Using Songs for Teaching English – Term Paper


1.0 Introduction

This paper focuses on the effectiveness of using music in Malaysian classroom. It will focus on the kids aged between 13years and 17 years. English syllabus might appear boring in both primary and secondary schools since it concentrates more on grammar. English is considered to be a dominant language in Malaysia (Sardareh, 2014). However, Malaysia has a populace which is comprised of different cultures and different languages. Some of the other languages might are Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil who are from different cultures such as Chinese and Indian (Sardareh, 2014). Some of the students might learn their mother tongue first before they know how to communicate in English which is one of the dominant languages. Statistics indicate that almost 70% of the students in Malaysia use their mother tongue (Sardareh, 2014). Malaysian populace constitutes mainly Muslim Malay thus most of them communicate in Bahasa Malaysia more so in the rural regions. Teachers and instructors teach in Bahasa Malaysia in all the subjects except English lessons in both Primary and Secondary schools (Sardareh, 2014). Therefore learning and understanding English is curbed.

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This paper will focus on how to make English lessons in a Malaysian classroom more interesting and understandable by integrating music and songs into the English syllabus and class activities. Use of music and songs will excite the students which will cause them to be emotionally and psychologically attached to the lessons (Shen, 2009). This will simplify the mode of teaching English. It might also change the student’s attitude towards English. Bad attitude might hamper a student’s ability to learn and understand English (Engh, 2012). Since English is one of the dominant languages in the country most of the students have to learn, though the method of teaching the syllabus might change to enhance the teaching of English language (Saradreh, 2014). Appreciation of the language by the students is will highly depend on how teachers and instructors undertake the English lessons. Using music and songs might be one of the methods (Smith, 2002). Some of them tend to hate on the language.

Since Malaysia is a multi-cultural nation, students have to be taught in a language that they can communicate better. The unification that is brought about by speaking and communicating one language will be enhanced by teaching them English (Sardareh, 2014). English is an international language thus students need to be prepared to face the outside world whereby they have to speak fluent and eloquent English. Use of music and songs will also help in fluency (Smith, 2002). The culture of teaching English in Malaysia should be changed for the greater good. An emotional connection towards the language will be reinforced by use of music and songs. Most of the students have their mother tongue as their first language hence they are emotionally and psychologically connected to it (Sardareh, 2014). Therefore, the syllabus should make sure that such an effect is also conveyed in the English language. This research focuses on students between the age of 13 years and 17 years who are teenagers and their mental ability is still growing thus effect of incorporating music and songs in their lessons will be felt.

ESL Songs Study

1.1 Background of the Study

A survey carried out by Engh Dwayne (2012) on the states that use of music and songs creates a motivational mood in language learners. Some fields such as sociolinguistics, anthropology, psycholinguistics, and cognitive science have substantiated this study (Engh, 2012). Music has been used in various regions in English lessons to reduce boredom that could happen due to repetition in the 1950s up to the 1970s. Later, some started using classical instrumental music which produced a relaxed and quiet state of the learners’ mind that caused the receptors of the brain to input and initiates the activation of the subconscious state (Engh, 2012). 

The outcome of the study carried out by Engh (2012) suggested there were two results acquired from the study. One is that there was a strong correlation between the using music in teaching of language in classrooms and understanding of the language, but what was occurring in most lessons was very limited. The second results indicated that although there was a strong support by the teachers who intuitively felt that music was favorable for understanding the language, there was an insinuation that there was lack of mastering of the theoretical foundation that supported that strategy. Therefore, some teachers and instructors were incapable of defending the decision to drive the need of using music in the lessons to administrators, English business students or those who are mainly focused on an exam environment. There were very little articles supporting the use of music and songs compared to other articles that supported other means of teaching.

Teaching English in Malaysia

1.2 Statement of the Problems

Malaysia is comprised of different cultures which use different languages. Students learn their mother tongue as the first language. Hence, trying to teach them English would be a bit difficult due to their understanding. They are so attached to their first language such that learning and understanding another language would not be easy (Sardareh, 2014). Some of them have culture chauvinism such that they prefer learning their own language other than another language (Shen, 2009). It would be very difficult for educators to help them appreciate and learn English. Pronunciation of English words might be a problem too since they might be having accents due to their first languages (Sardareh, 2014). Having to teach the same language to different cultures at the same time would be challenging to the educators. Thus using music and songs in the English lessons would simplify their teaching method and the students might understand better through the strategy.

Some students might fear learning English which they might believe it is difficult to understand and communicate. Mostly students from the rural areas who have not been exposed to any or few English speakers would believe that it is hard to understand (Shen, 2009). They might enjoy hearing music and songs in English classrooms which would help them face that fear and embrace the language. Fear would also affect a student’s attitude towards the language. Some would just hate or have a bad attitude towards English (Shen, 2009). This might be emotionally and psychologically. Their cognitive ability in understanding the language would be low. The bad attitude towards English language would greatly affect their ability to master and communicate in the language fluently. The bad attitude might create some ignorance towards the language. Since they don’t like it, they would prefer ignoring it in the classrooms. Moreover, their understanding would be hampered or slowed down. The student might have a low confidence towards understanding English due to fear. Low confidence would make them believe that their brains are not smart enough to grasp the fundamentals of the language. Using music and songs in the language-learning lessons would help them understand and appreciate English.

Not many educators have adopted the use of music and songs as a strategy in their English lessons (Engh, 2012). Most of them use traditional methods, using a chalk and board only. This creates a monotonous mood and the students might be bored with the language. Most of the educators don’t support or believe that music and songs would help or improve the rate of understanding English. They would just ignore the new method and prefer to retain the status quo. It is believed that change is inevitable and when a certain culture assumes a certain course which is better then, with time teachers might appreciate the use of music and songs. In Malaysia, most subjects are taught in Bahasa Malaysia thus the students do not have a good exposure towards English language in schools (Saradareh, 2014). They only listen to English language during English lessons only. Such minimal exposure will lead to a minimal appreciation of the language. Type of music and songs used by the teachers should also be considered. It should be effective in conveying the message and lessons.