In the first post Learn a new language with a song we were talking about the advantages of singing as a method of studying a foreign language. Besides the fact that songs are original products of the culture you wish to learn, and the fact that they evoke pleasant emotions on your part, we pointed out how a song’s structure – rhyme and rhythm – helps us master the difficult art of correct pronunciation.
I just came across an interesting study on how singing helps patients after stroke to start speaking again. Research showed that while singing and speech are processed by different areas of the brain, one can influence the other in terms of improved breath control, concentration, and speech production.
So there is hope for us as well! Ok, in Part 1 I asked you to prepare the songs you wish to study and to find their original lyrics and translations. Now all you need is TIME to practice .
Guide to improving your pronunciation with a song – step by step
First, listen to the song. What emotions do you get from it? Do you like it? What does it remind you of? Try to match the song to some personal experience. If you are having trouble here, you can start with reading the lyrics’ translation – what is the song about? Love troubles? Happy summer days? Some disturbing memory? Anger and jealousy? Can you relate to these emotions?
Once we created an emotional link to the song, we can focus on the contents.
Read the translation. Which part is the chorus? Is it a story narrated over time or is it more like loose observations? Would you use the phrases from the song in everyday life? Listen to the song a few times and try to follow the lyrics while looking at the translation. Can you tell which part of the song corresponds to which content?
You can repeat each part of the exercise as many times as you feel necessary, it is important though to follow the correct order. So first listen to the song, then listen to it while looking at the translation, and only then move on to Step 3.
Listen to the song and read the original lyrics. See? At this point you already know which bit of the text corresponds to which bit of the song, and you are already able to follow what the singer sings about.
Songs are great to study from, because you immediately hear how words are pronounced, where the accents fall and how the whole phrases follow their internal rhythm. So, very quickly you can now move on to Step 4.
Try to read the lyrics aloud, always checking if your pronunciation is close to the original. You can correct yourself easily, listening to the song bit by bit. Focus first on single words, remember to check if you put the accent on the correct syllable and notice the length of the syllables in a complete phrase.
Try to read the text fluently, with the same speed and rhythm as the singer – it does not mean that you need to sing it! No, just try to follow the singer and try to make it sound natural – you will need to check your breath’s length, otherwise you risk suffocating yourself in the process.
An example of a well-prepared material for Polish-Italian study:
It is best to repeat this part many times, till you feel comfortable with it. It may take hours or days, depending on how much time you can devote to the practice. But in the end, you should be able to sing along with the singer, most probably having learned the lyrics by heart. And this is the first scope of our exercise.
The second goal is to use the lyrics to study grammar and to learn new words. But this is the topic for another story. Keep tuned!