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Foreign Language Karaoke

Karaoke is not the first thing that comes to mind for many when thinking about language learning. Over the years I’ve seen music in general and karaoke in particular used in wonderful ways to practice other languages and in addition to that promote the joy that language learning can bring.

Most of the times Karaoke is something that takes place outside of a traditional classroom setting, although using it in such an environment is not unheard of. since most system are quite portable, karaoke can be set up in many venues. The language center is a good place to not only provide the necessary hardware and media, but also to host karaoke events. It helps to have a larger screen to which one hooks up the equipment. Some system come with small, built-in monitors, but a screen will allow the audience to participate, sing-along, or even see live video through a built-in camera that some system feature.

Preparation is crucial. Just setting up the equipment won’t create a good foreign language karaoke session. Some additional steps are necessary: narrow down choices, evaluate songs to match them to the participants’ level of language proficiency, create handouts with lyrics, possibly vocabulary lists, translations, and/or background information about the significance of the songs or bands. Providing this information beforehand will make for a smoother session, so that learners can listen to the songs prior to the karaoke session and know what they are about. If they don’t, learners will quickly get frustrated and the learning effect will be of limited value.

Hardware and Technical Details
The classic way is to buy a disc-based Karaoke machine, which are offered at various price points. some things to look for: compatibility
with different formats (make sure they acepts both CD-Gs and Karaoke DVDs); incoming and outgoing connections (the ability to hook up extra microphones, speakers, external projectors or TVs will allow more flexiblity with the deployment of the equipment); size; weight; and included equipment and other features (e.g. a built-in monitor or camera). You can find machines on sites general shopping sites like amazon or on specialized sites like acekaraoke.com.If you want to find (or have your students/TAs find) discs in other languages, we have had good look finding them here: http://www.acekaraoke.com/international.html  (Note: I do not endorse any vendors. I do not get any money for mentioning these or any other companies on my web site.) I have tried out chip-based systems but found them awkward to use, and they are not as sturdy as disc-based machines.
There are app-based solutions available as well, for example tunewiki or the Glee app (the app suggests that you purchase songs, but you can use your own songs that are already on the device) offer some low-cost alterantives. I have not used them in a larger scale setting, so please let me know if you have successfully used karaoke apps.

Gamification of Karaoke: SingStar
In our language center we also have a Karaoke Game for the PlayStation 3: the “SingStar” series. So far we have Spanish and German discs for that game (players get points for how well they sing…). Please let me know if you’re interested in that. You can use purchased PS3 discs and you can buy individual songs in addition to that.

Last Words
Karaoke in an L2 is certainly not for everyone, and it may be difficult to include it on a larger scale in formal classrooms settings. But it is great for certain types of learners (I have one advanced student who taught himself German through music!) and in informal and semi-formal language environments. The language center, for example, is an ideal place for it.


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