Learning a Foreign Language – A New Approach Using Foreign Songs

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During the long history of mankind, a song was always a kind of technique, which helped people to transmit knowledge, wisdom and information from one generation to another. For the peoples, who had no written language, their songs constituted a valuable part of the oral tradition. The messages of the oral tradition may take different forms. For example, it may be folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants. Even nowadays, a song helps to preserve the national identity of numerically small peoples, who have no national writing systems.

Often a song may transmit the precise information of human activities. The well-known example of this fact is a work song. There are many types of work songs: agricultural work songs, industrial folk songs, sea shanties, cowboy songs, African American work songs and others. Often work songs conveyed the information about skills that can be learned by anyone through singing. The songs took their rhythms from the work being done and helped people working together.

Why did people employ songs for transmitting the information through generations?

The answer is obvious – people had no alternative technique for transmitting verbal information without altering its text. Only songs can save the integrity of verbal information while passing from generation to generation. The opportunity that a song can be changed haphazardly is very low, because any unintentional alteration in the text of lyrics violates the rules, in accordance with which any particular song has been written.

What can be considered as the purpose of a song nowadays?

There are different points of view about the purpose of a song. My point of view is that a song provides the best way for the memorization of oral information, and a song is a means of coding the information for humans. A song can help us in

  • memorizing oral information,
  • keeping the information for a long time,
  • passing the information to another person.

How songs can help us in learning a foreign language?

Most self-learners face the problem — how to memorize and always keep in their memory the active vocabulary of a foreign language, while they are in the English-speaking environment. Under these heavy conditions only songs can come to learner’s help. Only songs can be memorized by people and kept in their minds for years, or even through their lives.

What are the major problems in learning foreign songs?

Well, there are a number of problems, which the learners may encounter with. For example, the voice of a singer might be recognized with difficulties. Poor phonetics of the learners can result in difficulties with correct singing. But, perhaps, the most severe problem is that lyrics can have no definite translation. As a matter of fact, the translation of lyrics is almost useless for learning purposes. The learner of a foreign language needs to know about the message of lyrics and the language means with which the lyrics were written. Also, the learner needs to know about imagery, which often constitute the basis of lyrics.

Is there any method of linguistic analysis of foreign poetry, or lyrics?

Until recently, there was no such a technique, but nowadays you can enjoy the newly developed technique — the Linguistic Teaching Decomposition (LD) method. The method is the multilevel analysis of foreign lyrics, or poetry. The purpose of the LD method is in training for the direct perception of foreign lyrics (without any assistant language). For the first time, the application of this method to the Russian language has been presented in the Via Songs to Russian (VStoR) software. The application presents you with the complete information about the message of Russian lyrics and linguistic means, with which the lyrics were written, as well as other useful information.