English Songs are an Effective Learning Tool for Learning English Vocabulary, says Pusan National University Researcher

BUSAN, South Korea, Jan. 26, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Music is often considered a universal language, as it crosses language barriers and connects people all over the world with ease. In fact, songs are popularly used in foreign language classrooms as a means to expose students to authentic content in the language being taught. Many educators swear by the memorability and motivational qualities of English songs, and evidence also suggests that English songs offer relatable, meaningful, and contextualized content to students, and help them unwind and relax. Since the language used in these songs is comprehensible and conversational, it becomes easier to grasp. As well, students tend to listen to English songs repeatedly, which helps them learn vocabulary faster.

However, a limitation of the existing research is that it is scattered across different publications. Moreover, it is difficult to find any single empirical study that convincingly proves the efficacy of English songs for L2 English vocabulary learning.

To address this gap in the existing research, Dr. Dennis Murphy Odo, an Associate Professor at Pusan National University, South Korea, conducted a quantitative meta-analysis to examine the effect that teaching with English songs has on L2 vocabulary learning in second and foreign language classrooms.
For this study, which was recently published in Language, Culture and Curriculum, Dr. Murphy Odo extracted data from 27 well-designed research investigations—comprising 28 studies and 1,864 participants—published between 1990 and 2020. Upon defining the study characteristics and effect sizes, he analyzed the data using a random-effects model.

The findings were highly encouraging, revealing that learners who received instruction through English songs outperformed other learners by learning more L2 English vocabulary. Interestingly, songs from the pop music genre were found to be more effective at promoting L2 vocabulary than textbook songs. The appeal of pop songs might be attributed to their quality of music and their relatability to the audience.

Dr. Murphy Odo also observed that students benefit most upon listening to English songs for neither too long nor too short of a duration of instruction (in the study, this is defined as being between 199 and 600 minutes).

"English teachers can now feel more confident about using songs as a complementary instructional strategy to improve their students’ English L2 vocabulary learning", explains Dr. Odo, while discussing how the findings can help students and teachers in the long run.

Dr. Murphy Odo’s findings also showed that speakers of Sino-Tibetan languages (e.g., Mandarin Chinese) struggled the most to understand English songs, which may be due to the considerable linguistic difference between Sino-Tibetan languages and English. Moreover, songs were found to be more effective for adult learners than for children, which can be attributed to adults’ higher ability to comprehend songs and greater overall background knowledge.

"These results will encourage teachers to use songs not just as a fun activity to fill time in their lessons, but also as a helpful way to reinforce learners’ knowledge of new vocabulary in English. This work can give language teachers and learners confidence that using songs in the second or foreign language learning classroom will help them to learn English vocabulary more effectively," comments Dr. Murphy Odo, summarizing the long-term implications of his work.


Title of original paper: Examining the influence of English songs on English L2 lexical learning: a quantitative meta-analytic review

Journal: Language, Culture and Curriculum

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/07908318.2021.2022684 
*Corresponding author’s email:

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Na-hyun Lee
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SOURCE Pusan National University