Music associated with strategies for second language learner


Musicassociated with strategies for second language learner


Languagelearning is a process by which human beings acquire the capacity tocomprehend, perceive, use and produce words in communication.Regardless of the language learned (second or foreign language),learners’ requires the capacity to learn the semantics, syntax,morphology and vocabularies associated with new language. Acquisitionof new language is a step-by-step process that depends on learners’cognitive ability to memorize and understand various aspects of newlanguage. Several stages are taken before learners’ can fullycomprehend and use new language effectively. These stages arepreproduction stage, speech emergence stage, intermediate fluency andadvanced fluency.

Learnersacquire new language through different styles and strategies.Ideally, the learning strategies and styles used in the acquisitionof new language may develop naturally or taught(Cohen, 2011).However, over time learners may develop their own learning styles andstrategies for second language learning. Learners adapt to particularstrategies that fit their style of preferred learning. Secondlanguage learning is not easy and is influenced by cognitive,affective, memory-related, social and meta-cognitive factors.Teachers’ plays essential roles in assisting student developeffective strategies and style for learning language. Studies haveshown that students respond positively when taught using visual,auditory, kinesthetic and tactile styles while learning new language(Rose,2015).

Benefitsof music in second language learning

Althoughthere is a distinct difference on preferred mode of learning amongstudents, sensory learning styles have been found effective inenhancing second language learning. Music is an important learningstrategy employed by teachers during second language teaching.Studies indicate that, music help learners acquire vocabularies,develop linguistic skills such as reading, spelling, writing,speaking and listening. According to second language educators, musicis essential in learning second language. In particular, learners’morale and interest in learning is improved as students enjoysinging. The rationale for this is that learning tension is relaxedin class leading to receptive learning. Through songs, learners areexposed ‘authentic’ examples of second language, target grammar,vocabularies and sentence wording are modeled in the context of songto enhance learning.

TheoreticalBackground on the use of Music in Second Language Learning

Krashen’sSecond Language Learning theory

Krashenintroduced the concept of ‘nativism’ in language learning.According to Krashen, ‘language acquisition does not requireextensive use of conscious grammatical rules and neither does itrequire tedious drill’ (Krashen, 1988). According to Krashen, humanbeings are pre-wired biologically in new language acquisition. Thisperspective was supported by Noam Chomsky (1965) who postulated thathumans are born with knowledge that predisposes them to new languageacquisition. As such, individuals’ environment is insufficient inlearning new language (Chomsky, 1965).

Krashen(1982) suggested five hypotheses which he categorized as ‘input’and ‘affective filter’ in learning. According to Krashen inputhypothesis, new vocabularies are acquired by learners when they aremade clear meaning that when second language inputs are introducedto learners through actions, illustrations and other extra-linguisticsupport, results in ‘comprehensible input’ that learnersunderstand. Therefore, Krashen was of the opinion thatextra-linguisticsupport such as music, stories and pictures provides furtherillustrations on meaning of unfamiliar vocabularies and syntax. Assuch, the use of music in second language learning is consistent withKrashen’s theory. In the same way, orally read stories enhancelanguage learning, story songs provide effective extra-linguisticsupport needed in learning second language (Rose,2015).

Inaddition, story songs provide motivation required to captivatelearners’ attention during second language teaching (Cohen,2011).Krashen’s second hypothesis was that learners have internalized‘affects’ in form of feelings and attitudes that inhibits theirlearning. These ‘affective filters’ are in form of negativeemotions which prevent learners from making optimal use of linguisticinputs in their environment. For instance, if learners are anxious,unmotivated or lack confidence, their learning is unmotivated. Inthis context, it is thus imperative to provide learners with anenvironment that provokes their learning interest music is such atool that relaxes learning environment (Chan&amp Beni, 2007).

Gardner’sTheory of Multiple Intelligences

HowardGardner (1993) introduced the theory of multiple intelligence. Thistheory supports the use of music in second language learning.Gardener proposed eight distinct intelligences of learning logical,linguistic, musical, spatial, interpersonal, kinesthetic,intrapersonal and naturalistic. According to Gardner, all humans areborn with capacity to succeed, but their capacity to succeed isinfluenced by the level of their motivation, culture and experiences.As such, Gardner believed that educators have the responsibility ofcultivating these intelligences and more others as part of developinga holistic learner. In this way, using music in second learning isconsistent with Gardner theory. Music may be used in second languageinstructions especially as a background instrument while writingessays. For instance, students could be made to listen jazz orclassical music and then requested to write down new vocabularieslearnt. Alternatively, students could be made to sing songs that havetarget syntax, words or grammar to enhance their learning of secondlanguage. In this way, learners develop the musical intelligence assuggested by Gardner.

Literaturereview on music use in learning second language

Inpsychology, music has been expansively used to study learning throughmemorization. Language acquisition and memorization are distinct butshare common assumption in language acquisition memorization isessential in learning word order and grammar. One essential aspectsof effective language learning style is through enhancing thecognitive capacity (memory) of the learner. Musicenhances rhythm learning past studies support this observation. Forinstance, in psychology, studies show that rhythm (a common aspect inmusic) was used to enhance the retentive effect on verbalinformation. Other studies have shown that, using music in secondlanguage learning helps in vocabularies acquisition. Sagawa is of theopinion that the rhythmical structure in songs allows the language tobe more memorable (Sagawa, 1999).

Furthermore,songs help learners acquire effective pronunciation of words therebyincreasing comprehensibility of the second language. The role ofmusic in enhancing rote memorization is well documented as abeneficial learning strategy for learners. Cohen(2011)conducted a study on effects of music in the acquisition of Englishvocabularies in 48 second grade with limited English proficiency. Inthis study, the main variables were music and other extra-linguisticsupport such as pictures in learning. In the first group, oral storymusic was used to enhance learning of the targeted vocabulary wordswhile the other group was shown pictures to enhance learning.

Thefindings revealed that, learning of new vocabularies was strong moreamong the group that used music than the group that usedillustrations to learn new vocabularies (Cohen,2011).However, the same study revealed that a combination of music andillustrations resulted in more language learning. Therefore, inreference to this study, it is evident that educators in secondlanguage teaching can use pedagogically-sound practice music toenhance learning of in ESL classrooms targeted vocabularies(Nye &amp Nye, 1992).As such, music should be a learning strategy for second languageacquisition. Unfortunately, most teachers fail to use this importantpedagogy and second language learners thereby fail to benefit fromthe potential effects of music. Learners whose has limited secondlanguage proficiency, lack strong leaning strategies such as thecognitive proficiency that is useful in the acquisition of importantconcepts (Rose,2015).

Languagedevelopment as well as music development share several similaritiesboth are communication modes that contains syntax, semanticcomponents and phonetics. Sagawa(1999)observed that learners develop in total through music that enhancestheir sensual awareness and interpretation of sounds. Through songs,learners discover language structures and vocabularies that areimportant in conversations (Krouse,1988).Researchers suggest that music enhance creativity in second languagelearning such as creative listening and in the creation of novelideas (De Kock (1989: 123), Fiveash, (1995: 58),Krouse (1988: 79). It is believed that most learners do not haveadequate pre-school opportunities to develop speech rhythm and musichelps them develop such rhythm through music rhythms (Fiveash, 1995).

Listeningability is vital for second language acquisition the capacity of alearner to listen attentively improves learners spelling and reading.In this right, adequate hearing enhance language structure learningthrough listening music consists of sounds that need listening andthis develop learners’ strategies in second language acquisition(Chan &amp Beni, 2007).Music develops learners’ strategies in second language acquisitionby enhancing their auditory awareness, auditory perception,perceptual skills and ability to make difference between sounds (DeKock, 1989). Defects in auditory perception may inhibit learners frommaking adequate difference between sounds and hence incorrectpronunciation of certain words.

Ina study conducted by Rose(2015),demonstrated that there was a high correlation between students whoreceived second language training through music than those how thestudents did not in terms of what inspired. In a Meta analytic studyMedina(1993)found a strong correlation between the music instruction andperformance in reading.

Musicthat enhance learners’ strategies in second language acquisition

LeRoux (1992) asserts that, traditionally most societies used music asa learning medium for cultures transmission. Music involvesactivities such as movement and speech. Rhythm and melody activatesthe brain thereby enhancing learning. Birkenshaw-Fleming (1989:4)argued that learners learn more information faster when conveyedthrough music. Music activities lead to enhanced self-worth andconfidence that are necessary strategies for learning secondlanguage.

Musicshould not replace valuable learning techniques through speaking butit should be used as an additional and enjoyable way of presentinglanguage imaginatively(Levitin, 2006).As such, educators should use short, simple, rhythmical and melodioussongs while teaching. Songs should be selected in a variety oflanguage aims in mind and directed at influencing learners to learn.


Westernmusic is reserved and has pure art form that captivates listeners. Inthis way, western music is able to help learners become creativethrough improvisation of concepts such as melody, rhythm, harmony andform. For instance, in South Africa, Western music has played anessential role in teaching the Africans English language (Le Roux,1992).


Traditionally,African music was used to transmit important cultural aspects toyoung people. African music, just like Western music carries rhythmicundertones that can help learners in the acquisition of secondlanguage. In particular, African songs motivate, enhance learnerscognitive development as well as effective word pronunciation. Oneaspect that makes these types of songs effective in enhancinglearners’ strategy in second language learning is because of therepetitive nature of the songs. Most songs involve a call andresponse mantra that is effective in enhancing learners’ memoryespecially in learning ESL.

Essenceof music in learners’ strategies for second language acquisition

Overall,regardless of the nature of songs, it is apparent that music iseffective in enhancing learners learning in second languageacquisition through enriching one’s capacity for vocabulary,pronunciation and spelling. In addition, music enhances learningstrategies through developing students’ attention to details,neatness and precision while writing. By incorporating music to wordssongs) in language learning, learner’s interests and motivation areimproved.

Inaddition, the rhythmic aspect found in most songs helps learnersdevelop effective oral language, listening and making speech patternsdistinctions. Furthermore, since most learners of second languagesuch ESL are taught in English which is not a native language,difficulties in learning may be experienced and music provides animportant aspect in developing language competence.


Musicplays an important role in developing learners’ strategies forsecond language acquisition. It is evident from theoretical and paststudies that music has been effective in enhancing learners’capacity to learner and develops effective communication skills insecond languages. The analysis reveals that music is effective indeveloping learners understanding of the second language especiallyif used as the instruction mode. Songs arouse learners listeningskills which are important in learning second language most songsrequire learners to respond in choruses and this develop learnersauditory capacity.

Musichas also been found to enhance learners’ ability to pronounce andspell words accurately especially when the songs used relate to thelanguage learned. During singing, learners are expected to producesounds that accurately correspond to the words in the song. In thisway, songs can be modeled in the context of second language learnedto facilitate more learning. It is also evident that music is aneffective means of enhancing vocabulary learning in second languageacquisition. New vocabularies from the second language are modeled insongs context to enhance learning.

Musicenhances learners’ memorization and this is important for newvocabularies acquisition. Far from this, music is effective increating a relaxed and motivated class while learning secondlanguage. Research indicates that learners have varying learningstrategies which may not be compatible with teachers’ instructionalmethod. As such, music is used to enhance a relaxed and motivatedclass music ha the power to relax, energies and motivate learnersexperiencing difficulties while learning second language.


Insecond language learning educators need to assist learners indeveloping effective learning strategies through music, Educatorsneed to be confident in using music to facilitate languageacquisition. There are several benefits associated with using musicin second language learning and this is supported by expansivelinguistic and psychological theories and research. Music is usefulin enhancing learners listening skills, memory, reading,comprehension, pronunciation and vocabulary learning. In this way,learners’ develop attentiveness, cognitive, creativeness andlistening learning strategies important in second languageacquisition.


Chan,E. &amp Beni, K. (2007). Sounds Good to Me: Using Music and Song inL2 Teaching Workshop. Presented at DaTESL hosted at the University ofHawai’i at Manoa.

Cohen,Andrew (2011). Strategiesin learning and using a second language(2nd Ed.). Longman.

Choksy,L. 1991. Teachingmusic effectively in the elementary school. New

York.Englewood Cliffs. Prentice Hall.

DeKock, D. 1989. Musicfor Learning.Cape Town. Maskew Miller Longman.(Pty) Ltd.

Fiveash,D. 1995. Music as an educative enrichment medium for the remediationof children with reading problems. Unpublished M.Mus.Scription.University of Cape Town.

Krashen,Stephen D.(1987),&nbspPrinciples and Practice in Second Language Acquisition.&nbspPrentice-Hall International.

Krashen,Stephen D.&nbsp(1988),Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning.&nbspPrentice-Hall International.

Krouse,M.A. (1988), BeginningEnglish. Mastering Second Language First Three Years.Babelegi. Unibook Publishers. Craft Press.

LeRoux, A.M. (1992), Music education in a multicultural society: APsycho-Pedagogical Perspective. Unpublished D.Ed. Thesis. Universityof South Africa.

Levitin,D. (2006), This is your brain on music: The science of a humanobsession. New York, NY: Dutton Adult.

Medina,S. (1993), The effect of music on second language vocabularyacquisition. FEES News (National Network for Early LanguageLearning), 6(3), 1-8.

Murphey,T. (1990). The song stuck in my head phenomenon: A melodic din in theLAD? System, 18(1), 53-64.

Murphey,T. (1992). Music &amp song. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Murphey,T. (1992). The discourse of pop songs. TESOL Quarterly, 26(4),770-774.

Nye,R. &amp Nye, V. 1992. Musicin the elementary school.Englewood Cliffs. Prenctice Hall Inc.

Rose,Heath (2015), &quotResearching language learning strategies&quot.In Paltridge, Brian Phakiti, Aek. Researchmethods in applied linguistics.Bloomsbury.

Sagawa,M. (1999), TESOL: The use of arts in language teaching. RetrievedMarch 30, 2011, from

Related Posts

© All Right Reserved