Being a music lover and hobbyist musician, I have always found ways to incorporate music into my teaching – especially language courses. Not only is music easily appreciated by simply listening, but it can be enjoyed on a number of levels: melody and harmony (or dissonance), instrumentation, musicians’ skillful playing, singer’s voice, lyrics and message, cultural references, and more. In addition, music can transcend linguistic and cultural barriers in a way that makes it accessible to all levels of language learners.
Music fits the multiple literacies approach teaching language, in that you identify the cultural and linguistic specificities of the song, symphony, or concept album. How do the lyrics express a certain message? How does the music video for a song generate a different interpretation or understanding of the song? In other words, what does the imagery convey to you as viewer and listener? What symbols or cultural references can you identify and how do they compare/contrast to what you understand of them from your native language and culture?
In one of my own lesson plans for the second semester of German (A1.2 level), I use a song by the metal band Rammstein called “Ich will.” It is a great example of using modal verbs, but it also offers an interesting insight into the artists relationship to their audience – it is interactive with questions to the audience and their responses – and the video introduces a media critical perspective. For your convenience, here is a link to a PDF of the lesson plan, which I adapt to fit whichever level I am teaching (hence the more general descriptive outline).
An important aspect of teaching music in this way is that it appeals to different learning styles, and students who favor the various styles will be able to encounter the song in their own way, which can be both powerful and motivating. Thinking about music along multiple readings (visual, aural, narrative, cultural) and perspectives (e.g. American vs. German) strengthens students’ critical reading and thinking skills and reinforces the value of linguistic and cultural understanding. This, of course, is perfectly in line with our approach at CORE Languages: we offer language and intercultural training.
Learning how to “read” a “text” (e.g. film, book, picture, painting, song, website, etc.) from another culture gives you insight into cultural values, ideas and perspectives on a variety of topics and is not to be underestimated. These are exactly those things that many of our clients are trying to understand about their colleagues and counterparts from around the world: where are they coming from and how can I communicate effectively with them? In fact, this gives our clients the tools they need to continue to successfully learn on their own even after their courses have ended.