I am a great believer in listening to music in order to learn a language more effectively. In fact, somewhere in the depths of my wardrobe I have a tattered old notebook in which I once painstakingly wrote out the words to every Spanish song I could get my hands on. So which songs could help your learning process?
Spanish: Mariposa Traicionera – Maná
If my memory serves me correctly this is on page one in that tattered old notebook of mine. I heard it everywhere I went when I first arrived in South America and I was intrigued by the few words I could catch; “butterfly”, “mouse”, “wind”. Was it a love song or the soundtrack to a wildlife documentary? Once I finally wrote down the lyrics it all made sense and I even learned a few new words.
Italian: La Prima Cosa Bella – Nicola Di Bari
One of the strange things about music is that it is easy to enjoy a song even when you don’t have the faintest idea what it’s about. I initially thought that this song was in Spanish and got really worried when I couldn’t understand much of it. I then found out it is in Italian and was pretty pleased that I had understood at least a few words. It is a fine little tune and if you are learning Italian I get the feeling that you will understand it pretty easily.
French: Non, je ne regrette rien, by Édith Piaf
The only words of French I speak were taught to me by an intimidating looking secondary school teacher a good few years ago. However, I have always been intrigued by the title of this song. If you think about it, there are songs which we all grow up with and know inside out. If you grew up in the UK at the same time as me then this probably includes a few Beatles numbers, a bit of Rick Astley and – Lord help us – Right Said blooming Fred. For a generation or more of French speakers this is one of the great classics. When you learn a second language you get to tap into the culture and enjoy songs which are not only timeless classics, but which you probably never listened to properly before. This one might even bring a tear to your eye.
German: 99 Luftballons – Nena
When I mentioned those songs we grew up with I forgot this classic. I used to love the bit in the English version where she sings in German. Now you can go a step further and hear the full song in German. Just try not to imagine the singer’s famously unshaven armpits while you sing along.
Learning a foreign language can be even more fun if you do it with a song. What songs would you recommend to a language student and why?