“Song-advantage” or “Cost of Singing”? A Research Synthesis of Classroom-based Intervention Studies Applying Lyrics-based Language Teaching (1972–2019)


  • Valentin Werner University of Bamberg


lyrics, songs, music, intervention studies, research synthesis


While lyrics-based activities are increasingly popular in foreign language education, and a number of theoretical arguments have been suggested by applied linguists and SLA researchers why they are beneficial for learners, only a few empirical assessments of the actual effectiveness of lyrics-based teaching have been conducted. This contribution reviews relevant classroom-based intervention studies (N = 28) that employ a pre-/post-test multiple group design. A main aim is to assess previous claims of a “song-advantage” (Busse et al., 2018) when input is presented with the help of songs and their lyrics vs. a “cost of singing” (Racette & Peretz, 2007) in terms of an additional processing burden lowering rates of verbal recall, for instance. Results suggest that, overall, lyrics-based teaching is effective in comparison to control conditions. Effectiveness may vary, however, when different subareas (e.g. grammar vs. vocabulary) are compared. In summary, it is argued that lyrics-based activities can be viewed as a valuable means in the foreign language classroom, even though they cannot serve as universal remedy and are most effective when combined with other materials and activities. Eventually, it is suggested that both additional primary studies at a high level of methodological transparency and rigor and quantitative meta-analyses (e.g. to assess the influence of moderator variables and to systematically compare control groups with different teaching conditions) are desirable.