Learn foreign languages through songs

I am wondering if learning a foreign language through songs is effective, maybe even movies.

The problem with both, and in particular the first is that there just isn’t as much vocabulary as a book or an article on something…

Most songs cover the same sort of topics, love, betrayal, etc. so the vocabulary can be somewhat limited. That’s not to say you can’t learn something from them and certainly it might be more fun and if you like the music it seems like it would be effective repetition for those type of words.

Movies are a little better as you get a richer vocabulary, but dialogue is not as dense as reading a book or an article on something. It can also be confusing just reading a transcript of dialogue as you get when importing from Netflix into LingQ…but I think it’s helpful exercise from time to time.

Having said all this, anything that keeps you motivated is worth studying! There’s certainly a lot of vocabulary and expressions that are useful to know in dialogues and songs, that might not otherwise appear in an article on something.


I have a playlist of songs on my phone that I enjoy, but I don’t know how much I’ve learned from them. A few words here and there. Definitely listen to songs if you like. They can help tune your ear and can expose some of the culture, not to mention just provide enjoyment. But I wouldn’t count on them as a primary source. The issues are limited vocabulary, as @ericb100 says, and possibly unnatural constructs to make the message fit the rhyme and rhythm. There’s also the issue of being able to hear the words. I don’t know how many decades it was that I didn’t understand all the words in The Eagles’ “Hotel California”, as an English example. :slight_smile: Hearing the words in films is also challenging. Subtitles definitely help, and I highly recommend them. But it’s hard for me to read as fast as they speak, even in English sometimes, but especially in Russian. That said, I watched a lot of Russian films before I could understand much. It helped tune my ear, and much can be understood and enjoyed through the visuals. A quick peek at a plot synopsis at IMDB or kino-teatr.ru, e.g., can help jump-start understanding what’s going on.


Good question, as I’ve heard people discuss this before.

Personally I cannot possibly imagine anyone learning a language through songs. As has already been said, the vocabulary is very limited, usually slang, and very often manipulated to make it fit the song. To pick an example, no one would ever learn English from rap lyrics. Most importantly, it’s often hard to understand the words–even in your own language. That being said, whenever I am in a Spanish learning mode (like I am now), I go through my usual Spanish songs I play–but it’s just for motivation and fun, rather than learning. Of my 810 hours of Spanish listening, none of that is music.

Movies similarly limited for the same reasons, but not nearly to the same degree. Master Steve used movies as a “reward” for his learning, as have I. However, now that you can import subtitles into LingQ, I think they do have a place in your primary learning as it pertains especially to your listening skills. Of my 810 hours of listening, the great majority is Spanish Netflix TV shows. Specifically, 12 TV series and 24 movies. However, I did not start watching these until my reading level was already very good, I had a lot of known words, and I could generally read as fast or faster than they were speaking (khardy’s point). I was doing this as “listening” in order to have my listening abilities catch up with my reading abilities. I think you can do this sooner with the new subtitle import feature on LingQ, but I think it will take much longer if you are learning a language that is not in the Latin alphabet.