The best music for learning English is clear, lyrical, and catchy.
Listening to music is an excellent way to improve your English. So,falling asleep to English lyrics, in particular, is an ideal way to learn a new language. In fact, research from Switzerland’s University of Bern demonstrates you can learned new words during deep levels of sleep.
Music to help you learn English
My first suggestion is to encourage your students to learn English by listening to Disney soundtracks. If you’ve ever watched Encanto, you know how catchy those tunes can be.
Here are some other top Disney soundtracks your students will love.
Disney movie sounds tracks are often midfreqency music and mid frequency music is excellent for learning English. Singing songs in mid frequency tones activates your vagus nerve*. When you are calm and your vagus nerve is activated, you can learn more. “When we are in a place of safety and security, our voices sound different add we hear a wider range of tones, especially in human voices”. This creates a sense of calmness. Listening to midfrequency music opens up our middle ear muscles, which are the same muscles that are activated when we are in the happy place of social engagement. *
Try Lyrics Training
It is an especially helpful tool to connect with lower-level students. Many beginning English speakers know the lyrics to whole songs in English before they even completely understand the songs, which is excellent. This is how children learn languages, too. Music is a great immersive teacher.
To teach the lyrics to a class as a whole, you can use the website as a projector. Or, you can teach students individually using headphones. Get creative with it!
Best music with English lyrics by genre
Finally, I suggest guiding your students to lyric heavy music in the genre of their choice. Here are some of my top picks for each genre of music.
- Joni Mitchell: My first suggestion is to introduce your students to Joni Mitchell. She is a legendary singer-songwriter and her voice is unforgettable; this is crucial for learning English! Her evocative lyrics and distinct voice have shaped the folk and contemporary music landscape. With poetic prowess, she explores themes of love, nature, and introspection, leaving an indelible mark on generations of musicians and fans alike.
- Elliott Smith: Next, I suggest Elliott Smith. Known for his hauntingly beautiful melodies and candid lyrics, Elliott Smith was an influential figure in the indie and folk music scenes. His emotionally charged songs delved into themes of vulnerability, addiction, and self-reflection.
- Lisa Loeb: Lisa Loeb’s sweet and soulful voice has charmed audiences since her breakout hit “Stay (I Missed You).” As a talented singer-songwriter, she crafts heartfelt and relatable lyrics. She really captures the essence of personal relationships and emotions in her music.
- Taylor Swift: A global superstar and a musical force to be reckoned with, Taylor Swift has evolved from a country prodigy to a pop sensation. With her narrative-driven songwriting style, she has shared her journey of love, heartbreak, and self-discovery, resonating deeply with fans of all ages.
- Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes): Conor Oberst, the creative force behind Bright Eyes, is celebrated for his introspective and emotionally raw songwriting. With a distinctive voice, he explores themes of youth, angst, and societal issues, making his music a compelling and authentic reflection of the human experience.
- Phoebe Bridgers: Phoebe Bridgers has gained widespread acclaim for her introspective and atmospheric music. Her hauntingly beautiful songs explore themes of love, loss, and vulnerability, captivating listeners with her poetic storytelling and emotive vocals.
- Chris Stapleton: Chris Stapleton is known for his soulful voice and exceptional songwriting skills. His songs often delve into personal experiences and emotions, making them lyrically powerful and relatable.
- Jason Isbell: As a former member of the band Drive-By Truckers and a successful solo artist, Jason Isbell’s music is praised for its thought-provoking lyrics and storytelling. He tackles various themes, including love, addiction, and societal issues.
- Miranda Lambert: With her strong and emotive voice, Miranda Lambert is a celebrated artist known for her emotionally charged and introspective lyrics. Many of her songs reflect her personal journey and experiences.
- Kacey Musgraves: Kacey Musgraves gained widespread acclaim for her album “Golden Hour,” which features poetic and introspective lyrics that explore themes of love, life, and self-discovery.
- Sturgill Simpson: Sturgill Simpson’s music blends traditional country with elements of rock and soul. His lyrics often touch on philosophical and existential themes.
- Ashley McBryde: Ashley McBryde is known for her gritty and honest storytelling in her songs, tackling topics like small-town life, family, and personal struggles.
- Jamey Johnson: Jamey Johnson’s music is deeply rooted in traditional country, and his heartfelt lyrics often explore themes of love, loss, and redemption.
- Lori McKenna: A talented singer-songwriter, Lori McKenna has written numerous hits for other country stars. Her own music is characterized by its heartfelt and relatable lyrics.
Yes, rap can help you learn English. Here are some artists that craft intelligent lyrics that could help you improve your conversational language skills.
- Aesop Rock: Aesop Rock is a well-known rapper in underground hip-hop. He is praised for his detailed storytelling through lyrics that create vivid pictures and imaginative stories.
- The Pharcyde: The Pharcyde is a hip-hop group from the early ’90s, famous for their fun and original lyrics set to jazzy and soulful beats.
- Wu-Tang Clan: Wu-Tang Clan is a historic hip-hop collective, famous for their raw and gritty lyrics about street life, often using martial arts themes. Many consider them trailblazers in rap, and their songs can challenge advanced English learners.
- The Roots: The Roots blend live instruments with thoughtful lyrics, addressing social issues, personal struggles, and city life. Listening to them can help advanced ESL students improve their English skills.
- NAS: NAS is a highly respected rapper, known for his poetic storytelling and vivid imagery. His songs explore topics like street life, urban struggles, and personal growth, making them useful for advanced English learners to practice language skills.
- Eyedea: Eyedea was a skilled rapper and poet, touching on complex emotions, mental health, and human experiences. His lyrics can expand the language skills of advanced ESL students.
- Sage Francis: Sage Francis is a passionate rapper who addresses societal issues, personal experiences, and the power of words through emotionally charged lyrics. Listening to his music can offer valuable language practice for advanced learners.
- There are lots of poop songs with witty, intelligent lyrics. The best music for learning English to is music that has easy, repetitive lyrics that are natural phrases that will stick in your mind and be easy for you to replicate. Pop music is perfect for this. Try listening to these pop stars:
- Taylor Swift: Taylor Swift is a global superstar. Audiences love her for her catchy pop melodies and deeply personal storytelling. She writes songs about her love life, heart break, and empowerment.
- Katy Perry: Known for her energetic performances and pop anthems, Katy Perry has become a pop icon. Her songs are very cheerful and upbeat. Most importantly, for your students, they are also catchy as hell!
- Madonna: Finally, Madonna doesn’t even need a blurb! Your students will already recognize her hits. This is extra helpful for their English learning. You can use her songs for beginner students, as long as they are adults. Her music isn’t always appropriate for children.
- Prince: Similarly, Prince is not only a musical genius but his songs will likely be familiar to your students. This means his music is ideal for beginner and intermediate ESL learners.
Encourage students to listen to music in their sleep to learn English
You might be familiar with the idea that listening to a language while you sleep can help you learn it. Your brain establishes links between words in two languages while you’re asleep. so it is a great idea to listen to music with lots of English lyrics while you sleep. Listen to music with lots of English lyrics as you fall asleep and watch your English skills expand considerably!
More tips to create English Immersion
Also, I suggest the following to keep learning English further.
- Audiobooks. Be sure to listen and read along with the captions. There are some great free youtube channels, like Learn English Through Stories, with books you can read and speak along to.
- Talk to people online. Consider signing up for online video gaming or Discords or Reddit groups that interest you. This way, you can practice writing and chat in English in a casual, recurring setting. Also, for more structured practice, sign up for Cambly for some speaking practice. It is the cheapest way to practice conversational English.
- Read out loud. The Project Gutenberg texts are free and you can read them out loud to improve your grammar.
*As noted in, “How to do the work” on page 102
* citation (Porges, S. (2007). The polyvaagal perspective. Biological Psychology, 74.
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