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These Pitt faculty use pop songs to teach English

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Global
  • Our City/Our Campus
  • English Language Institute

Linguists Ece Ulus and Heather McNaught, instructors at Pitt’s English Language Institute, launched a podcast marrying English language lessons and pop song lyrics.

English as a Singing Language features one song per episode and a corresponding lesson on pronunciation, vocabulary or grammar.

The podcast evolved from Ulus and McNaught’s work leading the Language Music Club, a group where students can socialize and practice English while singing.

“It was a great way for students to connect with each other outside of class,” said McNaught, “and it inspired us to consider ways we could increase the number of people who could benefit from our lessons.”

In their latest episode, Ulus and McNaught give a breakdown of The Temptations’ “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” prompting listeners to pay attention to the song’s rhymes, reductions — in this case, contractions and slang — and sentence stress.

To ensure they spotlight a diverse mix of artists in their show, the hosts consider three criteria when choosing songs: language, genre and decade.

“Listeners of the podcast come from all over the world, and we want the songs we choose to reflect that. It’s really exciting when one of us hears a song we think might be suitable for an episode,” said Ulus.

New episodes drop every three weeks, with the next coming on Oct. 28. Listen in.


— Nichole Faina