Having music in the background while learning a language can have unexpected positive effects. When chosen properly, music can increase focus, motivation, and make the experience more fun. But at the same time, choosing the inappropriate kind of music can have the opposite effect and be a negative distraction from our language learning tasks.

How many times did you find yourself playing background music for studying and changing it after a while because it was starting to be annoying? Here are few tips that will help you choose the correct music while studying a language.

Tip nº1: No lyrics

If there is a characteristic that makes a song instantly inappropriate for studying it’s the presence of lyrics. Our brains are made to pay attention to the human voice and its presence in music becomes too distracting when trying to focus on something else (learning a language in our case).

While it’s true that songs with lyrics on the language you are studying can be a fun way to expand your vocabulary, this only works when listening actively to the song (i.e while only listening to the music and not doing any other mental activity). That album from your favourite singer is your worst enemy while studying!

Tip nº2: Pick the right mood and stick with it

Whether listening to music actually has overall benefits on your IQ is still very much up for debate. Remember that thing about playing classical music to babies so that they would become more intelligent? It has never been actually scientifically proven. The point of listening to music while studying is not that it will directly enhance your cognitive abilities, but rather that it will put and keep you on the right mood for it, thus facilitating good results and making the process more enjoyable.

Now the question is: what is the right mood for studying? The answer: a combination of relaxed and active energy. If the music is too dreamy you will tend to fall asleep, and if the music is too energetic it will become too distracting and “out” (unless you are studying while jumping around the room). Think about what is your mood when you study efficiently and look for music that conveys that same state of mind.

At the same time, sudden changes in the mood or characteristics of the music will become distracting. Full albums or playlists consisting of songs with the same vibe and style will help you the best.

Tip nº3: Pick music you enjoy (or, at least, don’t play Mozart if you hate it!)

Classical music and especially Baroque music has always been the preferred recommendation when it comes to background music for studying. It has the right amount of energy that can set you in the right direction for learning. But before you start playing that three hours of Baroque music on Spotify or YouTube, make sure that you actually like the music, or at least that it doesn’t irritate you. If you are the kind of person who falls asleep while listening to classical music or can’t stand more than five minutes of it, just stay away from it and look for other music styles.

When it comes to tastes in music, really anything goes as long as it follows the previous tip about the right mood. As a starting point, my recommendation for those who are allergic to classical music and look for something more modern is Instrumental Lo-fi Hip-hop: minimalistic, chilled and original enough to be interesting.

Conclusion – Find music that works for you and stick with it

Do not be afraid of trying weird music genres when it comes to background music: as long as you follow these 3 tips you will sooner than later find the style of music that makes your language learning efforts easier and more enjoyable. Try new styles and stick with those that work for you!

This article was written by Aleix R – our Catalan and Spanish teacher in Prague. Sign up for lessons with him below.

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