forget. It also makes it easier to notice the kind of sounds that are difficult to distinguish to an English ear. I’m sure it must drive my family mad though, listening to me singing, and in a foreign language no less!

    It’s also good to listen back occasionally and focus to make sure you can still understand what all the words mean because singing along on automatic isn’t the same as revision. And a fun exercise is to write the lyrics down yourself once you’ve learned the song, to make sure you really know it.

    • That’s a cool idea – I’ll try that. One thing I’m also going to do now is learn to write the lyrics of this particular song in Chinese characters. That’ll hopefully be a fun and meaningful way to learn to write!