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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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Hello to everyone ! I hope you all enjoy Alston lessons as I am ! ; )

My answer would be:

What it meant by the lyric: :”The ship was pride ot the American side?”

As I understood,This ship of American means a lot of because it’s newest, safest and the biggest ship in the America. So, they feel very pround by having these ship.

What is the meaning of “with a crew and good captain well-seasoned?”

Well-seasoned means that crew and captain was experienced

Explain the scenario on the ship form this lyric: ” The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait when the gales of November came slashing?”

In the evening gales come slashing and becomes confusion of people. Nobody cares about breaskfast

and the last question… I don’t know the answer.


United States

You’re welcome. Gordon Lightfoot (the songwriter) is Canadian, therefore he is making a distinction that the ship was the pride of the Americans (on the American side).

If it was a Canadian ship he would have written, “The ship was the pride of the Canadien side.” Good question.

The next set of questions should be posted soon.

09:57 AM Feb 11 2016 |

1 person likes this


United States

Somy, once again you have knocked the ball out of the ballpark. You have saved me the time to answer the questions because your answers are correct.

However, I would like to modify your answer to question no 1. In the question “the ship was the pride of the American side” the pride was not that it was made in America and for being American. The pride was that it was a magnificient ship being one of the first to be as large as it was to carry its cargo.

Other that this modification, you did a great job in answering the questions.

06:49 PM Feb 10 2016 |


United States

You’re welcome. If you continue to listen to the same song and pay close attention to the words, eventually the light will turn on and you’ll say, “Oh now I understand!”

Remember, songs are stories with music.

06:38 AM Feb 10 2016 |



Thanks mr for your answer l’ll put your comments on my consideration  iam trying to listen more and more but i rely on written lyrics or movies supported with subtitles 

11:52 PM Feb 09 2016 |


United States

Hello Monyj, in answer to your question why you cannot understand the lyrics without reading them even though you have been learning English for a long time is a common issue.  My guess is the following:

1. You may have been learning grammar instead of acquiring English.

2. The lyrics are not easy to understand.

Try your best to stretch your mind and compare your answers to the upcoming answers.

At the end of the lesson you will have acquired new English information and understanding.

11:03 PM Feb 09 2016 |

1 person likes this



Why I can’t understand lyrics without reading them although i kept learning english for longtime

09:14 PM Feb 09 2016 |


United States

WobblyJoe, thanks for alerting the readers to the fact that two native speakers can have different interpretations of the same sentence.

It is the same as having two translators translate a document into English and they not translate it the same but both be correct.

I hope the readers will accept the challenge of attempting to answer the questions in this lesson because stretching their minds will be beneficial to developing their thoughts in understanding English.

I plan to provide the answers sometime this week.

12:28 PM Feb 09 2016 |



United States

Thank you again for your kind words, I wanted to encourage others to ask if there’s a misunderstanding concerning what they think a sentence means.

Sometimes we can understand perfectly well what the words mean, and still not understand what the speaker meant.

You and I having different understandings of the same sentence is a good example of how that happens.

Both explanations make sense, but we can’t know which one Gordon Lightfoot meant unless someone asks him, and he might have a third explanation. No one should be afraid to ask “what do you mean?” since native English speakers do it too.

02:18 AM Feb 05 2016 |


United States

Hello WobblyJoe! As usual, your comments give additional insight for the readers and sharpen my skills as well.

As you know, in English, words and phrases can have different meanings and lends themselves to different interpretations.

In the case of the meaning of “on down” in this context, I agree with you that it can mean from that time to this time. However, it also can mean to include all others in a related situation.

For example: “Upon investigation, fraudulent activity was found in the company from the president on down.

In this sentence, the phrase ”on down” is used to imply all those in upper management was included in the fraudulent activity.

The lyrics of the song, “The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, of the big lake they call Giche Gumee…”  I interpreted the lyric “the legend live on from the Chippewa on down” to refer to the legend among the Indian tribes of the big lake.

With that being said, I also realize that it could very well be interpreted to mean from the French explorers meeting the Chippewas until now.

Nevertheless, whichever interpretation is correct; they both have the common denominator to mean the legend of Great Lake Superior lives on today.

WobblyJoe, thanks for your contribution, the readers benefit from two native speakers interpreting the same sentence. 

10:25 PM Feb 04 2016 |



United States

Hello Mr Alston!

I was told recently that someone had been told that if you can’t understand what people are saying in English, the speaker probably doesn’t like you.

I protested, saying that English speakers often misunderstand each other because meanings can be so open to interpretation and that English speakers commonly just ask each other “What do you mean?”

You’ve provided an opportunity for an example.

Mr. Alston provided his interpretation of “From the Chippewa on down”, and he might be right.

I always thought “on down” meant from that time to this time, from the time when the first French explorers first met the Chippewa until today.

It’s the same sentence, but two different English speakers think it meant different things.

Gordon Lightfoot might have meant something else entirely.

English speakers commonly ask each other for explanations, it doesn’t mean anything more than that. We who speak English do it, so should students of English.

Never be afraid to ask, never assume that if you don’t understand something there is a problem or an offense.


United States

Lesson No. 4 – Sections 2-3 Questions

If you are just joining ths listening project, please read the introductionn posted on January 22, 2016.


1. What is meant by the lyric: “The ship was the pride of the American side?”

2. What is the meaning of “with a crew and good captain well-seasoned?”

3. What is the significance of the lyric, “The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound?”

4. Explain the scenario on the ship from this lyric: “The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait when the gales of November came slashing?”

5. In section 3, which lyrics uses personification?

To help you answer these questions, after listening to the song and reading the lyrics, paint a picture in your mind what is happening on this ship resulting from the terrible weather conditions.

Pay close attention to the pronunciation of the words and try to understand this tremendous story as you hear it.

04:49 AM Jan 31 2016 |


United States

Somy, you get an “A.” I am impressed with your answer, very good research. There is no further need for me to explain anything because you have done it very well.

In regards to the phrase “on down” it means to include all others. In this case, the Chippewa’s were one of the largest American Indian tribes, therefore, it is including all of the smaller tribes. In other words, the legend was also embraced by the smaller tribes.

I intend to ask the next set of questions soon.  Good job!

05:43 PM Jan 28 2016 |

1 person likes this


United States

Song Lesson No. 4 – Analysis of the song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

Strategy – The song lyrics are divided into 7 sections, therefore, let’s take the first section.


1. What is the meaning of the lyric: “The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down?”

2. What is the name of the lake nick-named “Gitche Gumee?”

3. What is the meaning of the lyric: “That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed when the gales of November came early?”

This ends the questions for the first section of this song. Try your best to answer the questions. I intend to provide the answers later.

04:04 AM Jan 25 2016 |


United States

Song Lesson No. 4 – The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot- Special Project


This song lesson will be a project to develop your English listening and comprehension skills.

The song in the lesson is a Folk song which is sung in a slower pace and describes a famous ship wreck on Lake Superior during the mid-1970’s.

In addition, it includes lyrics that relates to American Indian culture and history of one of the States Great Lakes.

If you take the time to listen and study this song, I feel that you will advance your English listening and comprehension ability. Afterwards, I intend to ask some questions about the song.

Preparation for the project:

1. Read the story to learn about this shipwreck from this link http://www.shipwreckmuseum.com/edmund-fitzgerald-36/

2. Listen to the song by Gordon Lightfoot from my Relaxation Lounge in the Folk Song category on my profile page http://www.englishbaby.com/findfriends/gallery/detail/1207903 if the song doesn’t appear, locate it on the internet (The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot)

3. Read the lyrics to the song provided below:

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

Section 1

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

Section 2

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
Then later that night when the ship’s bell rang
Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

Section 3

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
When the wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too
‘Twas the witch of November come stealin’
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashin’
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind

Section 4

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck
Sayin’ “Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya”
At seven PM a main hatchway caved in
He said, “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya”
The captain wired in he had water comin’ in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Section 5

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her
They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Section 6

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams
The islands and bays are for sportsmen
And farther below, Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered

Section 7

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral
The church bell chimed ‘til it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early

10:20 AM Jan 22 2016 |




I totally agree. I always listen to english music and it helps me a lot to improve my pronunciation and to learn new words. ✌😊

06:35 PM Jan 26 2015 |


United States

Karavani you’re on point concerning music being useful to learn English. The reason is this, it engages your ears to hear the lyrics and your brain to try to comprehend what they mean using your current knowledge.

For example, if you spent 1 hour studying English and compared it to 1 hour listening to a few songs and comprehending the lyrics with the written lyrics as a cross check, in the end you would walk away with more understanding of English as it is spoken.

Songs tell a story in a natural setting.

This method doesn’t take anything away from learning grammar and other aspects of English but rather supplements it.

Remember, native speakers do not necessarily follow the textbook, we may create a new word and throw it in the conversation and then ask the listener “is that a word?” We have fun with words and you guys can have fun too!



Iran, Islamic Republic Of

I think listening to music is very usefull to learn english. because it’s not boring and also help u to improve ur listening skills and pronounciate correctly.

tnx teacher

08:23 AM Jan 18 2015 |


United States

Golnaziran, the challenge is training your ears to understand the words. If you continue, you will begin to understand and the light will turn on!

10:11 PM Aug 18 2013 |


Iran, Islamic Republic Of

Im trying my best to understand songs but as you know in a song the singer doesnt seapret the words and its really hard to underestand.I sometimes turn the speed of song down and its useful.any way thank you very much to recommend me.have a good day my teacher(-:

07:27 AM Aug 18 2013 |

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