Language Learning Strategies: MUSIC

It’s no secret that listening to a language that you are learning is an incredibly good way of increasing not only your comprehension, but also your vocabulary knowledge.

If you can unite enjoyment with what you’re listening to, then your motivation is going to increase and you’re more likely to repeat the activity.

Let’s look at all the advantages of adding music to your language learning toolkit.

  1. As I mentioned before, listening to music is something that you do for pleasure and therefore it’ll be easier to do and more motivating. Compare this to listening to the news to help you learn a language.
  2. It’s very likely that if you’re learning English, you’re listening to a lot of English music already. So, it’s going to be easier to continue doing so.  
  3. According to the Economist Interactive (29/01/22), of the 50 most-streamed tracks on Spotify over the past five years, 47 were in English. Most radio stations in Spain play music in English, and YouTube has practically every popular song ever written. What this means is that you’ll never be short of material.
  4. You can always read aloud articles and stories, but most people love singing songs. With lyrics and karaoke versions of songs readily available on YouTube, you have never had a better opportunity to sing along to your favourites, and at the same time get a real feel for the words, melody and rhythm of the language.
  5. Portability. Just like podcasts, you can carry around millions of songs, especially if you have a subscription to Spotify, and therefore, you can integrate music into other activities from driving to jogging.

Music seems to tick all the boxes when it comes to language learning and if you are serious about improving quickly, you need to incorporate it into your life.

How do I learn with music?

Here are a couple of tips.

1.Pick a song you like but are not familiar with yet.

2. Listen to it without the lyrics a few times to see if you understand it all.

3. Now check the lyrics and look up any words you don’t know.

4. Listen to the song with the lyrics and notice the way the words link together as well as the rhythm and melody.

5. Now listen again without the lyrics. Do you understand the whole song now?

6. Time to sing. The best option is to memorise the lyrics and sing the song with the singers and later without them. If not, you always have the karaoke version.

7. If you really love singing and are good at it, why not join a choir? In Barcelona and other large cities there are English choir groups, and you may have the opportunity to meet English speakers. Win-Win!

If you want to know more about Personal Language Learning Strategies or improve your English pronunciation, feel free to contact me.

ARE YOU HUNGRY or ANGRY? o ¿Tienes HANGRY ?

One of the most typical existential doubts that a Spanish student can have in English is choosing between hungry /ˈhʌŋgri/  and angry /ˈæŋgri/, mostly due to the pronunciation of the two words. And you can add to that the difficulty of differentiating between the u /ʌ/ and the a /æ/ as Spanish has a composite sound similar to a mix of the two.

One way of remembering the words is to remember that hungry starts with an h like hambre. And remember Hungary can be pronounced exactly the same as hungry but means Hungría. All clear so far?!

But then you find the word hangry and wonder if someone has made a spelling mistake. Well, actually they haven’t. Hangry fits into the category of portmanteau words; ones that combine parts of two words, such as smog (smoke and fog) and brunch (breakfast and lunch). It’s a really economical way of coining new phrases; it’s like two for the price of one in a lexical supermarket.

Hangry is a neologism from the world of psychology and combines…. yes, you guessed it, hungry and angry. In psychology, it refers to becoming angry when you get hungry and needing to satisfy your hunger as soon as possible.

Does that happen to you? Do you get in a bad mood when you’re feeling hungry, and suddenly become hangry? A large part of successful dieting is being able to control this emotion. Have you tried drinking water to reduce your appetite? It works! Really! And now there’s a trend towards fasting. If you tend to get hangry then you’ll need more work before moving onto that.

So, if you’re not a native English speaker, you now have another word to master!

So, do you get hangry? It’s food for thought!

EUROVISION – We’re back! But why now?

How Spain and the UK turned things around

The UK and Spain have been the butt of the Eurovision jokes for quite a few years now, and most people had given up hope of either country ever bouncing back again, but as the votes came in with 10s and 12s, the feeling of “Is this really happening?” started changing to “This really is happening!”

In the end, with Russia banned, Ukraine won with The folk-rap act, Kalush Orchestraas as the European audience decided to vote in support of a country at war. I’m sure both Sam Ryder and Chanel were disappointed, but understood the final result: UK: 2nd, Spain: 3rd.

How did the UK turn things around from 0 to 466 points? It finally puts to bed the belief that voters don’t vote for certain countries, as both Russia and Israel have won in recent years.

Can we learn anything from this year’s results and apply it to business, language learning or life goals?

Firstly, with the erroneous belief behind them, they decided to take the competition seriously (attitude), something that they hadn’t done for about 30 years.

Secondly, they chose a singer with a great voice (Sam Ryder) with a huge vocal range who had 12.1 million followers on Tictoc. Sam’s cover versions impressed their original singers. Alicia Keys was so impressed, she sang a duet with him (Talent).

Thirdly, they picked a quality song written by professional songwriters (with its octave jump in the chorus), influenced by classic British artists such as Queen, Elton John and David Bowie with someone who could perform it well (Quality).

Fourthly, the set was designed to convey the meaning of the song, with “space and stars” as the theme. Not spectacular, but a lot of thought was put into it all the same (Image).

Lastly, and probably most importantly, a marketing team devised a plan to promote the song around Europe in the months preceding the contest. Songs tend to grow on you, and if you’ve already heard the song a lot of times, you’re more likely to vote for it, unless it’s rubbish!! (Promotion).

Both the UK and Spain showed that when you spend the time planning something carefully and work hard to implement it with a positive attitude, your results are going to improve dramatically. Let’s see what happens next year.

Eurovision is back. What are your thoughts?

THREE QUICK TRICKS TO GET YOUR CHILDREN TO SPEAK TO YOU IN YOUR LANGUAGE when they don’t or won’t.

(BILINGUAL FAMILIES)

There is one really frustrating experience for parents who are trying to raise their children in their native language while living in a country that doesn’t speak it;  their children answer them in the local language rather than their own one.

The first TWO KEY STRATEGIES for raising a child in your language are

1)OPOL. One Parent, One Language. That is, you only speak your language to your child, and the other parent speaks their native language. This is important and establishes one single clear channel of communication. It’s simple and effective. And simple and effective is a good thing for children.

2) IL2U. ONE LANGUGAGE TO YOU. The goal is that your children only speak your language back to you. This is the most common issue. Many parents manage the first OPOL strategy correctly, but then they ‘let’ their children answer them in the local language.

There are two main reasons why this happens.

  1. The child hasn’t received enough exposure to your language and the local language is the one that comes to mind first.
  2. The main reason though is that you have ‘let’ your child answer you or speak to you in the local language, perhaps thinking that this is ‘normal’, and your children will eventually speak to you in your language. Sadly, this hardly ever happens without some serious intervention!  See my article on how this happens and some of the ways you can nip it in the bud.

If you’re in this situation, and haven’t been able to turn it around, I have THREE QUICK TIPS that will at least make your children speak their language to you, even if they don’t want to!!! It revolves around scripted language. So, let’s dive in and see how it works.

1.NURSERY (Children’s) RHYMES for PRE-READERS

If your child isn’t old enough to read yet, you may have started reading to them in your language. If not, START RIGHT NOW!  

With nursery rhymes, children love them and they’re easy to learn and repeat. Once you’ve repeated one of them a million times (at the child’s request), they will know them by heart anyway. The trick now is to get them to ‘sing’ them with you. So, say, “OK, together! Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon…”

Once they are repeating it with you, you can say, “So, what did the cow do?” and use questions and answers using the songs and rhymes. This may spark a moment which triggers your language. You can even coax them gently: “Hey, let’s speak in OUR language when we’re doing this. Can you do that for mummy? Don’t push it, but be perseverant.

2. STARTING TO READ

Something that never occurred to me was that parents weren’t teaching their children to read in their language. In fact, not teaching your child to read is the norm! Despite what you might believe, learning to read in your language, won’t tire them out or confuse them. They are much more resilient and intelligent than you think. For some easy tips on how I taught my son to read in English, see Marc’s Blog on this website.

By getting them to start reading out loud, they are speaking the language. If your language is a phonetic one, you can use the ‘phonic method’ of pronouncing the syllables and saying the words. In English I combined the phonic with the ‘whole word’ approach for irregular words. Read up on it and get some books in your language appropriate for their age and start reading together.

3. READING TOGETHER

Once the child is reading in your language, a whole world of possibilities opens up for you. This means reading stories, poems, plays, prayers (where relevant) and rhymes, as well as learning and singing songs. Children love singing until they are told be adults that they can’t sing properly. 99% of people have the potential to sing in tune, so encourage it.

This can lead on to Karaoke. In most major languages, you’ll find karaoke versions of all major songs. Take advantage of it. Music adds an extra dimension to your language.

SUMMING IT UP

Even if your children never speak back to you in your language, ALWAYS speak to them in your language. The worst case scenario is that they will be passive bilinguals, and the language will be there to revive later in life.

The most important thing is to nurture a love for reading and if possible, for music and especially singing in your language. I won’t deal with writing here, but that is also great.

These techniques are great whether your child speaks to you in your language or not but is especially important if you don’t. If you haven’t done so, try it out, and let me know how it goes.

If you have very young babies, immerse them in the language, speak to them all the time and only let them speak to you in your language. This is how it works. Make it a daily habit.

I look forward to hearing your comments.

A VOICE COACH OR A VOCAL COACH?

Do you need help singing better or speaking better?  

Which one do you choose? What’s the difference?

B

VOCAL COACH

Very often they are used as synonyms. If you need to sing better, you seek out a voice coach or a vocal coach. Think of the famous television singing competition, The Voice, where the judges can only assess the competitors based on their signing voice. It’s an ingenious way to make someone focus on the voice alone, and not just their looks. However, singing coaches are often called vocal coaches.

VOICE COACH

On the other hand, if you want to improve your voice for speaking in public, such as giving talks, presentations, training sessions, workshops, etc, you would normally look for a voice coach.

Some of the voice or vocal exercises are the same for both speaking and singing, and it’s a good idea for a singer to look after their voice when they are speaking in everyday life. Good speaking habits help protect the delicate singing apparatus.

And many people find that after voice coaching for public speaking they begin singing better as an added bonus. Just so you know!

Another bonus is that you can make your voice deeper, higher, or even sexier. You choose!

I specialise in voice coaching for speakers of English as a second language., I can help you improve your accent and find your perfect voice in English.

Contact me to find out how.

VOICE SHAPERS

WHAT FACTORS CAN INFLUENCE YOUR VOICE?

Voice shapers are factors that can influence the quality of your voice features.

BREATHING. How do you breathe? Breathing means everything in the control and the quality of your voice. Learning to control the way you breathe is one of the key features of great voice delivery. There are simple exercises that you can do every day to improve not only your voice, but help you relax.

We breathe automatically, but when you explicitly change your breathing technique, you can make big changes in the way you feel and how you can use your voice. It’s not only singers who need to learn how to breathe.

This is why an emphasis is put on breathing in voice coach sessions, therapies and activities such as meditation.

BODY

You can’t change your body type, although through habits you can control your weight and muscle mass. Apart from that, there are other body influencers on your voice.

Body posture. The way you stand and position your head and throat have a big influence on the way your voice sounds. Just try speaking while bending down or lifting your head up. Now imagine being shown body postures that optimise your voice.

Facial expressions convey meaning and can be interpreted differently depending on the nationality of your audience. They also alter the way you sound. Opening your mouth wider or smiling while you talk changes your voice and a listener’s perception.

HEALTH

Although not an obvious area to focus on, it shouldn’t be a surprise that factors such as your diet, which includes eating healthily, alcoholic drink intake, exercise and smoking all have an effect on the quality and tone of your voice, both in the short and long term.

In English Voice Coaching I take a whole person approach to helping people find their perfect voice and changing the way they communicate and how they are perceived by others.

How does voice coaching work?

You have thought about improving your voice in a second language, but you probably wonder how it works, the system and what aspects of the voice and language voice coaches at.

Voice Assessment & Analysis

In the first meeting, a second language voice coach will listen to you, assess the way you use your voice and language and do a speech analysis which will be used to create a plan to improve your voice. 

The first questions are:

Which aspects do youwant to improve? How do you feel
about your voice and the way you speak? Most people have an idea about what
features they are not happy with.

What’s your purpose / objective? In which situations do you need to improve your voice?

An action plan will look at any of the following areas by priority.

Delivery. This is the overall way you speak and project your voice.

Intonation and Pitch. This is the way the voice rises and falls.

Tone 1. From a vocal quality point of view, the features are, hard, husky, soft, silky, low, high, etc. 

Tone 2. can also be defined as the impression you give on different dimensions including: formal-informal and serious-funny.

Stress patterns. These provide the rhythm or melody of the sentences,
an example might be a “sing-songy” effect. 

The way you link words together is  known as “liaison“. This makes you sound more
natural.

Pacing (Speed).  You may find you speak more slowly in a foreign language than you want to. Normal speech is around 140 WPM. When to PAUSE is also a key feature.

Volume. This is under your control in whichever language you speak. Using
volume is useful tool for maintaining audience attention.

Articulation. Mouth and tongue positions : these affect your ability to make the
sounds of the language.

Pronunciation of the sounds of English (phonemes) and the correct stress
patterns on words are the main features of your accent.

Language. Recurring language errors will be addressed, especially if they create misunderstanding or ambiguity.

Gestures and body language. These will be dealt with on a priority basis.

PRIORITISING

We work on the features by order of priority. Trying to change too many things at the same time is a big mistake.

Often, changing just one or two features can be a game-changer
for the speaker and the effect it has on the listener.

Example Voice Coaching Session.

The course is based on the objectives taken from the individual Voice Analysis using the features mentioned above.

Step 1 . Warm up.

Sessions begin with breathing and vocal warm-up exercises. Body, neck
and face are included here.

Step 2. Review of the previous session.

We go over the main points of the previous session.

Step 3. Action

The classes begin according to the plan and objectives.

Step 4. Feedback

We talk about how the session went.

Step 5. Homework

We set tasks to do at specific times for the next session.

Methods & Techniques

Sound scripting

We take the speech that the person is working on and do “Sound scripting”, breaking the text into meaning phrases, also know as “chunks” focussing especially on pausing
between them. From here, we will work on overall tone, intonation, pitch and
stress patterns taking into account what the person wants to communicate, e.g.
influencing or inspiring.

Recording and playing back the voice is another important technique.

Get in touch to find your perfect voice. 

simon.brampton@advantage.es

ACCENT MODIFICATION OR REDUCTION

What is it? Do you need it?

Are you worried about your accent when you speak another language? Do you want to sound more native? For example, do you want to speak in an English accent like Prince William, or Kate Middleton, or an American one like Meghan Markle or Joe Biden?

This is very difficult indeed. According to the Critical Age Hypothesis, once you reach a certain age, imitating an accent and speaking like a native becomes almost impossible. You need a lot of exposure, a special talent for imitating sounds (can you imitate regional accents in your own language?), and you also have to be willing to take on another identity, which includes speaking with a different voice and even pitch, as well as using new facial expressions and body language.   

I said that it’s almost impossible to pass as a native, but three years ago, I met a woman who I thought was English, when in fact she was Spanish! She even fooled me. She’d lived in England for 23 years and had managed to imitate the accent and most of the mannerisms and facial expressions that characterise an English person. I think the Marks and Spencer clothing was the finishing touch that helped to fool me; how many Spanish people would ever wear anything from Marks and Spencer?!

In the Tarentino film, Inglourious Basterds, while in a bar in occupied France in wartime Germany, a character named Bridgit Von Hammersmark refused a drink, and so the group only needed three glasses. A spy at their table, Hicox, a British officer pretending to be a German, ordered the Scotch with a three-finger gesture, which was not the normal German one, and this gave them away. This shows that becoming a “full native” requires mastery of both body language and gestures.

Accent Reduction/ Modification

Even if you can’t sound exactly like a native (if that’s what you want), you can certainly sound more native by getting closer to the sounds, as well as reducing the prominence of your native accent in English, which will make you more intelligible as well.

But remember, it’s not just the pronunciation of phonemes, it’s also the melody of the language, the intonation, pitch and stress patterns.

I see perfecting your accent as polishing a language or putting the icing on the cake after you have mastered the grammar and learned a lot of vocabulary.

The TWO main aspects I aim for in my clients are:

1) Intelligibility – Are you easy to understand? This is the most important aspect. For effective communication people need to understand your message and what you want to communicate.

2) Is it enjoyable to listen to you when you speak? Even if your listener is able to understand you, or most of what you say, the way that you are speaking may require effort and be tiring, irritating or frustrating.

If you want to improve and find your best voice in English, you need a professional voice coach. I can help you make a noticeable difference in a short time.

ENGLISH VOICE COACHING FOR SINGERS WHO ARE NOT NATIVE SPEAKERS

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SINGING IN ENGLISH

SIMON’S 5-STEP ENGLISH VOICE SINGING METHOD

  1. MEANING – STORY

READING: SAY AND TELL Technique

2. SOUND SCRIPTING – INTONATION, MELODY, RHYTHM – Sing in tune!

3. REHEARSE, REHEARSE, REHEARSE

4. COACHING 2.

5. PERFORMANCE & Feedback

VOICE COACHING FOR SPEAKERS AND SINGERS has a lot of features in common. It’s important to improve the quality of the voice delivery in both cases, and both require sound scripting and a lot of rehearsal.

In this article, I’m going to deal specifically with how I help singers who are not native English speakers with their singing. What this means is that it’s more than a normal singing class because the language of the song and the sounds are likely to be unknown or unfamiliar.

For the sake of this article, I’ll imagine that you are able to sing the song in tune!

Let’s look at the METHOD and TECHNIQUES I use to improve the way singers use English in their songs.

  1. MEANING – STORY

There are singers who tell you that they sing songs they don’t understand. Great!! Well done! Very often we can tell what feeling the song is communicating by the key it’s written in, the way the original singer sings it, the instrument arrangement, and maybe you simply found the information on the internet.

Whatever, you really need to know what the story is behind the song, and the attitude or feeling that the composer aimed to get across. The first thing I do is ensure that the singer knows what the song is about. You can even watch the video if it’s any good!

READING: SAY AND TELL Technique

The technique I use with songs before singing them is to read them as if they were stories. You should be able to SAY the sentences with the correct meaning and feeling and then you can TELL what they really mean. This may sound strange, but if English is not your first language, it will really help you understand the song in more depth. At this stage we also look at the pronunciation of words and sounds the singer finds difficult.

2.SOUND SCRIPTING

Sound scripting means taking the song and marking different sections of the lines.

For example, we mark the stressed syllables in words and highlight important words in the lines such as nouns and adjectives (stress patterns) and link consonants with vowels (liaison). In a song, you have to follow a melody, although you can change the timing of some syllables, their duration and speed up to a certain point.

Example of Sound scripting

(GALWAY GIRL: Ed Sheeran)

We do this with each line of the song, perfecting the pronunciation, timing, phrasing rhythm and melody.

Sometimes help is needed with articulation (tongue and mouth position) to sing certain sounds, and this is included at this stage.

3.REHEARSE, REHEARSE, REHEARSE

In this next stage it’s up to the singer to really immerse themselves in the song until it becomes automatic, and they sing it in their dreams! Use your phone, a Walkman and some headphones!

There are different techniques.

  1. Listen to a line, repeat it.
  2. Shadowing. Sing the song with the singer.
  3. Use “karaoke”. Great if you don’t have the song without the singing and you can’t play an instrument to accompany yourself (or someone).
  4. Listen to the whole song – repeat (sing) it and record it – listen to your recording. Take note on what you can improve and then repeat the process. It’s like a loop.  
  5. It’s great if you can find someone who you can perform to, as this imitates a live performance (to a small degree).

Once the singer has mastered or at least improved the performance of the song a lot, it’s time for another session with the voice coach.

4.COACHING 2.

The singer will now proudly sing the song for the voice coach. At this stage, it should be a case of tweaking and polishing.

FEEDBACK

An English voice coach looks for great the correct implementation of the vocal patterns and feature such as pronunciation from the sound script.

 The coach listens, takes notes and then gives the feedback after the session, gives advice on corrections and improvements. Feedback is also given on any notes that weren’t sung in tune!

At this stage, we video the rehearsal, watch and listen to it and more feedback is given. This is repeated until the singer is satisfied or we run out of time.

PERFORMANCE

The big day arrives. The singer performs the song. If there is a recording of the song, we watch and listen to it, to see how well it went and if we can improve it.

If you want to improve your singing in English, get in touch and we can talk about taking your singing in English to the next level.