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Using Songs and Music to learn English

Using Songs and Music to learn English

Date: Feb 11 2012

Topic: Listening

Author: englishteacher24/7


Listening to the lyrics in songs can accelerate your learning of recognizing words, phrases, and the mood of singers in a natural setting.  It also can assist you in learning how to pronunciate words by singing karaoke style.

Therefore, I plan to post songs that are easy or challenging to understand.  The songs will be posted in my "Relaxation Lounge" on my profile page.  For those of you who are not able to access the lounge, please find the lesson song on the internet and read the lyrics that will be provided in the lesson.  Have fun learning English through song lyrics!


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Russian Federation

09:59 AM Mar 12 2016 |

1 person likes this


United States

Hello Samineh, good point.

Let’s go into detail with this song to help you and others. First let me say that the singer’s pace is about normal and many people speak a lot faster than this.

Therefore, it is necessary to master understanding what the singer is saying; otherwise, you are likely not to understand a fluent speaker.

The key to mastering this song is the same method as, “How to do eat an elephant?” The answer: “One bite at a time!” 

Let’s apply it to the song:

1. The first 9 words of the song are: “The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down”

2. Play the first part of the song over and over and over until you recognize these 9 words.

Please note: When you listen to speakers or singers, sometimes the words will run together into the next word and each word may not be pronounced distinctly. This is the reason for spending time to practice listening.

3. As you listen to the 9 words, understand that the meaning is: The tale was told down through the years from the Chippewa (American Indian Tribe) including many others…

In answer to your question “is it useful for me to listen?” Yes, because the pace of this song is not fast and if you don’t master following along with it, you may be left with good written English skills but have difficulty to understand spoken English.

Try this and see if there is improvement in recognizing the words.

01:47 AM Mar 12 2016 |



Iran, Islamic Republic Of

hi dear teacher

i know that listening to song will improve our english skills but what if we dont undrestand the song, i mean i myself cant distinguish the words, wht the singer is saying ,,you know for me the singers sing too fast to undrestand wht they sayy.. still is it useful for me to listen?



11:54 AM Mar 09 2016 |


United States

Listening to songs to learn English engages our mind on many levels; that is, hearing, visual, comprehension, memory, vocabulary, etc.

There are other song lessons that you may want to study and review the comments. The previous songs were:

1. Song Lesson No. 1 – “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” by Stevie Wonder posted on 2/11/12

2. Song Lesson No. 2 – “I’ll Always Love You” by Whitney Houston posted on 3/24/12

3. Song Lesson No. 3 – “You Beat Me to the Punch” by Mary Wells  posted on 8/2/12

4. Song Lesson No. 4 – “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot posted on 1/22/16

The most effective method is to go through the song lesson and try to understand the song before reading the interpretation.

05:32 PM Mar 07 2016 |



Russian Federation

I pee on you.all.

11:04 AM Mar 07 2016 |


United States

Welcome back LaPrinces,

Even though you were missed during the lesson, it’s not too late. The main goal is to be able to listen to the song and fully understand it instantaneously (after having read the answers). If you can do this it means that you were able to recognize the words and how they are pronounced. Keep listening to it until you have achieved this goal.

In case you didn’t know it, I posted the next part of my autobiography in the Culture Forum, here is the link:


Thanks for your feedback, nice weekend to all!

10:29 PM Mar 05 2016 |

La Princesse de la vie


Hello, Mr. Alston,

I’d like to thank you for this creative way to encourage us to delve more into the learning process. You’re not only suggesting that hearing songs is a good way to enhance our learning, but you’re also engaging us in the process and providing us with quizzes so we can put every tip into practice immediately. It’s obvious how effortful and time-consuming doing that. So I’d like to express my gratefulness and appreciation for the hundredth time to you :)

I’m so sad I missed the The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald challenge, but it will be the last to miss.

My regards, Mr. Alston

07:14 PM Mar 05 2016 |


United States

WobblyJoe thanks for your good advice concerning additional updated information on the Edmund Fitzgerald. Your input is always welcomed, not only for the sake of the readers but for me as well.

Somy, thanks for your participation and good contribution along with Justina and Najlaspace. Hopefully the time invested in research returned a good return for your investment of time in advancing your English.



10:13 AM Feb 25 2016 |



United States

With that, I’d like to encourage everyone to look up the Edmund Fitzgerald online.  The wreck has been located and explored, and some of the questions asked in the song have been answered.

05:40 PM Feb 24 2016 |


United States

Well, Somy has come through and correctly answered the questions to sections 6/7 of the song, therefore her answers will stand.  Nevertheless, I’ll answer the last question which is re-stated:

Section 7 Question

1. What is the meaning of the lyric: “Superior they said never gives up her dead when the gales of November come early?”

Answer: The legend of Lake Superior is that when those persons who perish during the treacherous early winds of November, their bodies are never recovered (never gives up (releases) her dead.) 

This concludes the lesson on analyzing the song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” I hope you received some benefit from it.

The purpose was to give you an opportunity to listen to English words set in a song and trains your ears to recognize the words.  The lyrics were to be used to cross-check yourself to confirm your comprehension of pronunciation and to search out the answers to the questions.

Using songs to understand English is an effective method to acquire English. If you enjoyed this study method, I invite you to read some previous song lessons in my on my “Using Songs and Music to Learn English” forum on my profile page or any song you choose from the internet using this lesson as an example.

http://englishbaby.com/findfriends/gallery/detail/1207903 (profile page)

Finally, for those of you who wanted to read the conclusion of my autobiography “Growing up in the U.S.” please stay tuned while I complete the writing.

If you missed reading my autobiography, it’s found in the Culture Forum on my profile page, but here’s the link, please scroll down to February 21, 2015 for the beginning:


Well, that’s it for now; thanks to all who contributed to the forum. Let’s all have fun while we learn English together.

04:44 AM Feb 24 2016 |


United States

Lesson No. 4 – Section 5/6 Questions – Using Songs to Learn English:

These are the final questions to the song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

The beginning of the song lesson started on January 22, 2016

Section 6

1. What is the meaning of the lyric: “And farther below Lake Ontario, takes in what Lake Erie can send her?”

2. Do the mariners continue to travel Lake Superior even knowing how treacherous the winds of November can be?

Section 7

1. What is the meaning of the lyric: “Superior they said never gives up her dead when the gales of November come early?”

This concludes the questions analyzing this song. The answers will be provided after you’ve had an opportunity to try and answer them.

09:59 AM Feb 21 2016 |




I really like your phrase “use it or lose it”, I think this phrases we can use in the all life situations.

05:18 PM Feb 20 2016 |


United States

Thanks for your feedback and encouragement for other learners. Recently I spoke with a man from Germany who lives in the U.S., I asked him this question:

Do you think for an American to learn German is as difficult as a German to learn English?

He answered: “To speak fluent German you would have to learn at your mother’s knee. English is easy!” This man speaks fluent English with a slight German accent that sounds good.

He also mentioned that he has only met one American who spoke fluent German so well that you could not tell that he wasn’t a native German. Furthermore, the American was from the southern part of the U.S., this is significant because Southerners’ have a Southern accent.

From my experience writing and interacting with students and readers on this website (over 5 years), here is my assessment:

The overwhelming majority of people who are trying to learn English is handicapped by the fear factor of making a mistake, therefore will not use the knowledge they have.

As a result, there may be little to no advancement. If native speakers followed this method, we would not have learned to speak or write English.

I met another man from Mexico who spoke fluent English. I asked him:

“How long did it take you to learn English?”

He answered “6 months!” Then I asked him, “How did you learn to speak English in 6 months?”

He answered, “I started working in an American company where only English was spoken and no Spanish. I had to learn quickly the English words to get what I wanted or I couldn’t do my job.”

I realize that most people don’t have that type of environment to learn English. However, there is this website where lessons are posted almost everyday and only a very few people take the time to write in response to the lessons.

Even a beginning student can write a simple sentence such as, “I like it” or “I don’t like it.”

The learning process is simple, it’s the same for native speakers or non-native speakers. We all learn word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, until we build a vocabulary and gain experience to put it all together.

There is no magic formula, the final result is the old adage, “use it or lose it.”

Justina, thanks for your very helpful advice.




I want to thank you for your answer, it was really interesting to know the answer. Also I want to encourage all people to participate !!  Don’t give up on learning English

09:52 PM Feb 18 2016 |


United States

Lesson No. 4 – Section 4/5 Questions Analysis – Using Songs to Learn English:

Justina once again you’re doing pretty well with your answers. Let me weigh in and help you bring the plane in for a landing.

Section 4

Answer No. 1- At 7:00pm a main hatchway ”caved in.” A hatchway is an opening in a ship that leads to the storage area. “Caved in” means something collapsed. Therefore as Justina mentioned in her answer, the hatchway opened by the force of the water and the water started coming into the ship and started to sink it.

Answer No. 2 - The phrase “wired in” in this context means the captain contacted someone by radio to inform them that water was coming in and their good ship and crew was in trouble of sinking.

Answer No. 3 - The lyrics says the main hatchway caved in at 7:00pm, therefore the approximate time of the sinking of the ship was sometime after 7:00pm. In other words, whatever time it took for the rushing water to fill the ship and sink it. Before the wreck the old cook bid his farewell to his shipmates by telling them it was good to know them.

Section 5

Answer No. 1 - The rhetorical question: A rhetorical question is a question that doesn’t seek an answer to it but rather makes a point by asking it and causing a person to think about the message in the question.

In this case, the songwriter asks the rhetorical question: “Does anyone knows where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes into hours?” The meaning is that God has a reputation that He is a God of love.

There is a scripture verse that says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) 

Since God is love, this is the basis of the songwriter’s rhetorical question. It causes the audience to vicariously experience the crew’s final moments of life aboard the ship when the minutes seemed like hours during the going down of the ship.

Answer No. 2 - They were 15 miles away from Whitefish Bay.

This can be determined by the following lyric: 

“The searchers all say they’d made Whitefish Bay if they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.”

In other words, the people who went to search for them in the approximate area that they thought they sunk made the statement that “if they would have travelled just 15 more miles, they would have arrived at Whitefish Bay.”

The phrase ”made Whitefish Bay” means to have accomplished arriving at Whitefish Bay.

Answer No. 3 - Speculative reasons for the wreck means what guesses did the searchers make for why the ship sunk. Here are the speculative reasons from the lyrics:

They might have split up / they might have capsized / they may have broke deep and took water.

Notice that all of these speculative reasons contain the words “might” or “may.” In grammar these words are called “modal verbs” and they are used to express possibility.

Since none of the searchers could determine exactly what caused the shipwreck, they could only use modal verbs to talk about the cause of the wreck.

Answer No. 4 - There was no physical evidence of the shipwreck.

Answer No. 5 - The only wreckage remaining from this shipwreck was the names of the wives, the sons, and daughters who would live the remainder of their lives with the sorrow of losing their loved ones in the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Good job Justina.

Welcome Najlaspace and thanks for your feedback.

I want to encourage others to take this opportunity to write and develop your English skill.

The start of this song lesson was posted on January 22, 2016.

The final set of questions I hope to post by this weekend.

05:53 AM Feb 18 2016 |


Saudi Arabia

This type of question is very useful for learning

08:24 AM Feb 17 2016 |




Hello to everybody ! :) 

I was trying to answer… but the questions a really very sly. :)

Section 4

1. What happened at 7:00pm? Explain your answer.

“hatchway caved in” it’s means that hatchway opened and water penetrate inside.

2. What did the Captain do?

I was trying to look that means phrase “wired in” and I understood that captain was focus or concentration…

3. What was the approximate time of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?

My guess, it was dinner time, because afterwards come the late night.

The section 5 was more difficult for me, I don’t understood the third question..Name 3 speculative reasons for the wreck? I couldn’t find the name.

1. What is the rhetorical question in this section? What is the basis of it?

“Does anyone know where  the love of God goes”

2. How far was the ship from Whitefish Bay?

Fifteen miles away

3. Name 3 speculative reasons for the wreck.


4. Was there any physical evidence of the wreck, if so, what?

it’s not mentioned.

5. What wreckage remained of the ship?

Wreckage remains the names of the wives, the sons and the daughters.

07:51 PM Feb 16 2016 |


United States

Lesson No. 4- Sections 4/5 Questions – Using Songs to Learn English:

If you are just joining this lesson, please scroll down to January 22, 2016 for the beginning of the lesson.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald Questions:

Section 4

1. What happened at 7:00pm? Explain your answer.

2. What did the Captain do?

3. What was the approximate time of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?

Section 5

1. What is the rhetorical question in this section? What is the basis of it?

2. How far was the ship from Whitefish Bay?

3. Name 3 speculative reasons for the wreck.

4. Was there any physical evidence of the wreck, if so, what?

5. What wreckage remained of the ship?

07:21 AM Feb 14 2016 |




Hello, now I am understood the meanings of “personification”.I am waiting the next lesson to prove my understanding and reading skills! 

10:34 PM Feb 13 2016 |


United States

Hello Justina, and thank you for your kind words. You’ve done a superb job of answering the questions. Let’s discover how to answer Question No. 5 in Section No. 3 of the song. For the sake of those just joining this lesson, the lyrics of the song were posted on 1/22/16; here is the question:

Question No. 5: In section 3, which lyric uses personification?

Somy has answered it; however I’ll explain it in more detail.

The first step is to define the word “personification” to understand the question.

Simply, personification is representing non-human things as if they were human.

The word “personification” if viewed closely, you will find the word “person” which gives a clue to its meaning.

Therefore in the 3rd section (posted on 1/22/16) the lyric in the first line states: 

“The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound”= Take notice of the subject which is the wind

Now look at the next two lines:

“When the wave broke over the railing
and every man knew, as the captain did too…”= Notice the extreme effect of the power of the wind

Now notice the personification in the next line:

‘Twas the witch of November come stealin’

The power of the wind is non-human and is called a “witch of November” that came to steal away the lives of the sailors on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

I hope this explanation will give understanding to others reading this lesson. 

The next set of questions are coming, please stay tuned.

11:12 AM Feb 13 2016 |

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