Learning through song made easy

The reason I started learning Italian was because of how much I loved the band “Dear Jack”, but little did I know that it would shape how I learned my third language. Here’s the four phases I used to hone my listening and speaking skills through song. […]
Stage One: Binge Listen
I gathered up six of my fav songs in Italian:

  • “Il mondo esplode” by Dear Jack
  • “Fatti Avanti Amore” by Nek
  • “Come in un film” by Moda
  • “Domani e un altro film” by Dear Jack
  • “Guerriero” by Marco Mengoni
  • “Una finestra tra le stelle” by Annalisa

Then, to make sure I really listened to them, I took all the music off my phone except these six songs. That meant that every lonely bus ride, each computer class, and any ringtone would be filled with the sweet sounds of Italian spoken right. After making them my only option, I listened to them ALL THE TIME. For this phase it’s important to pick songs you like—if I’d been stuck listening to flamenco music, I don’t think I would have gotten to stage two.

Stage Two: Sing Along
This one got pretty awkward sometimes. There were plenty of times when I thought I was alone on the bus, only to leave and realize I’d been serenading a third grader in Italian. Other times, I would be dancing and singing at the top of my lungs while cleaning my room or staying at home alone.
But this phase was critical to learning to speak Italian. I was only a week or two in to studying when I first started to sing, so I didn’t know what I was singing. But I did mimic the sounds. I’d hear a line of a song and it would hear it like this:

Tee nas cone dee den trow un mani i menso, mani i menso, cosa pay volee.
So that’s what I would sing. Little did I know that I was just mimicking Alessio Bernabei saying this:
Ti nascondi dentro un mare immenso, mare immenso, consapevole.
(You hide yourself away in an immense ocean, an immense ocean, aware.)

Obviously in week three I didn’t know how to say “aware”, “immense”, or “hide”. But by copying the sounds of the song, I learned how to say words I didn’t even know like a real Italian would.

Stage Three: Learn the Words
At some point, I had to know what I was singing. This was by far the best part of listening to the music! Lyrics that were just sounds strung together for me became words, and the words had such deep meaning. Jumbles of consonants and vowels suddenly became powerful words like “If a tear from an old sadness runs down your face, you laugh and say that it’s the rain.”

For my favorite songs, I wrote the words out line by line next to the English translation.

Stage Four: Google It
However, I didn’t memorize the English lyrics. At one point I knew what all the songs translated to, but now a lot of pieces have turned back into syllables and mush! During those parts, I listen carefully and pick out what I think is being said. Then I type it in to Google translate and see what happens! If the translation makes sense in the song, it’s a big win for my listening comprehension skills. If it’s some random phrase or not even a real word, I have to keep listening until I get it right.

Let’s recap the four steps:

  1. Listen!
  2. Sing!
  3. Translate!
  4. Re-translate!

Remember, you can’t understand everything in your native language music either. If someone told me to write down the lyrics to a Flo Rida song, I wouldn’t be able to do it even though it is in English. So cut yourself some slack when learning to listen in another language! It can be just as hard as your native.

****Disclaimer: I was just reading a post on Fluent in 3 Months, and a lot of our ideas are very similar on this topic. I promise everything I publish here is my own idea! The timing of our articles was just coincidental. Thanks!

Sydney Sauer • November 22, 2015

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