Sunday, July 1, 2012

Using Brazilian Music to Build Your Language Skills

In an earlier post, I wrote about some of the Brazilian music that I've been listening to, both for pleasure, and to improve my language skills.  Here are some suggestions about how you can use music to help develop your listening skills.

1.  Read the lyrics in Portuguese.  The best site I've found for lyrics of Brazilian music is "Letras de Músicas," which has a huge selection of lyrics and usually includes a video for the song as well.  Since lyrics may or may not be included in a CD, and will not be included with music that you download from iTunes or Amazon, this is a helpful resource.

2.  Use the lyrics with your iPhone or iPod. If you're using iTunes, you have the option of adding lyrics to any track.  On a Mac, you do this by selecting the track, selecting "Get Info," and clicking on the "Lyrics" tab.  You can then paste the lyrics into the lyrics field and they will appear when you play the song using an iPhone or iPod.  There is currently no way to view lyrics on an iPad, which is unfortunate.

3.  If you use lyrics that you've retrieved from the internet, you may have to reformat them in order to make them easily legible.  The problem is that lyrics you find online often do not have paragraph breaks or carriage returns inserted, so that the lyrics end up all running together, with no breaks between the lines, which makes them difficult to read.

You can solve this problem using this procedure:

1.   Copy the lyrics into a word processor before you paste them into iTunes.  I use Pages, but you should be able to do this with Word, as well.  After the lyrics have been copied into Pages, I choose "Show Invisibles" from the "View" icon at the far left.  This shows paragraph breaks, line breaks, etc.  

2.  Use "command F" or Edit > Find to bring up the Find/Replace dialog box.  Click on "Advanced" and next to the "Find" field, click on "insert" and select "line break."  Then, next to the "Replace" field, click on "insert" and select "paragraph break."  

3.  Now all you have to do is click on "Replace all" and the line breaks will be replaced by paragraph breaks.  It may look as if there's too much blank space between each line, but this will normally be removed when you copy and paste the lyrics into iTunes.  

4.  Select all (command A), then copy the text, and paste it into the lyrics field in iTunes. The lyrics may still appear to have extra spaces between lines, but this normally disappears after you click on another track and then come back to the track you have just been working with.

Once the lyrics are correctly copied into iTunes, sync your device, and you can then view them while listening to the song on any iPhone, or using an iPod that supports lyrics. 

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but after you've done if a few times, it becomes almost automatic.

The first few times you listen to a song, you're probably going to have to refer to the lyrics fairly often.  

Work on becoming familiar with the words in Portuguese, and try to translate as much of the song as you can into English.  Use a translator to help with parts that you can't do yourself.  Keep in mind that just as in American popular music, you'll encounter a lot of informal language and slang.

If you're comfortable singing out loud, go for it, but if not, just focus on visualizing the song as you hear it.  In other words, have mental images that match the lyrics as you listen to them.  

If you don't have an MP3 player that displays lyrics, you can sometimes find a YouTube video that includes lyrics as subtitles, or you view the videos on the "Letras da Música" website, with the lyrics displayed next to the video.

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