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A Song For IELTS – An Effective 8-Step Strategy For Mastering an English Song
Perhaps you are lucky enough to have access to an English-speaking friend who is prepared to help you prepare for your IELTS* exam. She may not have the confidence or the time to coach you with tricky things like spelling or pronunciation.
Here is something fun and easy that most English speakers will be happy to spend some time helping you with – learning an English song.
It sounds simple. It is simple. But there are hidden pitfalls that you need to be aware of. If you go about it in the right way, mastering your own “signature song” can become a real asset to your IELTS preparation. Learning an English song works best if you take on the project as a 10-step process:
- Select a song. Ask your IELTS coach for advice about song choices. Listen carefully to the suggestions. Often an outsider will have a better idea than you do of the kind of song that will suit your personality, and which will be interesting or entertaining for listeners.
- Locate the lyrics (the words of your song choice). Simple. Just go to Google and enter in the search box the word “lyrics” followed by the name of the song. You might enter something like this: “lyrics Michael Jackson this is it”. Perhaps you do not know the correct title for the song. Don’t worry. Just enter a line from the song that you do know, and clever Google will almost certainly be able to locate the song for you.
- Print off the lyrics. But, do NOT start to memorize them yet! There are four more steps you need to follow before you begin memorizing anything.
- Before you memorize any words, you need to show the printed lyrics to your IELTS coach. Get her to go through the lyrics and check that she agrees with them. You need to understand that lyrics posted on Google or any other search engine often contain mistakes. There may be a number of different versions posted on the search engines. Here are two examples, both posted on Google, of lyrics for the Carpenters’ classic “Yesterday Once More”:
All my past memories
Complicated to me,
Something really make me cry,
Just like before
It’s yesterday once more
All my best memories
Come back clearly to me
Some can even make me cry.
Just like before
It’s yesterday once more
Which is the correct version? Ask your coach. She may not agree with either version. She may make some further changes. Here is the important thing: you need to work with the version your coach is happy with. She’ll find it impossible to coach you using words which she believes are incorrect.
Some downloaded lyrics contain little question marks at the end of a line that tell you that the transcriber is really not sure of the words he has heard. If the song you and your IELTS coach are considering has a lot of little question marks, be very cautious. It might be best to abandon that song and look for something clearer.
- Highlight any new vocabulary in the lyrics. Get out your dictionary and check the meaning of each new word. Now go back to your IELTS coach and check that the meaning you have translated is correct. Sometimes, in the song’s context, the meaning of a word might be quite different from the meaning your dictionary has given you.
- Clarify the meaning. Next, you need to spend time with your coach to make sure you are clear about the meaning of each phrase in the song. Although you might have translated the words correctly, songs usually contain references to items in the local culture,
You may understand the meaning of words such as “cheer”, “captain” and “bleacher”.
But in order to sing Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”:
But she wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts
She’s Cheer Captain and I’m on the bleachers
You’ll also need to understand what a “cheer captain” is – the social prestige of the cheer captain’s role in American teenage culture. You’ll need to know what “on the bleachers” means and what that implies about the singer. Your IELTS coach will be able to explain those meanings to you.
- Work on the pronunciation. Now it’s time for a pronunciation session. Try not to rush this part of the process. Take time to master the correct pronunciation of each word and phrase.
- Memorize the words. After all your careful preparation, the time has at last come to start memorizing the lyrics. This is something you can do at your own pace in your own time. You might set yourself the target of memorizing one verse per day.
- Now add the music. At last it’s time to put your song to music. You can sing along with your i-pod. You may be able to download a karaoke version of the song.
- Perform and enjoy! When the big day comes and you perform your new song for an audience, don’t fret about your performance. Enjoy yourself!
And remember to acknowledge your coach. As the applause dies down, offer a little applause yourself to your coach. She will appreciate your recognition!
Keep in mind that your new song is another possible topic of conversation that you might be able to introduce during your IELTS speaking test. Good luck!
* **IELTS – International English Language Teaching System is the world’s leading test of English for higher education, immigration and employment.
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