For improving your pronunciation in a foreign language, there is hardly anything better than singing songs in the language you’re learning.
For over 10 years, I have been teaching English to non-native adult speakers and singing has proven to be a wonderful way for students to loosen their tongues and enhance their confidence.
Before you think, “But I have a terrible voice!” let me reassure you that this kind of singing is not about your voice — it’s about the oral practice and the benefits it will bring to your fluency.
Here’s what I mean:
It’s like a workout for your mouth — without the sweat. When you’re singing, you’re exercising your tongue and jaw, using new mouth muscles to produce new or difficult sounds — but doing it while singing makes it fun, and anything fun is worth repeating and …
Repetition helps you master pronunciation. Speaking a foreign language requires saying sounds, words, and sentences over and over to gain fluency. Singing is inherently relaxing and singing songs over and over helps you learn how to say the words more naturally.
Singing gives you ready-made vocabulary, grammar, and full phrases. Memorizing songs when you have fun singing them helps keep vocabulary words and whole phrases ready to roll out of your mouth when a real-life opportunity presents itself.
Singing foreign songs sharpens your listening skills. Singing to match your voice with the singer’s requires careful listening. If your singing is out of synch, it might be due to your perceived pronunciation of words. For example: You might be saying “of” when the singer is actually dropping the “f” sound and contracting the word, making a phrase like “lot of” become “lotta,” which is sung faster. Perhaps you’ll discover other syllables being dropped or contracted — things that might happen in the spoken language as well, which might help your comprehension as well as your fluency.
Singing can be done almost anywhere. You can sing in all the moments you’re not working — in the shower, in the car, or when you’re by yourself and thinking of things (or nothing in particular) in your native language. You can be a Broadway star in the shower, or you can sing softly on the subway, or just as you please in your car. Just pop your favorite foreign song into your head or on your phone and start singing.
Keep in Mind: If any song word or line gives you trouble, it is best to stop the music and practice until you can say it well; then go back to singing with the music. This helps you say things correctly while you are learning.
3 All-Time Favorite Songs to Help Your English
• Yesterday, by Paul McCartney. Paul sings this much-loved song slowly and clearly, and oh-so sweetly — perfect for you to practice with him.
• Shout, by Tears for Fears. The first 45 seconds of this song provides a great workout for learning to open your mouth, to contract syllables, and to say words with TH sounds.
• New York, New York by Frank Sinatra. Oh, the joy this song brings — even if you don’t live in New York. In addition, Frank’s clear voice shows you how and when to contract words and syllables.
The most important thing is to sing, practice … and enjoy!