MUSIC ENHANCE VOCABULARY LEARNING
MARIA GUADALUPE GARCIA CASTAÑEDA
PONTIFICIA BOLIVARIANA UNIVERSITY
MONTERIA, SEPTEMBER 24th ,2005
2. BRIEF LITERATURE REVIEW
3. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
MUSIC ENHANCES VOCABULARY LEARNING
Nowadays, due to the process of globalization communicating in English has
become a need in all fields: science, technology, culture, education, etc. For
this reason, teaching in all fields of education, has increased, given that most
of the information needed in different places and situations comes in this
language. U.P.B in Monteria is aware of these processes, so that, it is
interested to prepare its students and new professionals not only in their
specific areas, but also in a target language. Furthermore, UPB teachers are
also interested in improving English students’ level. That is why; my research
was focused on vocabulary that is an essential issue to develop students`
communication competence. Students` motivation is essential in the learning
process. For this reason and because of my experience, I used songs to teach
Besides, the idea of using songs in the classroom to facilitate the assimilation
of new vocabulary is not a new concept because they create a pleasant
atmosphere in the classroom due to the fact that students equate music with
entertainment rather than work.
There are many theories which support the use of music in the classroom to
facilitate second language acquisition. Throughout this essay I used the works
of Krashen and Thornbury to support my views:
There are several features of Krashen`s theory of Language acquisition that are
strongly relevant in the use of the music in language learning: the affective
filter , the role of natural input in language acquisition and the Acquisition-
learning. There are some other features in Thornbury`s theory that are also
relevant in this job: importance of vocabulary teaching.
I based my research on the aforementioned information as it pertains to the
group of students that I teach. I have a group of 26 students which is made up
of both males and females at a university located in the North of Colombia.
They were between the ages of 17 and 21 years old with different socio-
economic backgrounds. I have observed, based on my experience, that some
students are able to express their ideas orally or in written form in the target
language while others encounter difficulties while attempting to do so, this is
due to the lack of vocabulary. I have also noticed that the latter pupils lose
their motivation and do not want to participate in class anymore. Another
reason could be that teachers do not use the appropriate activities to build up
vocabulary. I have talked to some of my colleagues here at university and in
other places and they have explained to me that they use songs, most of the
time, just for listening comprehension exercises such as filling in the gaps
exercises. They do not take advantage of the comprehensible input that is
found in songs to increase vocabulary.
Based on my observations and the importance of building up vocabulary, I
pose the following question: How can English teachers use songs to increase
the learning of vocabulary of two students of third English level at a private
university in the North of Colombia?
There are some other reasons that I stated for the use of this topic:
• The importance of a wide knowledge is integral to the acquisition of a
target language because without vocabulary a person can not clearly
communicate their thoughts to express their ideas. “Without grammar
very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed”
This is how the linguist David Wilkins summed up the importance of
• The results were of great interest to the academic community.
• This investigation was useful to teachers since they encounter these
problems everyday and it will help them to improve the strategies,
materials and tools they use.
• The challenge associated with attempts at motivating students to learn
vocabulary through the use of materials which appeal to them.
• How the use of authentic and effective speech, in songs, their topics and
themes enable students to learn and practice vocabulary.
2. BRIEF LITERATURE REVIEW
Teaching vocabulary through the use of songs emerged as the main objective of
a number of theories regarding second language acquisition. Some of them are
going to be mentioned here:
• Natalia Orlova has written about the different functions that songs can
perform in language teaching:
1.Songs can effectively contribute to the aesthetic development of
2.Songs can be used as incentive for speaking in class
3.Songs can motivate a positive emotional approach to language learning.
4. Songs can introduce students to the music and culture of particular
interest to them.
• Mariam Beckman.Ed. D. Has studied how Gardner’s theory of Multiple
Intelligences extend and enhance student learning and she proposed
some exercises for each one of the issues: listening, writing, speaking,
reading and vocabulary.
• Kristen, Lems . stands out some reasons to use music in class and offers
strategies to use songs inside the classroom. He describes how music
can be used in the adult ESL classroom to create a learning
environment, to build listening comprehension, speaking, reading and
writing skills to increase vocabulary and to expand cultural knowledge.
3. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
A large amount of literature which discusses the value of using songs in ESL/
EFL classrooms is not empirically based. This does not happen in the study of
vocabulary because it has theoretical bases. However, based upon teachers’
experience, the first hand knowledge of what actually occurs in a language
classroom is, in fact very valuable. My research will be based on two theories:
A. Steven Krashen proposed the Affective Filter , the Input hypotheses and the
Acquistion Learning hypothesis for using songs and provide insights into the
benefits of songs in the classroom.
AFFECTIVE FILTER HYPOTHESIS
The affective filter hypothesis is one of five proposed hypotheses developed by
this researcher. Basically, it is an explanation of how the affective factors relate
to language learning. It is particularly appealing to teachers because it
provides an explanation to why some learners learn and others not.
Teachers have long recognized the need for students to have a positive attitude
in regard to learning. Krashen (1982) explains that for optimal learning to
occur the affective filter must be weak. A weak affective filter means that a
positive attitude towards learning is present. If the affective filter is strong the
learner will not seek language input, and in turn, not be open for language
acquisition. The practical application of the Affective Filter Hypotheses is that
teachers must provide a positive atmosphere conducive to language learning.
Songs are one method for achieving a weak filter and promoting language
THE INPUT HYPOTHESES
This theory is also important for my research because it states that “ the best
methods are those that supply “comprehensible input” in low anxiety
situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. These
methods do not force early production in the second language but allow
students to produce when they are “ready” recognizing that improvement
comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, ant not from
forcing and correcting production.” This theory is related with how music
enhances a good atmosphere in the classroom as well as the input that it is
used with music activities.
The Acquisition-Learning distinction is the most fundamental of all the
hypotheses in Krashen's theory and the most widely known among linguists
and language practitioners. According to Krashen there are two independent
systems of second language performance: 'the acquired system' and 'the
learned system'. The 'acquired system' or 'acquisition' is the product of a
subconscious process very similar to the process children undergo when they
acquire their first language. It requires meaningful interaction in the target
language - natural communication - in which speakers are concentrated not in
the form of their utterances, but in the communicative act.
The 'learned system' or 'learning' is the product of formal instruction and it
comprises a conscious process which results in conscious knowledge 'about'the
language, for example knowledge of grammar rules. According to Krashen
'learning' is less important than 'acquisition'.
The other theorist ( Thornbury) stands out the importance of teaching
vocabulary as well as all the items related to this topic. He mentioned how
David Wilkins, a linguist; summed at the importance of vocabulary learning.
”Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can
be conveyed. His view is echoed in this advice to students from a recent
coursebook (Dellar H and Hocking, innovations,LTP):” if you spend most of
your time studying grammar, your English will not improve very much. You
will see most improvement if you learn more words and expressions. You can
say very little with grammar, but you can say almost anything with words!”. He
also mentions that “vocabulary teaching has not always been very responsive
to such problems, and teachers have not fully recognized the tremendous
communicative advantage in developing an extensive vocabulary.
I can say that both theorists stand out topics that were be taken into account
in my research: the importance of learning vocabulary and the importance of
learning it through songs.
This research was carried out at a university locate in the north of Colombia. It
is a catholic university. It is located 8 kms outside the city.. This university is
made up of 12 schools. Law and Social studies is one of them and the
Language Centre belongs to it. The Language Centre offers four basic and two
specific English levels to the students of this university. The basic levels are
not compulsory while the specific ones are.
Two third level English students were involved in this investigation. One of
them is a male who is 19 years old, he belongs to the middle class. He is
studying electronics. He was shy and he barely spoke in class. He only
participated when he wanted to ask a question about vocabulary or when he
did not understand instructions or explanations. The other student is a 19
year old female who began studying English when she was 6 years old. She
belonged to the middle class. She studies Social Communication. She was a
friendly girl, who was motivated, and liked to participate in class activities.
They were selected because they come from different backgrounds and due to
the fact, that their vocabulary performance in class was very different. It
brought me again to the target question of the investigation: How can teachers
improve vocabulary through songs?.
In this action research, I applied a qualitative and quantitative methodology.
Data was collected from pre-tests, a workshop, an oral chain story , an exam,
a survey, in class observation and interviews.
An oral pre-test was done before beginning the first and second activities to
measure the amount of common and uncommon vocabulary students knew.
The first workshop was based on a music video that students listened to and
watched. They did some vocabulary activities as well as answering some
questions to check the story’s comprehension. By the end of the session they
were asked to write a composition using vocabulary derived from the song. The
purpose of this activity was to measure the use of vocabulary in written form.
The second activity was also related to a song. After listening to it students
answered some questions about the theme of the song in oral form. After that,
they performed a role play in which they dramatized the story of the song. This
oral chain story was audio taped. The aim of this activity was to measure the
use of vocabulary in oral form.
Third, a vocabulary exam was prepared to check the quantity of vocabulary
students learn and how well they used it.
All the activities were designed according to the theories chosen for this
Fourthly, I interviewed the students selected for this research and their
teachers. I also observed those students in my class and I used a survey to
helped me ascertain the reasons why these students used vocabulary in the
way they did.
After collecting the data, I categorized the information and then I triangulated
it to find out coincidences or patterns.
The triangulation consisted of two pre- tests, a composition, an oral chain
story, an exam, some interviews and in class observation.
5. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS
Two students were asked oral permission to participate in this research and
they agreed to do it. During a period of two weeks, data were collected through
two pre-tests a composition, a role play, an exam, interviews and in class
observation. The names Ricardo and Maria were used instead of their real
Coincidences and patterns were taken into account when analysing data.
Special attention was paid to oral and written responses of the participants.
The two pre-tests were carried out orally before each of the listening to the
song The main activities in order to ascertain the participants level of
vocabulary. Pre-tests were made up of two lists of words taken from the songs
and were written on the board and the students were asked to identify the
words they knew and the words they did not know before. They were explained
after the song was played.
The data indicate that participants grasped the meaning of most of the known
words but neither of them knew the unknown words. They argued that they
have not seen those words before. These are the words that were used for each
one of the activities..
VOCABULARY LIST ( FIRST ACTIVITY)
Unknown vocabulary Known vocabulary
VOCABULARY LIST (second activity)
The data suggested that both students have a major command. of known
vocabulary in comparison with unknown vocabulary as stated in figure 1
In the first activity some unknown vocabulary, from the song, was given to
the participants in order to write a composition. The underlined words are
the ones students had to use in this activity.
Below are the composition of the two participants.
This is Maria`s composition:
When she was walking on the street, she earned a whistle and an accident
happened. She was the sole survivor of the crash and her family was crying
for this and the place was very destructive and because it never was a
paradise and blisters.
In Maria’s writing we can observe that she correctly used the words: street,
crying, place, sole and embarrassed. The other words were misused.
This was Ricardo’s composition:
I live in Monteria in the street number 11. I `m on a special place. It is big
and comfortable for me. It is a paradise, but one day I see the difference
between the life and crying but the somber it was, I see the intelligence and
the calm. The paradise can be sole, joyful and restful against the
mysterious whistle I listened in the street, lonely in the long life.
Ricardo’s composition showed that he used 4 words correctly: street, place,
paradise, whistle. Some other words were used incorrectly or were not used
in this activity.
Students' Performance After Doing the Exercises
Use of uncommon Use of uncommon Accumulative Exam
Vocabulary in contex Vocabulary in contex
(W ritten) (Oral)
After carrying out the first activity, the data suggested that the use of
unknown vocabulary in a written context increased.
The second activity carried out, was an oral chain story, in which participants
had to use some unknown words from the song used in class.
Students encountered more difficulties with the use of unknown words in oral
context. They began to tell the story but they had to pause several times
because they did not know how to add information to the story using the word
provided by the teacher. Many words were provided by the teacher. They are
underlined in the story. This is an example of how the used them:
Ricardo: this is a sweet desert
Maria: the lad liked it
Ricardo: but he has faith
Maria: oh no, se como usar laughter
Ricardo: yo tampoco , he said.
Maria: and he walked towards God
Ricardo: sorry, teacher no puedo hacer esto.(sadder)
Maria: God was sadder than me
Ricardo: sorry teacher this is very difficult I can not continue.
Data indicate that participants appropriately used some of the unknown
vocabulary when speaking. They encountered more difficulties with this
activity due to their lack of vocabulary as they expressed in their interviews
and during this activity.
The third activity consisted of a cloze test in which students had to fill in the
blanks with the appropriate words and an exercise in which students had to
complete the sentences according to each one of the given definitions.
These are Maria’s and Ricardo’s tests results.
Once an American girl lost her memory. She did not remember something(1) or
anybody. She began to walk from one paradise(2) to another. She walked for
hours and hours. At night, she was very tired. She was not wearing shoes. She
got blisters(3) on the-----(4) of her feet. She was very sad and began soles(5).
She had place(6) to sleep. Suddenly, a girl appeared. She felt a relief because
the street was lonely and she was feeling fear(7). The young guy(8) saw the girl.
He felt compassion. He asked the girl what had happened to her and the girl
answered that she did not remember anything(8). He could realize that she was
a beautiful girl and he tried to help her. She slept in his house. Next day, he
told her that that she could stay there . He felt in faith(9) and married. But one
day she deserted(10) this young guy. He was very sad and he remember his
father’s advice(11). He said” Do not put your faith (12)in love”. He thought that
his father was clever(13) than him and he promised not to believe in love
anymore(14). He lost his loneliness(15) in love.
Then, Ricardo had to complete some sentences according to given definitions.
He could not do the exercise.
Once an American girl lost her memory. She did not remember anything or
anybody. She began to walk from one paradise
to another. She walked for hours and hours. At night she was very tired. She
was not wearing shoes. She got blisters on the soles of her feet. She was very
sad and began crying . She had somewhere to sleep. Suddenly a person
appeared. She saw him walking on her. She felt a relief because the street was
lonely and she was feeling fear. The young guy saw the girl. He felt
compassion. He asked the girl what had happened to her. and the girl
answered that she did not remember anything. He could realize that she was a
beautiful girl and he tried to help her. She slept in his house. Next day, he told
her that she could stay there. He felt in love and married. But, one day she
deserted this young guy. He was very sad And he remember his father’s
advice. He said” Do not put your faith in love”. He thought that his father was
stupid than him. And he promised not to believe in love anymore. He lost his
faith in love.
Maria’s definitions were all correct.
Maria made four mistakes while Ricardo made 12 mistakes.
Data suggest that the vocabulary performance of Mariás vocabulary increased
more in this activity.
The pre-test and the aforementioned activities indicate that Maria increased
her vocabulary throughout this process. Ricardo´s performance was not as
good as Mariás performance. Ricardo said that he did not have a lot time to
study and this was confirmed throughout the activities. These results were
also possible because participants felt motivated with songs as they expressed
in all their interviews.
These are Maria’s and Ricardo’s interviews:
Do you like music?
yes, especially in English.
What kind of music do you like?
rock ( Nirvana)
Do you think that you have learnt vocabulary through songs?
Yes, I like theses activities a lot , more than presenting a written exam. I do
not know how to explain, the ear helps to understands things better.
Did you learn vocabulary through the activities we did in class?
I think I learnt and it is a good method. I feel relax when you are listening to
songs. It is more common to see music than readings.
Do you like music?
yes, especially in Spanish
What kind of music do you like?
pop and vallenato
Do you think that you have learnt vocabulary through songs?
Yes, I like these activities I think they are fine. I think that it is good to
listen to songs because you want to know the meaning of each word to
understand the lyrics.
Did you learn vocabulary through the activities we did in class?
Of course, I learnt a lot.
One can observe that the girl performed better than the boy as stated in figure
Data tells me that the boys performance was lower because he did not have
time to study English and this can be ascertained through his interview, in
class observation, his survey and his performance.
As a conclusion I can say that María increased her vocabulary performance
through songs, they like these activities and they learnt through them as it is
observed in the data
I suggest the use of songs to aid with the teaching of vocabulary.
According to the findings, I also suggest the use of written activities based on
songs to teach vocabulary due to the fact that role plays based on song’s
stories need vocabulary , creativity and time.
Teachers must be aware of the songs they choose. Songs must be chosen
according to the student’s level, likes and the topics being taught.
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