Yo! After a 1.5+ year long nerve injury and the general life changes of graduating from college, I'm done with Powlyglot. If I find myself sharing my language experience in another format later on, I'll probably link to it here, on my personal site, or on Twitter at @mpvboehme. Thanks for reading.
Spotify + TuneWiki for Listening Comprehension

Spotify + TuneWiki for Listening Comprehension

I love Spotify. I’ve been using it since it first came out in the U.S., and I’ve probably listened to more music since then than any time before.

It wasn’t until a few weeks into my use of Spotify that I thought to search for the only Spanish artist I knew at the time, Chenoa.

I was amazed when she was there, until I remembered that Spotify was in Europe long before it came over here – which had some pretty good implications for its foreign-language content.

Since then, I’ve expanded my knowledge of both Spanish and French music drastically. There are months where I’ve listened to Spanish and French music more than English music.

I thought I had hit the peak of Spotify’s usefulness toward my language-learning, but then, TuneWiki showed up – a Spotify app that scrolls through the lyrics to a song as it’s playing.

Suddenly, Spotify became a serious tool for working on my listening skills.

TuneWiki makes it easy to practice reading and listening comprehension at the same time.

TuneWiki makes it easy to practice reading and listening comprehension at the same time.

[To install TuneWiki, click this link, and when the app opens in Spotify, click the “add” button in the top right corner – you can download Spotify here]

Sure, simply listening to music isn’t going to make you fluent in something, but listening to music while reading the lyrics does some very helpful things for you:

  • It helps you learn to separate the words from each other as you hear them, instead of just hearing a long string of gibberish
  • It introduces you to different ways to pronounce things via dialects, contractions, and slang
  • It gives you extra practice with reading comprehension, since you are forced to read along at a relatively quick speed
  • Bonus: listening to rap basically puts you on hard mode

It’s similar to reading along in a book while listening to the audiobook (also a good idea, by the way) – it’s just probably going to have a more casual vocabulary.

I would like to point out that TuneWiki’s lyric database isn’t perfect. There are occasionally some errors, and not all songs have lyrics available.

Luckily, anyone who makes an account with TuneWiki can add or edit lyrics – you can use your Facebook or Twitter accounts to register, so it shouldn’t take longer than a minute.

If you see something incorrect or find a song without lyrics in TuneWiki, take a minute to find the correct lyrics somewhere and add them.

Looking for small mistakes yourself is also a good way to practice your listening skills!

If you don’t want to use Spotify for some reason, you can always just look up the lyrics to a song somewhere else and follow along. The point is to actively listen to the music. Simply having something playing in the background isn’t going to do you much good – you have to try to understand it!

If you do, you’ll soon find yourself understanding much more without needing to see the words.

Check out the Powlyglot Spotify playlists here or on the language pages – you might just find a new favorite artist.

available on: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, web, pretty much everything else – TuneWiki is not yet available for mobile devices or the web interface, but Spotify apps are rumored to be coming to mobile sometime soon
  • http://collegeinfogeek.com/ Thomas Frank

    This is a fantastic strategy for people learning Romance languages, and anything that’s generally well-represented on Spotify (and available to your country).

    As an American, however, that means this is all but useless for learning Japanese or other Asian languages; Spotify just doesn’t have the licensing deals yet.

    Luckily, there’s (sort-of) another option: simply looking up lyric videos on YouTube. For Japanese and Korean in particular, there are a lot of lyric videos for popular songs.

    Here’s one that I found today – as long as you ignore the Romaji on top, you can learn well from the kana on the side. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC_z9TQ7uns

    • mpvboehme

      You’re completely right – the use of Spotify and TuneWiki specifically is definitely limited by the Spotify music library and regional limitations.

      YouTube lyric videos are a great idea if you can find them. The only inconvenience is that fan-submitted videos on YouTube can disappear without warning due to copyright issues – but they’ll usually re-appear soon enough if you keep searching.

      In some cases, one might also need to just look up the lyrics somewhere else and read along instead of having the lyrics scroll along for them.

      Hopefully, Spotify will continue to grow and include much more music from its lesser-represented languages!

      • http://collegeinfogeek.com/ Thomas Frank

        I just recently found another site that lists the lyrics for lots of anime songs. The nice thing is that it has kanji, romaji, and english translation for most of the songs there: http://gendou.com/amusic/lyrics.php?id=9401&show=1

        It doesn’t flow along with the music like TuneWiki, but it’s still a good source to follow along with.

  • Joey

    The only thing about Japanese songs is that the word order and conjugations are not usually grammatically correct. I’m not sure about other Asian countries, but I guess it’s like a trend or something in Japanese music.
    What I do use is Anime with Japanese subtitles. Out of all the animes I watch, I find that Ouran Host Club has the most ‘realistic’ Japanese because it’s not fantasy or scifi based like so many others.

    • http://martinboeh.me/ Martin Boehme

      That is a very interesting insight – I don’t listen to enough Japanese music yet to notice things like that. I do love listening to anime though, as I tend to pick up a bit more of what they’re saying that way.

    • Bianca

      After living for 7 years in Japan I need to tell you that watching anime series is the WORST way to learn Japanese! Why? Because the vast majority of animes contain non-keigo words: language used with familiar people like friends and family, jargon rarely used in real life and a very high number of ”bubetsu” words (humiliating language)… Of course it depends a lot on the anime, but I would really recommend you to watch non-comedy dramas (Japanese soap operas) in stead. Or at least listen to some local radio programs that don’t contain too much news (language in the news is a whole different story all together).

      Oh and one more thing. The language you hear on CDs that come with textbooks is also not really used in real life. Nobody actually speaks like that :)) I’ll give you an example: At the workplace or when you go shopping in Japan you will hear a lot of “sonkeigo” that finishes in “nodesu” (very polite Japanese) like, for instance “Where is it?” will sound like: “Dochira ni irassharu nodesuka?”. And a lot of ” `ndesu” verbs in stead of the “masu” forms. For example “Doko ni irundesuka?” in stead of “Doko ni imasuka?” you hear on CDs.

      Of course it depends on the region, too. I’ve lived in Tokyo so I can only tell you how people usually talk around here. And of course people choose their own way of talking so there will always be exceptions.

      The best of luck with your studies!