35 SONGS – podcast episode 35 – transcript

This time we want to give you some hints on how to use songs to improve your English.

Here’s the transcript.  

Enjoy!  Marta

Listen to the episode on iTunes or here:




M – Let’s talk about how to improve the language using … SONGS !

C – Hi everybody! Do you know how Marta and I met? It was at a New Year’s Eve party where Marta was performing.

M – Yeah, I remember it very well. I started singing the first song and after a couple of lines this blonde woman in the audience turned around and stared at me right in the eye.

C – I turned around and looked at you because you were singing in English, I mean, real English!

M – Of course, I was!

C – We’d better explain. Marta and I live in Italy and live performers here in Italy don’t usually pay much attention to their English pronunciation. I mean, I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I have to admit Italian singers singing in English aren’t generally that careful about enunciating. Sometimes they sneak in a bit of gibberish with some real English words at the beginning or end of a sentence. That’s why Marta totally caught my attention at that party. I said to my husband ‘’She speaks English- and she speaks it well.”

M – And when the party was over we ended up chatting.

C – Yes, you mentioned that you were also a songwriter and you needed someone to double check your lyrics in English.

M – That’s how it all began. Our friendship was born thanks to music and languages.

C – Marta, tell our listeners how important songs have been for you to learn English.

M – Oh, so important! Songs are precious tools in order to learn new vocabulary. The melody helps you with memorizing and remembering sentences. In addition to this, if you sing along with the singer you get the right pronunciation and accent even without noticing it.

C – You’re right, it’s kind of effortless, natural. But we’re not all singers on a stage like you, Marta.

M – It doesn’t matter, the goal is to improve your language while having fun. You don’t need to sing well, just sing along with the radio while driving or when taking a shower, you can be completely out of tune, that’s fine…

C – well, everybody, if your neighbors complain about your singing out of tune just remind them that they’re getting English lessons for free. 🙂 So, everybody, with this episode we want to give you some hints about how to use songs to improve your English.

M – Ok, first off : pick a song in English that you really like.

C – Ok, have you chosen your song? Good. The first step is: try and write down the lyrics only by listening to the song. Just pretend that the internet doesn’t exist. Listen to the song over and over, one bit at a time, and try to understand the lyrics, write them down.

M – This is what I did every day as a teenager. Back then internet really didn’t exist and I had no choice.

C – Ah, the Dark Ages before internet! 🙂

M – Second step?

C – Now Google the lyrics and compare them to what you had written. Find out what you had missed and what you’ve misunderstood. Third step: check the lyrics again and look for slang, idioms, interesting expressions, strange accents, whatever catches your eye – and ear. Everybody loves music! It’s much easier, and a lot more fun to learn the details of a language while enjoying music! Marta can you give us some examples?

M – At school no one taught me the use of AIN’T.

C – Ain’t – spelling: A I N ‘ T . According to the context , ain’t is slang meaning : isn’t , aren’t , or hasn’t, haven’t. It’s very common in everyday conversation, but it is not proper English. Your English teacher never taught you about ‘’ain’t’’? It’s not taught in school?

M – no, but I’ve heard “ain’t” in a lot of songs.

ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone…” * “baby it ain’t over till it’s over” * “no, no, no, it ain’t me babe, it ain’t me you’re looking for, babe…” * “this ain’t a love song…” * “but everything means nothing if I ain’t got you, yeah…”

C – So that’s how you learned it.

M – Yes.

C – Songs also help us to learn how different accents can sound.

M – You’re right. Pick a word.

C – hmmm… ‘again’.

M – Ok, for example check the difference between Annie Lennox: “here comes the rain again” and Britney Spears: “oops I did it again”.

C – Again (British) vs. again (American).

M – Pick another word.

C – hmmm… ‘half’ .

M – Ok, the Beatles: “I’m not half the man I used to be” and Bon Jovi : “we’re half way there”

C – Ok.

M – Even learning grammar is easier using songs.

C – For example, listen carefully to this grammar rule about the Second Conditional. Are you ready?

M – Sure, go ahead!

C – The verb of the ‘if clause’ is at the simple past, please note that the subjunctive form of the verb ‘to be’ is often used for the first and third person.

M – uhm..

C – Great. Now, let’s review. Marta, what did we learn?

M – mmm…that you were rambling on about the Second Conditional. Then I lost you, I’m afraid.

C – Wasn’t it boring?? 🙂 To make a long story short, I said: instead of saying “If I was…” we usually say “If I were…”.

M – All right, now I get it. Let’s listen to Beyoncé’s: “If I were a boy” . Now I’m sure I will remember this grammar rule forever.

C – It’s much easier with music isn’t it?

C – Ok, listeners, now it’s up to you. Choose a song and follow the tips we gave you. Then let us know what you’ve learned by doing so. We’ll be waiting for your feedback, we’ll collect your comments and include them into a follow-up episode about songs and lyrics.

M – I’m sure this method works, I’ve used it for 20 years now.

C – You even became a songwriter. Hey Marta, why don’t we use some of the songs you wrote in that follow-up episode?

M – Good idea.

C – Ok, everybody, get in contact with us on our blog http://www.myamericanfriendblog.com or on our Facebook page, Podomatic, Youtube, Twitter, we’re everywhere on the web.

M – see you soon!

C – bye bye


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