This is a guest post by Andrew, the handsome man behind How to Learn Spanish Online for Free. But enough from me…let’s let Andrew tell his story! By the way — unlike me, Andy actually answers his comments, so feel free to bombard him with questions 😛 .
Hey guys! This is Andrew! Let me tell you a little bit about me: I’ve been fascinated with learning languages since I was 12 and got ahold of a Berlitz French book from the 1950s. Since then I’ve worked on, to varying degrees: German, Swedish, Japanese, Spanish, and now French (again). I’ve been mostly focused on Spanish over the last 4 years and about a year ago I decided to start a blog where I shared what I’d learned about how to teach yourself languages (I primarily focus on Spanish but a lot of what I post is applicable to any language) using mostly free online resources because it seemed like that’s what most people wanted to do but did not know how. You can check it out here.
You know the primary reason that most people who try to learn a new language fail?
They give up.
Weren’t expecting that, were you? Yeah, ok, but why did they give up? Primarily because they got bored, that’s why. It just didn’t interest them anymore, not enough to keep going anyway. A large part of this problem is the learning material they were using, trying to force themselves to plow through boring workbooks or courses or memorize words they didn’t want to or what-have-you. Now, I know that Khatzumoto’s explored this topic in depth many times before: use media (TV shows, music, movies, anime, whatever) that’s actually FUN. I want to make it clear that I’ve found precisely the same thing to be true, I completely agree with him, but I wanted to be a bit more specific right now and tell you why I personally really like using music videos to teach and learn Spanish and why you should consider using them to learn whatever language it is that you’re learning.
How could you be bored?
You’re listening to music you like–you better be, whatever your tastes it’s just about guaranteed that you can find an endless supply of music videos in that genre for free online–so it’s interesting and pleasant for you, and the fact that you’ve got an artist you like performing in a music video for you is even better, you can see their mouth moving as they speak, you can see their facial expressions and body language, and all of these things not only add context to the words that you might not have gotten from just the audio track alone, but it also serves to entertain you and make it that much more fun.
When I started my blog about how to learn Spanish I got a little bit of interest from people, I did good research and was good at explaining things, but it was a couple months of just sort of…meh. I just felt like I really wasn’t saying anything insightful or bringing any type of new value to the table that you couldn’t get elsewhere. It was only when I did my first post on learning Spanish with Shakira where I used one of her music videos to teach people Spanish that I really got honest excitement from people in response to what I was writing, I mean people just went nuts over that one, it exploded. Which, of course, resulted in me doing another 5 such posts and I’ve got another one I’ve had in the works for a while that I need to finish and will be putting up shortly. This was when I realized just how much of a difference using something fun and interesting made to people.
A single song has more useful information in it than anything else of similar size
A MAJOR plus of using music videos is that you can almost always get a precise transcript for every single thing said and you can frequently get some backstory-type information on what the song was about so you can get even more context to learn from. No guessing about what was said (as in a TV show or movie that you can’t get a transcript or the script for), no misunderstandings or misinterpreting one word for the other.
In addition to this, musical lyrics tend to be very heavy on slang, idioms, and colloquial sayings which is precisely what you want to learn if you want to be able to talk to a native speaker like a native speaker (and you do if you’re here), plus that sort of stuff is so much more memorable than “days of the week” or “how to say you’re allergic to shellfish”, isn’t it? It’s fun and cool and interesting and…therefore: really easy to learn. Why? Because you’re enjoying it, because you want to.
Speaking practice is fun!
You sing. You sing a song you enjoy, after an artist you like, how could that not be fun? Look, I didn’t say you had to do this in front of people. Also, you’ll get the pronunciation down pat by doing this and you’ll never forget what you learned, you can’t really ‘forget’ a song that you once learned how to sing.
A few quick tips…
1. Check to see if you can turn on English subtitles, on a lot of music videos on YouTube now you can do this and they’re almost always correct, this is the easiest way.
2. If you can’t do 1, then google “[song name] english translation” and “[song name] english lyrics”, I don’t have a favorite lyrics site I use (people have asked me this) I just do what I described above, go through the top 5 results or so, and pick the best one.
3. If you have any questions on what a particular expression means and Google can’t tell you, just get on a language learning forum and ask someone, a native speaker will gladly tell you and you’ll have an answer in short order, that’s really the easiest way to do it.
4. When it gets old, when it’s no longer fun, DITCH IT. Go on to the next one. “But I haven’t figured out what everything means, I haven’t learned everything I could from it!”: doesn’t matter, you’re far better off in the long run just going on to the next one because if you don’t and you keep forcing yourself to grind through every single little thing in that video until you’ve got it all then guess what? You get sick of it eventually and give up. Remember what I said at the beginning? Don’t let that happen.
I really hoped this has helped some of you, please let me know if you have any questions.