Using rap music in learning language - Студенческий научный форум

XI Международная студенческая научная конференция Студенческий научный форум - 2019

Using rap music in learning language

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Using of music in L2 classrooms to motivate learners as they practice and produce the target language and actively participate in the lessons. In this article I will shore effective way and ideas for using music to teach English , followed by a reliable online resources . As a child we learn to understand or speak our first language by listening to what others say again and again even if initially we don’t understand it fully. By using original rap music to present lessons, the curriculum by passes the traditional reading and writing methods, and instead presents content material through a popular form of music that is relevant to youth. Through rap, this curriculum provides a discourse approach to second language learning. It supplements the natural rhythm of spoken language with a modern musical form that is characterized by being conversational and using an informal register. This project will show rationale that teaching language through the medium of rap music is highly effective and in line with sound linguistic and educational theory. It is a helpful technique and can be extended to music to learn a second language.There is a lot of evidence suggesting that musical training affects the neu-ral encoding of speech and networks function required for ordinary speech communication.

More than 100 years ago, French scientist Pierre Paul Broca (1824–1880) identified a part of the left frontal hemisphere of the brain as the area in which the syntax of language is processed. A century later, using magnetoencephalography (MEG) imaging, researchers found that music

syntax was processed in that same area, named Broca’s area (Maess et al. 2001). Fascinatingly, researchers found that Broca’s area responded in a similar way to dissonant music and ungrammatical sentences. This finding suggested a close relationship between the “pattern making” activity found in both music and language. This was the first of many discoveries made possible in the field of brain research using equipment available at the time. riune brain.

A cross-section of the brain would reveal that it has three layers:

(1) the stem, or reptilianbrain (5%), which is responsible for such basic functions as breathing, blood pressure, and heartbeat, and determines the nature of sound—its direction, volume, and potential threat;

(2) the inner layer, or limbicbrain (10%), which is the center of our emotions and reacts to music with appropriate emotions and triggers long-term memory; and (3) the outer layer wrapper, or “bark,” called the neocortex or cerebral cortexbrain (85%)—which controls hearing, vision, language, and higher-level functioning, and responds to music intellectually (MacLean 1990). The latter “thinking brain” absorbs the sounds of the reptilian brain and the feelings of the limbic system and organizes them into music. This triune concept facilitates our understanding and creation of music.( Benny Lewis)[1]

Another aspect of brain functioning is brain-wave frequencies. Among the four types of waves—delta, theta, alpha, and beta—that relate to various levels of consciousness, the alpha and beta have particular implications for music (and for fraternities on most college campuses). Delta waves represent deep sleep, when the waves are least like they are when we are fully awake. Theta waves represent shallow sleep, deep contemplation, and free-flowing creativity, which may be most characteristic of students when the teacher just talks. Alpha waves occur when students are in a relaxed state of awareness, such as after they wake up in class. The right hemisphere is primarily engaged in the alpha state when students are reading, studying, or reflecting emotions are dominant, and the left hemisphere’s rationality drops out of sight temporarily. Slow, minor-key music fosters alpha waves. It relaxes

the brain, which can be useful when reviewing content so that it passes into long-term memory (Millbower 2000).Beta waves are the patterns of a fully awake mind, when the left

hemisphere kicks into action. This is multitasking mode for the Net Generation, when they are functioning at optimum speed. Fast, up-tempo, major-key music can snap to attention students who are in a drifting alpha or meditative theta state, leaving them super alert and ready for whatever activities the teacher has planned (Millbower 2000).[2]

Music-brain conclusions.

The value of music as a teaching tool lies in its potential to do the following: (1) tap the core intelligences of musical/rhythmic and emotional (interpersonal and intrapersonal); (2) engage both the left and right hemispheres; (3) appeal to the reptilian, limbic, and neocortex layers of the brain to sense the nature of sounds, react to music emotionally, and appreciate it intellectually; and (4) manipulate students’ alpha and beta brain waves to relax or alert them for learning when they’re not sleeping in delta- or theta-wave land. It would be a shame not to stir up these intelligences, hemispheres, layers, and waves in the classroom to promote learning.

It is the most effective educational children’s program in history, give or take a month. For nearly forty years and more than 4,100 episodes broadcast in 120 countries, Sesame Street has used music almost nonstop throughout its programs in segments with live people, muppets, or animation; video clips of people and animals; and even in the extremely popular “Elmo’s World.” It is a key tool for teaching children basic academic and life skills.( Chontelle Bonfiglio) The lyrics are chock-full of content to help kids remember numbers, arithmetic, geometric forms, letters, words, cognitive processes, and classification. Catchy melodies and upbeat tempos excite children and Use of Technology and Music to Improve Learning keep their attention while slipping content into their long-term memory. Researchers found that when the music and action stopped—such as in scenes taking place on Sesame Street consisting of dialogue between adults—children stopped watching .This music-action formula to learning has not been kept secret by the production staff of Sesame Street Teachers need to create elementary, middle, and high school student versions of Sesame Street in their live, face-to-face classrooms. The application of music will be a start to break the mold of traditional teaching practices.

In the second study, researchers at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Illinois made another important discovery. After comparing two groups of low-income high school students—one that had

musical training and one that had fitness-based training—the researchers found that students who had group music lessons achieved significant improvements in “speech encoding,” or extracting speech from noise. We might think of extracting speech from noise as just a hearing skill, but it is actually a decisive feature in overall academic success. Why? One reason is that classrooms are noisy places, and students who cannot make out the words spoken in the classroom will not learn. Research confirms that “higher levels of background noise are linked to worse performance on standardized tests”

Sesame Street-program that specialized in learning language by music.

This might seem obvious, but a lot of language learners I’ve met will just listen to the radio to get exposure to songs in their target language, or download whatever’s popular in that language right now. Others only try to find songs that have a slow rhythm so that the words are sung slowly enough to be easily understood.Why does this method so often fail? You’ve got to choose songs you can live with, songs that you’re willing to listen to hundreds of times.Find songs that you love, and you’ll take almost all the effort out of learning those songs. You’ll want to listen to them on repeat, and you’ll want to learn the words so you can sing along. This can be true even if the song isn’t in your target language. I’ve met several people who learned the words to the French song Magic in the Air even though they don’t speak any French at all, just because they enjoy the song so much.How can you find songs that you’ll like? Easy. You probably already know what kind of music you like in your native language. [3]

For those first few listens, you’re not really gaining a lot of vocabulary in your target language. What you are doing is getting an ear for the sounds of the song (by listening to the words and sounding them out as you read the original lyrics), and learning what the song is about (by reading the English lyrics).How you go about learning the song is up to you. If you prefer to memorise the lyrics in your target language and be able to sing the song verbatim before ever looking at the English lyrics, that’s fine. If you prefer to start by studying the English lyrics while you listen, so that you can hear a line of the song and instantly know its English translation without knowing what the individual words in that line mean, that’s fine too.You can also follow a combination of these approaches, or invent your own unique approach. As long as you persist, you’ll eventually have the song memorised and understand its meaning. Repetition is the key (remember what I said about picking a song that you like?).

According to Engh (2012), teachers who bring contemporary music into the class can also bring pop culture into a class. He explores the concept of pop culture as a global phenomenon which is part of the backbone of youth culture. He asserts that bringing music in the class not only brings exposure to the culture of the music, but it can serve as a bridge between generations and break down possible teacher-student role barriers, as well as bringing a relaxed and enjoyable learning environment into the classroom. [4]

Susan Weinstein (2006) is an English teacher at Louisiana State University. She recently wrote an article for the International Reading Association in which she explained the value of using rap in teaching. She believes rap and hip hop have a voice in society that represents a political discourse that enriches a language class. Rap appeals as much to youth today as it did when it first emerged as a new musical genre in the language of the common man. As a musical genre, rap has had a reputation for bringing a voice to the struggles people experience in contemporary society. It has been a form that has expressed some of the realities of life in real language.

Weinstein (2006) has documented case studies of underperforming students improving in literacy skills as rap was introduced as a literacy for teaching and learning. Understanding the ways that participating in rap as a writer, performer, or fan connects people to their peers; to histories of oral, musical, and political discourse; and to communities that have the potential for social action adds to the field of literacy studies. Weinstein believes that introducing rap into language learning get students involved in literacy. The students in her case study liked using rap in school and wrote assigned original raps as a form of language expression. After having to write raps for class, the students reported that they continued to write in their free-time for their own pleasure. They felt successful writing in a familiar musical form which they owned. Weinstein felt that rap served as “a venue for identity construction and experimentation” in her students. She taught at a school with a large population of minorities and disenfranchised youth. If her students connected with curriculum and found a pleasurable form of self-expression though rap, ESL students, who often feel like outsiders in the school system (especially if they are not identifying with the American culture) can likewise “find a venue for identity construction” through the use of rap as they try to find where they fit in American culture. Adding music to language not only reaches students who have dominant musical intelligence, but it also creates an approach to teaching that uses multimodalities which help all students to learn material more fully. [5]

Moreover, using music while teaching language creates neural networks that aid in memory. Music creates unique opportunities to teach important elements of language. Because prosody and music have tone, pitch and rhythm as common elements that define them, music can be added to teaching prosody to create a reinforcement of prosodic characteristics. According to the findings of a study by Schon, et al. (2008), many students, who might not recognize or detect some of these oral language characteristics with speech alone, are more likely to detect them when music is added to words.

Students may not feel like they relate to folk or jazz music; however, rap curriculum is relevant to students and does not require musical ability to present. It is more accessible to people who normally do not feel comfortable with their musical abilities since it is spoken and not sung, even though it does have pitch, tone and rhythm like traditional song. Language content presented through rap music is relevant to students. It engages them since they feel relaxed in a classroom environment that uses materials they are familiar with and enjoy outside of school. Students’ affective filter is lowered, their arousal is raised, and learning is increased. Students can also negotiate finding their own social constructs through this genre which has been identified as a form where social groups can express their emerging identities in context to a society in which they may not know where they fit. English language learner’s cultural barriers can unconsciously be lowered as they focus on youthful music that is cross—cultural and is accompanied by the English language. This project will present examples of teaching grammar, vocabulary and discourse through rap music which is easy to use. It bridges the need for a musical curriculum that is non-threatening to teachers and students alike. It also brings a genre of music into the classroom that is recognized by linguists, teachers and students as a form of expression that youth relate to and with which they feel enabled to construct their emerging identity.

Got-ta learn the pro-nouns / These are pro-nouns

Got-ta learn the pro-nouns/ Se-ven pro-nouns

Got-ta learn the pro-nouns / Per-so-nal pro-nouns

Got-ta learn the pro-nouns / Listen to me flow now

Se-ven sub-ject pro-nouns / That are ea-sy to me

I and we / He and she / It, they and you

Yeah, se-ven sub-ject pro-nouns/ I know you can see

I and we / He and she / It, they and you.

Se-ven sub-ject pro-nouns / You can say them with me

I and we / he and she / it, they and you

This rap starts by introducing the task at hand, learning pronouns. Then it lists the first category of pronouns, subject pronouns. The seven subject pronouns are repeated three times. In later verses, the object and possessive pronouns are presented in the same fashion. This rap helps students memorize the personal pronouns in an organized and fun way. The rap uses a lot of repetition which helps create din. According to Richards (1969), “Rote repetition induces boredom. The teacher’s task is to see that repetition is meaningful, and songs provide a means of repetition possible without losing the learner’s interest” (p. 161).

The rap also teaches reductions in phrasing because the dialogue “Got to learn the pronouns,” is actually rapped, “Gotta learn the pronouns.” All of the raps use reductions and modern colloquial diction to present the grammar ideas. Additionally, the beat of the rap emphasizes the correct prosody of stressed and unstressed syllables in an obvious way. Students who have had a hard time hearing where accents fall in regular speech can clearly hear it in the rap. When they practice rapping, along with the recording, the emphasis of the accents on the recording along with the reinforcement of the musical beats in the accompaniment, make it easy for students to both feel and perform the correct syllabic accents of prosody.

When I used this rap for a lesson, I did not start the grammar lesson by giving the objective or essential question; I saved that for when I got into the content of the mini lesson. Without introduction, I played the video which has the recording of the rap with animated words. My class became silent, except for a few nervous laughs, as something new was introduced in the classroom environment. The rap grabbed my students’ attention and kept it. While they were listening, I passed out a handout with the words so students would have something to take home with them. This rap was not only the hook into the lesson, but it acted as a model for what they would soon have to perform. Then I asked students to rap with the video. I started rapping with the recording and students soon joined me chanting along. This was our guided practice. I then presented a mini lesson from my regular curriculum on subject pronouns. I ended the lesson by having students rap along with the video without me. This was a more independent practice, even though it was guided by the video. The next day we did the same process, but my mini-lesson was on possessive pronouns. The students had already heard the list of possessive pronouns the day before, so some rapped along from the beginning. I was able to assess student participation easily, as I was letting the video do the teaching of the pronouns, and I was free to observe. Rapping English can be used by language teachers who do not devote much attention to teaching prosody. This curriculum is a way to incorporate practice with English prosody, especially reductions and stress work. Teachers of EFL sometimes do not feel confident with the exactness of their own pronunciation and prosody; consequently, they often neglect teaching this component of language learning. Although the raps have no explicit teaching of prosody, students performing these raps will naturally improve their production of prosody, especially if teachers specifically tell students to try to imitate the rapper’s rhythm, stress and intonation so that the learner is in perfect unison with the raps.

Music is helped to improve some skills .

1) Grab students’ attention.

2) Focus students’ concentration.

3) Generate interest in class.

Most of the research on neural system is done on the musicians or those who musical training. This is so because changes are more significant in them as compared to those who just listen to music. The research done on listening to songs to improve language is mostly in sense of creating motivation and enthusiasm.


Benny Lewis-Learning a Language Through Music: Here’s How It’s Done. p 34,2015

The Oxford Illustrated English Dictionary. – Oxford University Press, 2001;p17.

Practical English Dictionary. – London: Holland , 2001. P. 141;

Spears A. Richard. American Idioms Dictionary. – Lincolnwood, Illinois, USA: p.37

Chontelle Bonfiglio - Using Music to Teach your Child a Language October 3, 2016

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