July 28, 2016

4 Songs to Teach You Some Great New English Vocabulary

3 minute read

Singing along at the top of your voice to your favourite American, British or other English-speaking band is one of the most enjoyable ways to practise your English skills and learn some new words along the way.

The only problem is this: musicians aren’t usually bothered about perfect grammar or high-level vocabulary - they just want to create a song that sounds great! Sometimes, learning English from songs can actually mean picking up some bad habits, or learning slang words that are only commonly used for a short period of time.

However, sometimes it is possible to learn some useful, interesting or high-level vocabulary from the music you listen to. Here are six popular songs to get you started.

Superstition (Stevie Wonder)

“Superstition” is a difficult word to explain - but this song does quite a good job! When we say that someone is “superstitious”, we mean that they believe that certain things will cause them bad luck or will cause bad things to happen, even though there is no reason or proof. Examples that Stevie Wonder points out in the song include walking under ladders, the number 13 and breaking a mirror, which some people believe will give you seven years of bad luck.

Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac)

There are plenty of great words and phrases in this song that can help you to improve your English vocabulary and your knowledge of idioms. For example, right at the start of the song, Stevie Nicks sings about a woman with a “silver spoon”. In English, if you say that someone was “born with a silver spoon in their mouth” it means that they have been rich since they were a child. And then there is the phrase “shatter your illusions of love”. An “illusion” is something that seems to be real, but turns out to be fake, or a dream, or something in your imagination. When you “shatter” something, you break it into lots of tiny pieces.

Suspicious Minds (Elvis Presley)

I’m sure you’ve heard this song thousands of times, but do you know what it means? To be “suspicious” means that you don’t believe what someone is telling you - you think that they are lying or hiding something from you. When Elvis sings that his relationship can’t go on with “suspicious minds”, he means that the two people in the song need to trust each each other, otherwise they will always be unhappy.

9 to 5 (Dolly Parton)

This song is full of great vocabulary to help you make your speech more interesting and descriptive! First, Dolly says that when she wakes up in the morning, she “tumbles” out of bed and “stumbles” to the kitchen. “Tumble” means to fall in a clumsy way and “stumble” means you are nearly falling over as you try to walk. Does that sound like the way you move when you get up in the morning and are still half-asleep?

But what about the title, 9 to 5? These are the normal working hours for most jobs in the USA and the UK, although many people do actually start earlier or finish later than that. The song is about someone who works hard all day, but her boss doesn’t give her “credit” (meaning that he doesn’t admit that she is the one who did the work) or the rewards she thinks that she should have (that she “deserves”). For example, she thinks she should “move ahead” or get a “promotion”, both of which mean getting a better job, usually with more money.  

Do you have a favourite English language song that helped you to learn English? Or maybe you’re confused about what the words in a particular song mean? Let us know in the comments section below!