The Griff

Learn English through singing

Campus Education

Learn English through singing

MacEwan program uses music to assist with pronunciation

When it comes to learning a second language, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method. At MacEwan University, singing is a dynamic approach used in the Pronunciation II class that makes learning English incredibly easy for students. 

Learning a new language is never easy, especially for adults who have a lot of responsibilities and face many life challenges. Considering those distractions, the practice of learning English through singing has been appreciated by students, including Elena Soto. “I realized that singing songs helped me to understand native and non-native English speakers. Also, singing boosted my singing skill,” said Soto

In the English as an Additional Language (EAL) program, there are core classes such as reading and writing, listening and speaking, and the optional classes as vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. The last one is very important because good pronunciation should be a high priority for non-native English speakers. If someone has good grammar and strong vocabulary, but has poor pronunciation, people may not understand them when they speak. Thus, pronunciation helps to avoid miscommunication and gives the speaker the tools they need in order to be understood.

To put more emphasis in pronunciation, the Conservatory of Music at MacEwan added the Learn English Through Singing (LETS) as part of the EAL program using a grant provided by the Muttart Foundation. LETS began in the Fall term of 2018, and its potential continuation is contingent on external funding received for it. The students learn a new song every week and have two performances during the term. Students at the Alberta College Campus were able to catch these performances for free, as they were held in the Student Lounge. 

The instructor of the pronunciation class, May Yeung, uses varied strategies to help students with pronunciation, including presenting a word in a sentence, repetition, and explaining definitions. She also motivates them to practice the language outside the classroom by interacting with native speakers. Yeung is always present in the singing classes and participates in the performances alongside her students, which students have found to be encouraging. Juan Gutierrez, another student, said, “My teacher helped me a lot because she always gave us confidence when she sang with us.” 

The LETS instructor, David André, helps the students to understand and correctly pronounce every single word before singing. As well, he always explains the context and the idiomatic expressions expressed in each song. 

In the pronunciation class, students feel relaxed and can forget about all their heavy responsibilities. It is a time to sing and to smile. The selected songs help students to feel happy and at the same time to be conscious about the things that happen in the world. Some selected songs include “With a Little Help from My Friends” by The Beatles, “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, “Imagine” by John Lennon, “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin, and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.

This class has awakened the desire to sing again in some students. Student Fatemeh Ghods said, “I was always shy (about) singing, especially in front of others. But I did it during our classes and twice in the (Student Lounge). It was an interesting experience.”

Photographs supplied by Steven Stefaniuk