Today I want to focus on a youtube sensation I have stumbled across that says a lot about how to motivate English-speaking teenagers to learn another language. I’ve quickly become addicted to the clips in question (taster clip below) and find them not only entertaining but intriguing and inspiring.
So here’s the back story:
Deep in the Anglobubble, kids whose first language is English have to learn a language till completion of secondary school. It’s a struggle. Many don’t like it – they don’t see the relevance and teaching methods tend to focus on the written form, rather than on interactive use of the language. Outcomes are poor, despite the apparent effort, and educators wring their hands at what to do (sound familiar?). At least languages education in this part of the Anglobubble is compulsory …..
A residential summer language school that needs to keep high school students busy and interested when it’s too wet outside to do anything in the breaks decides to do something different. The lightbulb idea is to translate the lyrics of famous pop songs in English into the language the kids are learning, and then get the kids to sing the songs, record them and put them online – to share with everyone around the world. They start with Thriller in 2010 and over time build up an expanding repertoire – all available on Youtube. Their video clips are clever – sometimes they ‘revoice’ existing clips of famous singers/bands in the new language, other times they make their own clips with the kids front and centre. By 2013 they’ve hit the big time – a number of their translated music clips go viral: people are sharing them around the world, the media get interested and more tellingly the pop megastars in question express their delight at being ‘reworked’ in a language you’d be hard pressed to pick and you’ve likely never heard.
Amongst the biggest viral successes is Wake me Up – in translation (3.5 million hits and rising). Have a listen. It’s hard not to be intrigued – you recognize the music, you know the song but you have no idea what they are singing. You just want to know more.
The kids’ enthusiasm is infectious – and you really can hear their voices (the lead singer in this case is a teacher). It’s inspiring stuff, curiously addictive – and people around the world (in a range of languages) are interested. It’s all over the social media and has quickly made its way into the blogosphere, traditional press and media – including TV performances.
The original English version is the creation of the bilingual Swede DJ Avicii and was a smash hit around the world in the northern summer of 2013 – including no.1 throughout the Anglobubble (including Australia). Here’s the first line of the chorus the song title is from:
So wake me up when it’s all over
It seems much more interesting in the target language and in the free translation:
So Lig mé saor ón suan ‘tá orm (lit. So free me from this slumber of mine)
Have you worked out what language the clip is in and what country I am talking about?
English monolingualism is strongly rooted here. I’ll leave you thinking and guessing for the moment.
As is clearly evident in the clip, significant physical/mental/emotional participation in the process of learning the song/language, making the clip, dancing and singing has clearly helped to motivate the students. Listen to the enthusiastic cheering at the end – that’s real!
Language teachers everywhere could easily do the same with their students: translate well-known pop songs into the target language, use children’s existing musical skills (if possible) as well as physical movement (e.g. simple choreography or free dance). You could easily create an end of term dance party if you had a repertoire. Even better, record the students and post on youtube, and on social media. Teenagers appear to enjoy a bit of online limelight.
What a great classroom/school project!
And more on other clips from this particular connection soon 🙂
Worked out the language and country yet? I might just leave you thinking a little longer.
I’ll come back in another post and do the big reveal. I still have a lot to say about this summer school/college and its fantastic work.