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I'm learning a language that is morphologically rather unrelated to my native tongue. I find great difficulty in retaining vocabulary in this new language, to the point where I have reached something of a plateau as words that are not 'everyday' simply don't get a chance to stick in my mind.

The one exception to this is songs - I find that once I have learned a song and its lyrics, it sticks in my mind a lot more easily than isolated words. This may be partly just because learning words in context is helpful, but I'm sure it's also because I enjoy the activity of listening to songs, and the association with a melody seems to help greatly, as mentioned here.

Learning a song initially can be time-consuming, though. So I am wondering - are there any recognised or suggested techniques for efficiently learning vocabulary through songs?

For my purposes, it can be assumed that I have access to lyrics and a reasonable quality translation, if those are helpful.

  • Welcome to Language Learning SE! Are you interested in tips from experienced language learners or advice based on (academic) research? – Christophe Strobbe Oct 2 '16 at 18:58
  • @ChristopheStrobbe I'm asking from a personal/practical standpoint, so tips from experienced language learners was what I was thinking of, but anything more academic welcome too - someone else might understand it even if I don't! – topo morto Oct 2 '16 at 23:23
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I have found that as a beginner learning a new language that is completely different from the ones I already speak, childrens songs can be very useful. They are usually:

  • short and have a catchy rhythm, which makes them easier to remember
  • have lyrics which are quite simple and repetitive which makes them ideal to learn new vocabulary

Watching the corresponding videos with lyrics on youtube also helps me to remember them. This would help if you are also a visual learner. Plus some of them have an associated little choreography which can also help if you learn better through movement.

So if you don't mind listening to silly songs and have them stuck in your head ;-), it's worth a try.

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Use songs to learn certain words you actually don't know or understand.

In school, songs are used to memorize lists of words in a certain class like adverbs or helping verbs. By using a song as you said, the words stuck to my head a lot better and quicker rather than plain memorization. You can't really relate adverbs to pictures (visual learning) but songs on the other hand can (audio learning). Of course, you can try to use both for other classes like nouns or verbs (audio-visual learning). Yes, these songs are made up but follow a very familiar tune like Jingle Bells in my case.

Songs also help when trying to understand phrases you can't seem to grasp. Instead of listening to the song, trying reading the lyrics out loud. All lyrics need to make sense in some way, whether literally or figuratively. Reading the lyrics will also give you time to understand the words and how they link together to create the meaning the lyric(s) contain.

Even better, translating the word to your native language will significantly help out your understanding of vocabulary. If you know what a word means in your native language, you are given a rough idea of what it means in its actual language.

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