a foreign language must participate throughout the learning process. This is especially
true for learning English as a foreign language in bilingual Cameroon. Situations in which
learners are inactive while teachers expound on linguistic theories never bode well for
effective learning. Rather than being stifled, the classroom atmosphere should be
sufficiently relaxed so learners are not frightened of speaking. This article discusses a
technique for relaxing the classroom atmosphere and motivating students by using songs.
a country like Cameroon, where English is spoken by a minority, experience has shown that
the majority of the French- speaking community, more often than not, adopts a disquieting,
nonchalant, and uncaring attitude toward learning English. Thus, Francophone pupils in
English language classes already have English-phobia.
The onus of ensuring effective learning in such a situation rests solely on the
instructors shoulders, and it becomes necessary for the instructor to draw upon
his/her warehouse of professional resources. The instructor also has to rekindle interest
in uninterested and uncooperative students before beginning any task. Thus, when I found
myself confronted with these obstacles, I concluded that until learners interests
are sufficiently aroused, teaching English to Francophone pupils will remain a difficult
In my experience, the language classroom should be a place where gaiety abounds, not a
prison where learners sit passively subjected to an overbearing, domineering,
"all-knowing," pedantic teacher. Thus, to woo students to English language
classes, I began to use songs as a magic tonic. This relaxed the classroom atmosphere
sufficiently for learning to take place. However, songs, like other activities, should be
included in your lesson plan only when they promote a defined course objective.
The following is an example of how I used a song to teach a specific lesson from our
textbook used in Francophone secondary schools in Cameroon.
MAIN THEME: Days of the Week
LESSON OBJECTIVE: By the end of this lesson, learners should be able to say and write
the days of the week; use and understand today and tomorrow; use and understand before and
This is what the texts authors would like taught. The accompanying teachers
book gives us a ready methodology to use.
Some teachers think that using the authors suggested methodology ensures
effective learning. However, in rural Cameroon, where students are apathetic about
learning English and where more than two-thirds of the pupils do not have the prescribed
textbook, following the teachers book only succeeds in reducing effective teaching.
In this challenging situation, I immediately jolted my creative faculties. Rather than
using the teachers book, I decided to use lyrical bits to motivate my uninterested
1. On my portable chalkboard with the students timetable, days of the week are
written in English. Since weekends are free days, I glued pictures of the local market and
the local church on the spaces provided for Saturday and Sunday, respectively. I added
other things to the other days.
2. I read out the names of the days. While the students repeated, I checked for and
corrected pronunciation errors. By recognising the subjects attributed to each day and
seeing the market and church indicating Saturday and Sunday, the pupils understood the
days of the week without so much as a whispered hint from me.
3. To retain my students interest, I displayed a second portable board with a
song about the days of the week. Life instantly rushed to their somber faces. The song is
I come to school on Monday,
Tuesday and Wednesday,
Thursday and Friday.
I come to school these days.
Good-bye to you, teacher,
Good-bye to you, sister,
Good-bye to you, brother,
Its time for me to go.
Saturday and Sunday,
Saturday and Sunday,
Is time for me to rest.
I use this popular nursery school jingle on Fridays to teach several grammatical
lessons. I use this song to teach personal and object pronouns by substituting I with you,
he, she, we, and they. I make flashcards on which I print the personal pronouns, and
whenever a card is held up, the pupils make the appropriate changes.
With such substitutions, students are very quick to notice the changes occurring on
lines 8 and 11 where the object pronouns are used. Secondly, the song helps students
remember the simple present. When I is substituted with he, she, or a name, the verb needs
He comes to school on Monday.
At times, I use flash cards with the names of my students. They are greatly flattered
when their names become part of a song. What is interesting in this game is that students
insert these changes as they sing, and I follow the singing with my long stick pointing to
the lines on the board. If they make a mistake, I keep on tapping my stick on the same
line until they make the correct change.
For vocabulary, students are also obliged to learn new lexical items outside of what
the text has. They learn some words through hand gestures, such as the meaning of
good-bye. The lexical items before, after, today, and tomorrow, I can also teach by using
the song. Finally, I can stress word order with this simple song. By doing the above, I
have satisfied the text objectives and motivated my students.
After spicing up my lessons with this technique for one academic year, the result has
been positive. When I first arrived at my rural school, I noticed that during English
lessons more than two-thirds of the class was permanently outside. But the situation
changed dramatically when I started teaching English spiced with these songs.
Nowadays, I do not need the tolling bell to announce the beginning of the English
period. As soon as the mathematics teacher, who precedes me, finishes and I step into the
classroom, my students start singing our latest song. After allowing them to sing, I ask
them questions about grammatical or lexical items in the song. There is always a scramble
to answer my questions.
If I am delayed in the staff room, a crowd of protesting students immediately comes to
inform me that time is passing. So no pupil wants to miss 90 minutes with the English
teacher, alias choirmaster.
Textbook objectives become even more interesting when revised to suit specific
classroom realities. I fervently believe in Zofia Chlopeks article (Forum, July
1995) which states that "
it is really not necessary to stick to an old, orderly
syllabus." I also concur with Williams (1983), who feels that "the textbook will
continue to play an important role, but it will not be a tyrant." So to add variety
to my lessons, I consult the shelves of my memory for themes to adapt into songs that help
me present language points and add fun and relaxation to my lessons.
This system of spicing the language meals I serve with songs has endeared me to my
pupils and has distanced me and English from its negative reputation. Thus, my magic tonic
remains songs, songs, and nothing but songs since I now consider singing to be a necessary
ingredient in my English class.
Chlopek, Z. 1995. The importance of the beginning. English Teaching Forum, 33, 3, pp.
Williams, D. 1983. Developing criteria for textbook evaluation. ELT Journal, 33, 3.