Rob Lewis
Writer and editor for a number of online courses … read more
Rob Lewis

Brilliant adventure game for language learners.

Who it’s for:
Free (basic), £1.89
Website, Android app

If your learners spend a lot of time listening to music, then this is an ideal site to send them to. LyricsTraining is easy to use and good for self-study – mainly for older learners.

Learning a language with music

I think the potential of using music to help study a language is very powerful. And for me, LyricsTraining is a site I will happily recommend to anyone learning English (or other languages) who likes music. You might use a popular song with the whole class, but the real benefit is for individuals.

I remember listening to songs when I was learning Italian, over and over again, carefully reading the lyrics and recognising the language points in each one. When I started teaching I couldn’t understand at first why my learners didn’t always respond positively to songs in class. Of course, music – like so much content that we use with our learners in the classroom – is generally a question of individual taste. They didn’t usually like what I played for them! It’s for this reason I don’t have much time for music in lessons now, apart from some exceptional cases. LyricsTraining is a resource which might be best used if learners choose the songs that they want to work with in class or at home.

I especially like how easy LyricsTraining is to use. To get started, you choose your ‘target language’ (there are currently 11 languages in addition to English) in the top-right of the screen, choose a genre, then scroll to choose a song (you can search by song title too). It’s not necessary to register at this stage, although there are some additional features available if you do.

Look, listen and play

As you watch the video of the song you choose, the lyrics are presented below, in one of three different ways: 1. ‘karaoke’ style – so you can read or sing along; 2. with gaps for you to type in the missing words; and 3. with gaps for you to select from ‘multiple-choice’ options. You only see the lyrics line by line, as they’re sung, and this is the ‘hook’ with the second and third options: you have to try to type or select the correct words before the next line starts. If you’re fast and don’t make many mistakes, your score will be higher.

With the second and third options, before the video starts you choose your level. ‘Level’ here isn’t linked to any scale (such as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) but instead it relates to the number of words you have to guess during the song. Remember, the more words you have to guess, the faster you have to be. It can be tricky on some songs, but when the level of the challenge is right, it’s enjoyable.

And essentially, that is what LyricsTraining is. As a learner, if you register you appear on the high score charts (globally and in your country). As a learner myself, I find this quite motivating! If you register as a teacher, you can also create your own gap-fill activities, which means you can focus on certain features of language in a song. (Of course, learners could do this for each other too.) I would have loved to use this tool in the classroom in the past, but these days I would mainly recommend LyricsTraining as a site for learners to use on their own.

One important thing to remember though is that all the texts and activities are user generated: lyrics are uploaded by other users. Sometimes there are mistakes in the lyrics, although I found very few – and you can send feedback on any song to the website team.

How to use it

I would use LyricsTraining in the classroom to demonstrate how easy it is to use, and to point out a few features. Apart from that though, I would suggest learners sign up and use it in their own time, and – if enough of them are interested – I would ask them to report on how well they did, perhaps to compare scores.

However, I would be careful to only recommend it to the right group of learners. The videos aren’t filtered, so there is some content which is inappropriate for younger learners, and there’s currently no way to control that. In fact, only users aged 14 years or older can register on the site. Both the website and the app are free at the moment, but this means there are advertisements on both, and some of these may be inappropriate for younger learners too.

Despite all this, if you have learners who are old enough, and who like the music on the site, then they will probably benefit from the repeated exposure to the language that they listen to. In addition to that exposure, the LyricsTraining website’s simple activities will help them notice patterns in language, while the competitive element can make it fun at the same time.

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