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  • Thoughts on using music to learn?

     Nasrani updated 1 week, 1 day ago 2 Members · 3 Posts
  • Nasrani

    November 15, 2020 at 3:36 pm


    !سلام لكم ونعمة


    I have heard two different schools of thought when it comes to using songs/music to learn Modern Standard Arabic. The first is that music should not be used for MSA, as the overwhelming majority of popular Arab musicians sing in dialect – whether their own or (in the case of an artist like Myriam Fares) multiple dialects (allegedly her آمان “Aman” album contains at least three dialects – her native Lebanese take on Levantine, Egyptian, and Gulf).

    But what about artists that sing in الفصحى such as Faia Younan from Syria? While it is true that not all of her songs are in MSA (يِمْكِن نِسِي “Yemken Nesi,” for instance, is largely Levantine to my understanding), is there any benefit to the beginning/early-intermediate learner when it comes to listening to her Modern Standard Arabic tracks (such as فِي الطَّريقِ إلَيك “Fi Al Tariki Ilaik”)? I recently recommended Ms. Younan to a student I’m tutoring (specifically this song, which demonstrates حرف الجر والمجرور/the genitive case grammatically), since I figure that music is a little bit more entertaining than listening to nothing but news broadcasts all day. However, it is said that musical discourse is a lot more difficult to understand than the spoken word, in part because of the need to match rhythms and also because sometimes the words run together more readily than they do in speech…

    That said, I wanted to come to you and see what you all think (and if any of you knew of other artists who sing predominantly in الفصحى). I know that there are posts here for using songs to learn both Egyptian and Levantine – the most recent two of which feature Amr Diab’s “Zay Manty” and “Albi Ya Albi” by Nancy Ajram. Well and good for learning dialect, I think, but should songs also be used for MSA?

    !شكرًا جزيلاً يا زملائي


  • Ahmad 

    November 17, 2020 at 12:11 am

    وعليكم السلام يا نصراني!

    Most of the language learners and teachers I asked about this confirmed that songs are a great way to learn a language.

    For me, however, if I’m studying a language, I will use songs as part of immersing myself in the culture of the target language. But would they be a reliable resource to help me join a conversation, especially if I’m a beginning student? I don’t think so. This is because:

    1. songs usually use different words, styles, structures, etc., from the ones used in normal discourse;

    2. the way songs are performed often changes intonation in a way that sometimes makes it hard for native speakers themselves to understand them. This is “because of the need to match rhythms and also because sometimes the words run together more readily than they do in speech”.

    What I said applies to Fus-ha and other varieties of Arabic, by the way. And it definitely does not apply to all songs. So, some songs are great resources for non-advanced students, but I would recommend asking a person who knows your level to give you suggestions for songs that match it.

    Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to listen to the examples you mentioned above. But if you want a suggestion for a singer who sings in Fus-ha, check out Kazim Essaher’s songs. One of my favorites is قولي أحبك:



    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  Ahmad.
  • Nasrani

    November 17, 2020 at 9:55 am

    ألف شكر يا صديقي أحمد

    Great tips. I think in addition to what you mentioned above, Arabic is more peculiar than, say, Spanish with regards to using music for learning simply because of the wide variety of Arabic dialects (and the radical shifts in pronunciation with regard to some of those dialects), not all of which are mutually intelligible, and the similar sound of some words: قصير and عصير, for example. If you’re trying to make sense of a song in a dialect that drops or hamzates the letter ق, you may hear one word instead of the other and then the song doesn’t make any sense at all.

    I’ll check out the artist you listed; I’m always in the market for songs that are sung in fus-Ha mostly because my dialect knowledge is at a minimum.


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