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Music in Language Education. A Comparison of Music and Traditional Methods on Vocabulary Retention. Amandine Bailey, Emad Eldigwy , Yoshiko Tsuda. Music in Language Education. Language educators are always looking for new methods in which to instruct students.

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Music in language education
Music in Language Education

  • A Comparison of Music and Traditional Methods on Vocabulary Retention

Amandine Bailey, EmadEldigwy, Yoshiko Tsuda

Music in language education1
Music in Language Education

  • Language educators are always looking for new methods in which to instruct students.

  • Effects of music have been positive overall.

  • Important to study music in comparison with traditional methods used in schools today to see if the addition of music does improve vocabulary retention.

Related literature
Related Literature

  • Fronseca-Mora (2011)

    • Music and rhythm have been shown to improve the memory and recall abilities of language learners as it mixes linguistic and musical information through use of both hemispheres of the brain.

  • Medina (1990)

    • Adding music to meaningful information helps further increase memorization.

Related literature1
Related Literature

  • Li (2009)

    • The effects of music on language proficiency with adult ESL learners from the People’s Republic of China.

    • Results showed that students obtained higher language proficiency scores following nine hours of music-based instruction than in partially music-based instruction and in non-music-based instruction.

    • Students also showed a more positive attitude towards learning the language and greater confidence in their instruction


  • Gap in understanding how music affects vocabulary retention in comparison with traditional methods.

  • This study examined two hypotheses:

    • Students will retain more vocabulary with the music-based approach than the traditional approach.

    • Students will feel more successful in their language learning with the music-based approached than the traditional approach.


  • 22 English Language Learners, CollegeTown USA

  • Country of Origin:

    • People’s Republic of China (20), Tibet (1), Tanzania (1)

  • 13 females, 9 males

  • Ages 17-22

  • Design

    • Vocabulary-based course

    • Between-subjects experimental design

    • Subjects separated into two groups by third party. Researchers were blind to the proficiency levels

    • Each class began and ended with the pre- & post-survey


    I know it

    and can

    explain it


    • Pre-, Post-, & Delayed Post-Survey

    • (self-rating scale)

    I don’t

    know it


    I sort of

    know it



    know it



    Tangerine Plasticine Marmalade

    Cellophane Looking-glass Porter

    Kaleidoscope Turnstile


    • “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles

    Picture yourself in a boat on a river

    With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

    Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly

    A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.


    • Sentence worksheet with traditional group

    Tangerine Frank likes to eat tangerines from Florida.

    Marmalade Tom puts butter and marmalade on his toast.

    Turnstile I went through the turnstile in a hurry to catch the train.

    Music based approach
    Music-Based Approach

    • 25 minutes

    • Pre-survey, 12 or less (72.7%) on a scale of 8-32

    • Song lyrics, discussing one line at a time, using visuals

    • Sing song

    • Explaining words to partner

    • Sing song

    • Post-survey

    Traditional approach
    Traditional Approach

    • 25 minutes

    • Pre-survey, 12 or less (81.8%) on a scale of 8-32

    • PowerPoint and sentence worksheet

    • Writing sentences & sharing

    • Volunteers to share sentences

    • Post-survey


    • 1.5 hours later

    • Reminder of the study (but not the vocabulary)

    • Delayed post-survey

    • Debriefing questions


    • 1. What did you think we were looking for?

      • Students recognized the purpose of the study (best methods of learning, memorization).

  • 2. Was the song familiar to you?

    • Only one student was familiar with the song.

    • 3. How did you feel about the use of song in your lesson to learn vocabulary?

    • Helped with pronunciation and remembering the meaning.

  • 4. Did you feel successful in learning and remembering the vocabulary?

    • Yes.

  • Debriefing2

    • 1. What did you think we were looking for?

    • Students recognized the purpose of the study (“how we learn”, memorization).

    • 2. Did you recognize the words?

    • Some said they were familiar with the words, most were not.

      • 3. How did you feel about the use of sentences and practice in your lesson to learn vocabulary?

  • Very useful. Familiar with this method.

  • 4. Did you feel successful in learning and remembering the vocabulary?

  • Yes, because they were used to it and did it all the time.

  • Focus group
    Focus Group

    What has been your favorite way to learn?

    • Games

    • Movies/TV

    • Reading

    • News

    • Conversations

    • Music

    Interactive & entertaining activities

    Results discussion
    Results & Discussion

    • Contrary to the hypothesis that the participants in the music group would retain vocabulary longer, the traditional method subjects did significantly better on the delayed post-survey.

      • t (20) = 2.14, p = .004, d = .23.

    Results discussion1
    Results & Discussion

    • Traditional Group

    Shortcomings considerations
    Shortcomings & Considerations

    • Survey (self-rating scale)

      • Self-rating and formal assessments

  • Time

    • Literature showed increased time in studies showed more positive results with music

  • Group size

  • Different instructors

  • Effects of music on pronunciation and communication abilities

  • Conclusions

    • This study did support our second hypothesis

    • Findings with first hypothesis were contradictory to literature, Beasley (2006)

    • Raised questions concerning aspects of the procedure

    • Effects on pronunciation

    • Critical for language educators – new concepts and methods to help provide a more meaningful and natural learning environment for language learners


    • Beasley, R. E., & Chuang, Y. (2006). The effects of web-based American music, lyrics, definitions, and explanations on Taiwanese ESL learners. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 34(4), 461-471. Retrieved from;

    • Fonseca-Mora, M., Toscano-Fuentes, C., & Wermke, K. (2011). Melodies that help: The relation between language aptitude and musical intelligence. Online Submission, Retrieved from

    • Hahn, S. M. (1972). The effect of music in the learning and retention of lexical items in German. (). Retrieved from

    • Kim, Y. (2008). The effects of integrated language-based instruction in elementary ESL learning. Modern Language Journal, 92(3), 431-451. Retrieved from;

    • Li, X., & Brand, M. (2009). Effectiveness of music on vocabulary acquisition, language usage, and meaning for mainland Chinese ESL learners. Contributions to Music Education, 36(1), 73-84. Retrieved from;

    • Lucas, M. (2011). Adolescent male attitudes about singing in choir. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 30(1), 46-53. Retrieved from;

    • Medina, S. L. (1990). The effects of music upon second language vocabulary acquisition. (). Retrieved from

    • Sevik, M. (2011). Teacher views about using songs in teaching English to young learners. Educational Research and Reviews, 6(21), 1027-1035. Retrieved from;