Why You Shouldn’t Choose Your Own Songs for Learning English

Most English songs are not good for learning English.  I’m a native speaker of American English and I can’t understand a lot of the words in most popular “Top 40” songs.

The current style in American popular music is to sing (and often yell) in a way that can’t be

understood by anyone.  So if native speakers of English can’t understand the words to a song, it won’t be very helpful for people who want to learn English.

A Popular Song With Words You Can’t Understand

Here’s a popular song with over 64 millions views on YouTube.  It’s called “Havana” by the artist Camila Cabello and I can only understand about 40% of the words:

If you want to learn English, learning this song (any many others like it) is a waste of your time.

Another problem with most English songs, is that even if the words are clear, they may have a different meaning to everyone who hears the song or they may have no obvious meaning at all.

A Song With No Obvious Meaning

A good example of this is the song “Horse With No Name” by America. As far as I can tell it doesn’t mean anything at all.  Please add a comment below if you think you know what it means.


Many Songs Have Mistakes in Grammar and Usage

Popular songs reflect the class that the artist is trying to appeal to.  Often this is a very uneducated class of people who you should not copy.  You do need to understand this type of speech, especially if you are planning to travel to the United States, but you should NOT copy them when you speak.

Here’s a fun video by English Teacher Martie Berry about grammar mistakes in Pop English songs.  You have to be ready to turn the volume up and down on this, because the volume levels vary.

Learning English is a lot of work, and you might as well learn to speak it correctly although you will need to learn to understand incorrect speech.


What Makes a Good Song for Learning English?

  1. The song should have clear words that are easy to understand.
  2. It should have an obvious meaning that everyone understands.
  3. It should have no grammar mistakes or bad or incorrect usage.
  4. It should represent the best of the culture that it comes from.
  5. It should be catchy and easy to learn.  When you hear it once, it should be half learned.
  6. The phrases in the song should be written in the way that most people speak.

What Songs Do I Recommend?

The reasons above are why I recommend my carefully chosen list of songs for learning American English.

When you learn English with these songs, you will not have the problems that are common if you try to choose your own songs for learning English.

One Comment
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    Leib Kesselman

    You’re right about the songs.

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