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Songs in English language class as a way of motivating for undisciplined teenagers
Music and lyrics are an essential part of human existence. However, sometimes words cannot express a deep feeling of grief, enthusiasm or even excitement. Thus, it is hard to express everything in words. By contrast, music is just another way of expressing the world which is maybe better and deeper. It is used by human beings to express their thoughts and feelings about their inner world as well as their social world. It is hard to imagine a culture without music. Thus, music can be seen as the soul of human culture. No wonder that in the context of education, music has become a popular subject in primary and secondary education. However, according to Le (1999), research on the role of music in second language learning is surprisingly still in its embryonic stage while its popularity is strong and its impact on society can easily be recognised.
Music generally manifests in tune, melody, rhyme, and lyrics. The role of music, according to Le (1999), can be divided into two aspects: participant-orientated and performance-orientated. The first aspect refers to the joy that music brings to each individual as an active music experiencer. They are actually involved in the performing act such as singing a song, whistling a tune, or playing a musical instrument. In contrast, the second aspect focuses only on the product such as a performance on stage, record or cassette of songs normally performed by well-known artists. The dichotomy of participant-orientated process and performance-orientated process is also seen in sport activities in which participants are either performers or viewers. However, the participant-orientated process, into which a whole undisciplined student is involved during singing songs in an English language class, seems to be more important at work with such teenagers.
Furthermore, researchers have shown that personality factors play an important part in second language learning (Brown, 1994). Some studies (Gardner and Lambert, 1972; Watkins, 1991) revealed that self-esteem appears to be an important variable in second language learning. Thus, the involvement of the whole personality, emotion and self-esteem are important factors, which highly motivate undisciplined students, in learning by singing in the English language class. The same viewpoint is supported by Brown (1994) who claims that at the heart of all thought and meaning and action of each human being is emotion and as 'intellectual' we are influenced by our emotions. It is only logical, then, 'to look at the affective (emotional) domain for some of the most answers to the problems of contrasting the differences between first and second language acquisition' (Brown, 1994:61).
Furthermore, according to Le (1999) the role of music in learning can be described in terms of enhancement of social harmony among learners, motivation force, and a tool for learning.
The first term which is - enhancement of social harmony - is one of the most important factors for achieving teaching and learning effectiveness and causes social harmony among learners. In a classroom, undisciplined teenagers can sing together to celebrate birthday, to play games together, to appreciate the feeling of togetherness.
The second term is a motivation force, where music is used to soothe the mind, to relax the mind and body. Music enables learners to be free from pressure and stress. Furthermore, recent research in the field of foreign language teaching have pointed out that students' motivation and interest are among the most important factors for the learning of a foreign language. Thus, according to Papa and Lantoro (1990), there are several means to improve the teaching effectiveness and to raise the interest and motivation of the pupils. They claim that songs, recorded tapes, filmstrips, sound films, comics, newspapers and magazines are all familiar to teachers and they also can be used at work with young adults. These materials have proved to be, in most cases, very effective because they are strongly related to everyday life.
Finally, the last term is using an English songs as a tool for learning. Music is deliberately used to teach language, society and culture. Songs encode cultural meanings, inspiration, and worldviews. In other word, songs tell thousands of human stories. This same point of view is supported by Papa and Lantoro (1990) who claim that pop or folk songs are materials that nest reflect young people's concerns as they often relate to important trends in modern society. However, this is one of the reasons why songs specially constructed for the teaching of particular structures have failed to arose the students' interest and have often proved to be boring and artificial. The authors also admit, that young people enjoy original songs because of their authentic cultural content.
Similar views are expressed by Halpern (1999:1) who states that 'of the many factors that influence learning, few are as far-reaching - or little understood - as sound and music'. When one thinks of music, the first thing in mind is enjoyment. Its entertaining function is widespread in many human activities, individually and collectively. The sound of music brings into the world its 'magic power to activate the mind when it is dormant, to soothe the soul when it is in turmoil, and to heal the body when it is hurt' (Halpern, 1999:1). This magic power is the reason why children love to play with songs and rhymes even at an early age in life.
One of the ways to succeed in teaching of undisciplined teenagers is building the bridge which refers to their teenagers worlds of though and experience by singing songs in English language class. For many of young adults songs give meaning to their life, with which they easily identify, that is why, it is worth to work in class with theses students' interests which are somehow connected and hidden in various performed lyrics. As Kryszewska (2003:15) claims, the benefits are that the learners are motivated because they see the relevance of what they are joyfully learning during a lesson to real life due to the variety of these lyrics which are heard everywhere. Furthermore, the 'demotivated' young adults see various materials, texts and songs which are delivered to a lesson, that they may encounter in their imagined future and also see these materials which are in touch with real life. All in all music easily tunes in to our young students' interests. As many writers say, music is a powerful stimulus for pupils' engagement precisely because it speaks directly to our emotions while still allowing us to use our brains to analyse it and its effects if we wish. Only a piece of music can change the atmosphere in a classroom or prepare undisciplined teenagers for a new activity.
What is more, as Papa and Lantoro (1990) point out that songs provide a relaxing and amusing break in the usual routine of classroom activity. They are also the basis for additional classroom practice. According to the authors, the teacher can use the material of the songs to: build up vocabulary, revise already known vocabulary, introduce new structures in meaningful contexts, reinforce the structures that students already know, practice all of the language skills in an enjoyable way, practise good rhythmical phrasing and present some of the most important aspects of foreign culture.
All the above aspects of teaching by using songs are also important during an English lesson.
A more detailed study of songs helps us realise that, as Murphey (2004: 9) claims what each person does naturally with music and song, and some examples are presented on a List A:
- sing, whistle, hum, tap, and snap fingers while we listen;
- sing without listening to any recording;
- talk about the music, lyrics, singer or group, video clips;
- use songs and music to set or change an atmosphere or mood, as 'background furnishing' or to make social environment, form a feeling of community, dance, make friends;
- read about the production, performance, effect, authors, producers of music and song.
The list is similar to what each teacher can also do with songs, or texts about songs in the classroom. There are also some examples which seems to be useful specially in teaching young adults in borstal and they are enumerated in the following List B:
- read songs, articles, books for linguistic purposes;
- compare songs, articles about songs, letters to singers, questionnaires;
- discuss a song or some aspect in List A;
- translate songs;
- use a song for a gap-fill exercise, cloze, or for correction;
- use music as background for other activities;
- energise or relax classes mentally;
- practice pronunciation, intonation, and stress;
- break the routine;
- do choral repetition;
- teach vocabulary;
- teach culture;
- learn about teachers' minors and from their pupils, letting them choose and explain their music;
- have fun;
- study grammar (Murphey, 2004: 10).
The author claims, that looking at what is normally done with songs outside of classes (List A), and then looking at what may be done with them in class (List B) may provide us with many more ways of exploiting them. However, the B listings are not necessarily better for classroom use than those in the A group, and many in the B group may happen through just doing what comes naturally. Furthermore, it is worth to be careful not to kill the material by doing too much of serious B work.
In general, the advice is if young adults like singing, role playing, and acting out dialogues and do not think this is boring, making them sing or play various games in a foreign language is a very important part of their education. Cebula (2003) claims that while doing so they pay attention to playing and having fun, not to learning. Even if the teacher decides to correct some important mistakes, they do not feel uncomfortable, because the game and song is the most important. The rhythm of the verses help the pupils to put the stress in the right place, creating a natural flow of language and building up fluency. A song gives us the opportunity to repeat the same words or structural items many times without risk of boredom. This makes songs and rhymes particularly useful for practising difficult sounds, and singing songs can also force the pupils to learn vocabulary and gain fluency. Furthermore, singing songs allow no time for translation, so young adults do not try to translate everything into their mother tongue, they guess the meaning of most words, expressions and collocations. They are meaningful, so pupils memorize a lot of useful words and learn how to act in real - life situations in this way. Rhymes and songs are memorable, if they are well taught, they are seldom forgotten. However, songs should be learnt only when the learners understood the meaning of the language items contained in them. The young adults should understand what they are singing about.
Finally, teachers should not forget that singing is an exceptional teaching tool and they must remember that songs should not monopolise their lessons and can not be taught and sung too often and not to become boring.
1. Brown, D. H. 1994. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents.
2. Cebula, D. 2003. "Songs and Rhymes in Language Teaching" (after-school classes for teenagers) www.iatefl.org.pl.
3. Gardner, R. C. and W. E. Lambert. 1972. Attitudes and Motivation in Second - Language Learning. Newbury: Newbury House Publishers.
4. Halpern, S. 1999. "Sound education: creating the optimal learning environment." http://www.soundrx.com/monthly/sound_education.htm.
5. Harmer, J. 2001. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Edinburgh: Longman.
6. Kryszewska, H. 2003. "Materials for Teaching Young Adults: Choosing texts and using visual impact." The Teacher ELT 6,7.
7. Le, M.H. 1999. "The Role of Music in Second Language Learning: A Vietnamese Perspective." http://www.aare.edu.au/99pap/le99034.htm.
8. Murphey, T. 2004. Music and Song. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
9. Papa, M. and Lantorno, G. 1990. Famous British and American Songs and their cultural background. Harlow, Essex: Longman.