Teaching ESL with music - suggestions please [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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11-23-2011, 12:55 AM
In Hong Kong the kids get a book of boring conversations on CD. They tick boxes and write some words but they hate it - and so do I.

So I took a Katy Perry song (Firework) which they liked - paid attention - circled the correct word (out of two close sounding words) and filled in missing words.

Here's the problem. Most of the songs on the net geared for ESL are old songs - Eternal Flame (Bangles) and Phil Collins (Do You Remember?) or old Madonna (This Used to be my Playground). These last two I tried and they went over like a ton of bricks. Bored them to tears (even though they like Madonna).

They have the attention spans of fleas (video game ipod generation).

But I am at a Catholic school so while all the kids are asking me for Lady Gaga / Katy Perry - trying to find a music video from either where they keep their clothes on is difficult. Firework borders on problems for me with two guys kissing.

They've asked for Bieber but I have to listen to the song 9 times a day for a week - and I can handle Perry but Beber makes we want to stick a fork in my eye.

I have asked the students for bands as well since I'd like to play what they like since it doesn't really matter too much (I will do a Beber song just to appease the demand (but only one).

1) not too much sex - some skin but not raunchy.
2) no swearing
3) the singer must be very articulate so that you can hear each syllable (it's amazing how many good singers really don't sing their words very clearly) Avril Lavigne is very clear - Sarah McLachlan, Michael Buble, and Adele are not for example despite the latter 3 being much better vocalists they don't enunciate clearly most of the time. Native English speakers make it out easily but second language learners will find Avril easier.

3 and 1/2 - Avril also has simpler repetitive lyrics than a McLachlan which also helps.

4) not too fast - pretty much rules out all rap and hip hop - ballads are better for English but the boys tend to hate them - so not too slow either. (Now seeing why this is harder than you might think).

5. And for the big problem - the video needs to be somewhat entertaining. The Bangles was just pitiful, Phil Collins is geared more for 50 year olds, and Madonna's (Playground vid) while pretty artistically done is similar to Phil's reminiscing song - kids here at 13-17 don't get it.

I did the Backstreet Boys "I Want it That Way" and they liked it. It's a good pace, they sing clearly (mostly), and there's no raunch. They requested it.

My list so far involves several Avril Lavigne songs (she sings very clearly and she keeps her clothes on in the majority of her songs - and she's pretty enough that the guys watch and the girls like her. So she's a winner for this.

So far coming up I have

Madonna's Die Another Day

Sade Kiss of Life and No Ordinary love (the former pushes it a bit on the sex front),

Colbie Caillat Bubbly and a few others,

Lady Antebellum (Just a Kiss)

Guns and Roses (Knockin on Heaven's Door)
Avril Lavigne (Knockin on Heaven's Door)
Comparison of two versions

Deanna Carter (We Danced Anyway/Strawberry Wine)

Shania Twain (Up,)

K'Naan "Waving Flag" (this will be tough for them)

Even some of these are old and some of the videos not all that interesting.

They do seem to like country singers (I find that odd) but they do but I am not too familiar with that genre. I also tend to listen more to female artists usually because I find them clearer.

So if anyone has any ideas let me know. Thanks in advance


11-23-2011, 05:41 AM
I remember 2 ex's of mine (one from HK and the other from Chengdu) saying that their teachers used to play lots of Beatles and Paul McCartney/Wings songs. That was in the 1980's though.

Another one went to a British Catholic school in HK. She said they never played music but most of the instruction was done in English and they prayed aloud everyday in English

Seems like you may have stumbled across something with the boy band, spice girl era. Lots of videos to choose from and listen to in that era.

11-23-2011, 06:38 AM
I'll give this some thought, but in the meantime you may want to post this at Rave Recs. There are lots of music experts there and people with kids who will know what songs kids like that have clean lyrics and respectable videos.

Here are a few suggestions, but I'm not sure whether they are cool enough. Death Cab for Cutie. Coldplay. Are they into classic rock at all? Queen. Elton John. Maybe some Emo bands? My Chemical Romance. Panic! at the Disco.

Pat D
11-25-2011, 06:50 PM
Diana Krall in Paris is a nice DVD. Her words seem clear to me.

Peter, Paul and Mary are very understandable, and their material has some historical significance.

Joan Baez is clear.

Roger Whittaker is very clear and does many good songs,

Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits seems to enunciate clearly, but I only have "On Every Street."

Jennifer Warnes' Famous Blue Raincoat is very clear, and of course, Leonard Cohen's words are fabulous.

Sorry, I don't keep up with the popular music scene.

11-25-2011, 08:11 PM
Thanks everyone

The big problem is the music video - it's difficult finding a good song, sung clearly, AND that has a "hip" for 13 year olds video attached.

I'll keep looking.


11-27-2011, 06:57 PM
Thanks everyone

The big problem is the music video - it's difficult finding a good song, sung clearly, AND that has a "hip" for 13 year olds video attached.

I'll keep looking.


I don't know if it's "hip" enough but the rest of it sure seems to fit all of the other criterion you listed.

Alison Krauss - Ghost In This House - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWRGZaHb8xE)

11-28-2011, 12:51 AM
Honourable and learned gentleman and ladies.
I am a new member but certainly not in the league of all you expert. I need advice please.
I am almost exclusively a classical music lover from chamber to opera to Mahler ( Loud).
I have the Quad pre-amp (404) the Quad 606 amp and the Quad 66 cd player. The speakers are Paradigm ?? model. ( sorry away from home at present so can't check.)
I used to own the ELS 66 and my heart is set on the new Quad 2905.
However someone has suggested the Martin Logan Ethos.
I would save about GBP 1500 approx and I have some concern about the "buzz' on the Quads I have been reading about. The M L seem more robust??
I have a very good size room. Could accomodate Quads at least a meter from the back wall and at least 2.5m apart. Also high ceiling. A good 3+ meters.
Your advice please bearing in mind the above. ML Ethos or Quad 2905? Any other ??
Many thanks,
Ian W.

11-28-2011, 01:40 AM
You should start a new thread if you want more replies on your speaker questions.

Generally I have found it is much better to avoid "hybrid" panels. To me I would go with the Quad 2905 over any Hybrid panel - I liked the Summit X from Martin Logan which is a couple grand less.

Another speaker you may want to try is the King Sound King - it is $9000 and Doug Schroeder of dagogo.com bought them - he is a long time panel owner and fan.

I enjoyed the Prince II but I only heard them once under show conditions. I would also look into Soundlab.

If you decide the ESL is the way to go then do your best to try a bunch of them so you have don't second guess your choice.

The problem some people find with ML is the woofer to panel integration - it doesn't transfer too well. All multi-way speakers 2 drivers or more - have two drivers that at the "crossover point" are both putting out the same frequencies. An electrostatic panel toward the bass end of its ability and the woofer's top end of its ability are reproducing the same musical notes. And if the two drivers don't sound remotely alike (an ESL and some paper/kevlar/plastic woofer) then you get this hick-up effect and something sounds "off" as a result.

Not everyone can hear it mind you and if you can't then you may be in luck because the advantage of the ML is that you get considerably more bass and the kind of bass IMO required for the likes for rock/music which is midbass bass. You also tend to ge more dynamics and more "impact."

The Quad 2905 does a lot right and for some it's an end of the road kind of speaker. It has an exceptionally clean midrange.

11-28-2011, 02:24 AM
Thank you for the advice. I appreciate it.
I will try work out what you mean by a new thread. At the age now where I am not so computer literate but will work it out.
Thank you,

11-29-2011, 06:02 AM
I never, ever thought of music as an ESL tool but I guess it makes sense. I think that slow songs or moderate tempo songs would be best for you. Very easy to hear and not too frenetic. For articulation and cleanliness I think you can be safe with the following"

Drifters - "Save the last Dance for Me"
Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes - "If you don't know me by now".
Dionne Warwick - "Alfie", "Walk on By"
Aretha - "You Make Me Feel"
James Taylor - "Sweet Baby James" "Fire and Rain"
Steely Dan - "Dirty Work" "Aja" "Deacon Blues"
REM - "Everybody Hurts" "Man in the Moon"

Early Rap
Sugar Hill Gang - Rapper's Delight
Curtis Blow - "The Breaks"

Hope this helps


11-29-2011, 09:58 AM
Some of the songs from the new Coldplay album just might fit the bill. Some tracks have that ambient keyboard and guitar reverb that is all the rage these days, which, along with the lead singer's distant voice may muddle the children's ability to hear the lyrics clearly but other tracks are more tranquil in and articulate in voice.

Check it out- Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto.

I will do some more scavenging when I get home from work.

Pat D
11-30-2011, 04:54 AM
Thank you for the advice. I appreciate it.
I will try work out what you mean by a new thread. At the age now where I am not so computer literate but will work it out.
Thank you,

To start a new thread, you go to the most appropriate Forum, which in this seems to be Speakers, though sometimes it's hard to figure out. You then go down to the bottom of the page and find a button called New Thread. Click on it and you will come up with format for posting new threads.

It's best to pick a good title; otherwise, the title that appears will be the first few words of your post. Write out your concerns in the box and then go down to find two buttons called Submit New Thread and Preview Post. Usually, you can just submit the post and you will have started a new thread on your new topic.

You should be able to find more information about how to use the site in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section.

I also have a Quad 44 preamp and a Quad 606 amplifier (first version, probably older than yours), I also used to have Quad ESL-63 speakers but a few years ago I moved to Paradigm Signature speakers and have never looked back. But start a thread on the Speakers forum for more replies.

11-30-2011, 02:24 PM
I used to own the ELS 66 and my heart is set on the new Quad 2905.
In this context, ESL = English as Second Language.

11-30-2011, 06:00 PM
In this context, ESL = English as Second Language.

Well done :-)

Thanks for the suggestions - I will look into videos of some of the suggestions and see what happens.

01-28-2012, 05:10 PM
RGA, are you still teaching ESL and if so what video's did you wind up showing the kids?

01-30-2012, 09:26 PM
We've had several holidays so I have not had a chance to do much on the music front. I am using the TV Show Smallville next as they speak slowly enough - and super hero shows are built for this age group - plus the show has plenty of pretty good music - I like it anyway. And Kristen Kreuk is half Chinese so that helps - they can listen to perfect English spoken by someone perhaps they see as a "if she can I can" model. Though that is likely over thinking or over hoping on my part.

03-01-2012, 06:11 AM
So the update

I am using music from the TV Series Smallville which runs a fairly wide net. I show a music video - have them try to listen for the words and do gap fills and circle the word they hear - then we watch the episode that has that song so they hear it in "another medium" and I work through character analysis, plot, alternate ending, make your own super hero/villain - design a map of Smallville. Yes the school purchased the videos/copyright.

School districts really need to adopt the flat blanket copyright so they can show anything. The individual ones are ridiculous - and my kids are very low - will never do homework and don't read. So it almost has to be fully visual stimulus to get them to try.

Here are ones upcoming soon

Smallville lifehouse - Everything - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9peaNSBd2N8)

Avril Lavigne Tomorrow Smallville - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKyuKmNLn5c)

So far the show has had many songs and I've used the following:

Unusual to see such a slight man have such a deep voice. I like this band.
The Calling - Wherever You Will Go - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAP9AF6DCu4&ob=av2e)

Remy Zero - "Save Me" Official Video - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwUZq4xqsoo)

Jewel - Standing Still (Video) Album Version Audio - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3WMMwlHgZI&ob=av2e)

U2 - Beautiful Day - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=co6WMzDOh1o)

03-01-2012, 04:19 PM
Nice going there RGA, I thought the Smallville was really cool tube watching.
I checked out all of your selections and now feel inspired to start watching TV! lol

Good choices on the music videos too.

03-01-2012, 04:53 PM
I highly recommend TV shows like Smallville - hey I'm 38 I'm probably not the target market I liked it - and my 74 year old mom bought all the seasons.

And I'm not a fan of the Superman story or character compared to other super heroes.

I sure didn't think you could get 218 40+ minute episodes out of the character's teenage years.

It's not perfect - it has soap opera leanings with Clark and Lana in love but not quite.

Still Michael Rosenbaum is so spot on perfect as Lex Luthor and the writing for his character and Lional Luthor is reason alone to watch.

It's also nice to see a show where a kid gets along with his parents - And mutual respect.

And I discover a whole bunch of new music so far - well new to me.

The only song that didn't work was U2 - the sound quality was so bad and Bono is such a lousy singer than they could not really hear what he was saying very well. Granted the speakers in my classroom are appalling but still.

03-02-2012, 05:43 AM
Hi guys im new , nice to meet you

03-10-2012, 12:59 PM
TV game shows are a good source also, they show more than just the use of the language. but also the expressions and physical gesture that come with the mix use of words that we Americans use.

03-10-2012, 11:02 PM
Why Can't the English Learn to Speak?

My Fair Lady "Why Can't the English Learn to Speak" - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhninL_G3Fg)

03-12-2012, 06:09 PM
No kidding - You need subtitles for English movies - try Trainspotting. My mom is Welsh and we put the English Subtitles on.

This is a Superman song that is actually makes references - So it's definitely going to be on the play list

Five for Fighting - Superman - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3hPSAaYmZs)

03-14-2012, 07:07 PM
Not sure how good these would be, the vocals seem pretty clear to me though.

Aerosmith's Amazing:

Aerosmith - Amazing - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSmOvYzSeaQ&ob=av2e)

A few from Bryan Adams:

Bryan Adams - Vanishing - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Va6FXjFgRmo)

Bryan Adams - All I Want Is You - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO54C0qemfY)

Bryan Adams - Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman? - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hq2KgzKETBw)

And a slow one from Soul Asylum:

Soul Asylum - The Sun Maid - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnOS6mGrzdw&feature=related)

03-16-2012, 10:41 PM
You're coming in loud and clear, RGA. My wife and her brothers (from Germany) had an equally hard time comprehending my father, who speaks South Carolinian. That will give your Welsh a run through the spin cycle, ay?