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ELT Rap: How to use rap music to create lyrics for English language education


ELT Rap: How to use rap music to create lyrics for English language education Speaker: Dr. Angel Lin Faculty of Education Chinese University of Hong Kong – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: ELT Rap: How to use rap music to create lyrics for English language education

ELT Rap How to use rap music to create lyrics
for English language education
  • Speaker Dr. Angel Lin
  • Faculty of Education
  • Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Date 30 Nov 2006

What do you expect from the workshop?
  • Get some basic concepts about hip hop music and
    rap genres?
  • Get some ideas on how to use rap music and create
    rap lyrics to teach English?
  • Get some ideas on how to get students to create
    rap lyrics based on their familiar experience or

What do you expect from the workshop?
  • Get some understanding of hip hop culture and
    youth resistant genres?
  • More than just teaching English understanding
    youth culture and youth identities and how to
    capitalize on youth cultural resources in our
    teaching in helping students to build positive
    English speaker and English learner identities

Why Music?
  • The beauty of the universe lay not in the stars
    figured into it but in the music generated by
    human minds, human voices, human hands.
    Philip K. Dick, Chains of Air, Web of Aether
  • Music, the greatest good that mortals know
    Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

Why Music in Second Language Education and
Multicultural Education?
  • The famous American progressive educator, John
    Dewey, advocated the teaching of bilingual songs
    and folk dancing from the students own immigrant
    cultures to create mutual respect for different
    cultures in the public schools.
  • Howard Gardners Theory of Multiple Intelligences
    (1999) has musical intelligence as one of the
    seven main intelligences that need to be
    encouraged and developed in the public school

Why Music in Second Language Education and
Multicultural Education?
  • The influential Second Language Acquisition
    researcher, Steven Krashen (1983), defines the
    din in the head phenomenon as the use of music,
    especially vocal songs, to induce the automatic,
    subconscious acquisition of language
  • Using music to teach the second language also has
    social and emotional benefits, as students are
    gaining confidence in speaking and using the
    second language through music, and do not face
    the same kind of performance pressure found in
    formal language learning. (Hadi-Tabassum, 2006)

Why Music in Second Language Education and
Multicultural Education?
  • The function of the mental rehearsal of spoken
    language through music is analogous to that of
    audiationhearing music in ones mind, not only
    for the cognitive rehearsal of musical text, but
    also for the ontogenetic development of the
    second language (Murphey, 1992)
  • When a song is running through the head, the
    language student will automatically rehearse the
    speech in that song, even if exposure to the song
    has been short-lived. Thus the inclusion of
    music and songs in bilingual and ESL classrooms
    is a progressive step towards achieving a
    multi-sensory approach to second language
    learning settings. (Hadi-Tabassum, 2006)

What is ELT Rap?
  • ELT Rap, as the name implies, is rap adapted or
    written for English language teaching (ELT)
  • It is an innovative way of drawing on youth
    popular cultural resources for English language
    education that is being developed here by a team
    of ELT educator-researchers at the Faculty of
    Education, Chinese University of Hong Kong, in
    collaboration with leading hip hop rap artists in
    Hong Kong

Features of Rap Lyrics
  • The linguist Geneva Smitherman has highlighted
    eight features of signification (i.e., ways of
    communicating meaning) in rap lyrics
  • Indirection, circumlocution
  • Metaphorical-imagistic
  • Humorous, ironic
  • Rhythmic fluence and sound
  • Teachy but not preachy
  • Directed at person or persons usually present in
    the situational context
  • Punning, play on words
  • Introduction of the semantically or logically

  • (cited in Perry, 2004, p. 62)

Features of Rap Lyrics
  • A glance at the list will show that when adapted,
    rap has great potential in English language
  • The rhythmic nature of rap lyrics facilitates the
    acquisition of the stress-timed rhythm of English
  • This has special significance in Hong Kong, where
    the majority of learners speak Cantonese, a
    syllable-timed language, as their mother-tongue
    more on this later
  • And the play on words brings fun to students when
    they repeat raps for practice. The rhyming nature
    of rap lyrics will also heighten students
    phonetic skills and phonological awareness

Why is ELT Rap Appealing to Young People?
  • In English language education, jazz chants
    (Carolyn Graham) have been around for improving
    learners pronunciation, especially in terms of
    rhythm and intonation
  • ELT rap could be even more appealing than jazz
    chants in one major respect hip hop music might
    have a stronger, hip (trendy) appeal to young
    people the rhythm is provided by hip-hop music
    in the background
  • This popular, musical, dimension will make ELT
    rap especially appealing to teenage students,
    especially those who are otherwise not interested
    in using English in their daily lives

Why is ELT Rap Appealing to Young People?
  • Apart from the fun element, what attracts teenage
    students to ELT rap can also be its content
  • Rap is a channel for (young) people to speak out,
    to unload their personal worries and
    frustrations, and to scenarios of social
  • In Hong Kong, students from working class
    families, who are often disadvantaged under the
    present competitive education system, will find
    ELT rap an opportunity to reconcile their mixed
    feelings about English
  • On the one hand they understand the importance of
    English to their future on the other hand they
    resent the sense of failure brought about by
    their inability to master a foreign language

Why Hip Hop Rap Music?
  • Hip Hop Rap Music as a Powerful Voice of Urban
  • The Verbal Art of Old School Hip HopHas its
    origins in the African American Church One
    important source of this rich tradition of verbal
    art is from the way that ministers preach and
    teach forming one of the inspirations and
    origins of the Old School Hip Hop rapping style
  • There are recent hip hop songs which still follow
    the Old School Hip Hop Style and contribute to
    building a positive identity for young people
  • e.g., the song I Know I can by American hip hop
    artist, Nas

I Know I Can, by Nas
  • Kids
  • I know I can (I know I can)
  • Be what I wanna be (be what I wanna be)
  • If I work hard at it (If I work hard it)
  • I'll be where I wanna be (I'll be where I wanna
  • Nas
  • Be, B-Boys and girls, listen up
  • You can be anything in the world, in God we trust
  • An architect, doctor, maybe an actress
  • But nothing comes easy it takes much practice
  • Like, I met a woman who's becoming a star
  • She was very beautiful, leaving people in awe
  • Singing songs, Lena Horne, but the younger
  • Hung with the wrong person
  • Got her strung off the heroin

I Know I Can, Nas
  • Cocaine, sniffin up drugs, all in her nose
  • Coulda died, so young, now looks ugly and old
  • No fun cause now when she reaches for hugs
    people hold their breath
  • Cause she smells of corrosion and death
  • Watch the company you keep and the crowd you
  • Cause they came to do drugs and you came to sing
  • So if you gonna be the best, I'ma tell you how
  • Put your hands in the air, and take the vow
  • Chorus 2X Nas (Kids)
  • I know I can (I know I can)
  • Be what I wanna be (be what I wanna be)
  • If I work hard at it (If I work hard it)
  • I'll be where I wanna be (I'll be where I wanna

I Know I Can, Nas
  • Nas
  • Be, b-boys and girls, listen again
  • This is for grown-looking girls who's only ten
  • The ones who watch videos and do what they see
  • As cute as can be, up in the club with fake ID
  • Careful, 'fore you meet a man with HIV
  • You can host the TV like Oprah Winfrey
  • Whatever you decide, be careful, some men be
  • Rapists, so act your age, don't pretend to be
  • Older than you are, give yourself time to grow
  • You thinking he can give you wealth, but so
  • Young boys, you can use a lot of help, you know
  • You thinkin life's all about smokin weed and ice
  • You don't wanna be my age and can't read and
  • Begging different women for a place to sleep at

I Know I Can, Nas
  • Smart boys turn to men and do whatever they wish
  • If you believe you can achieve, then say it like
  • Chorus
  • Save the music y'all, save the music y'all
  • Save the music y'all, save the music y'all
  • Save the music
  • Nas
  • Be, be, 'fore we came to this country
  • We were kings and queens, never porch monkeys
  • There was empires in Africa called Kush
  • Timbuktu, where every race came to get books
  • To learn from black teachers who taught Greeks
    and Romans
  • Asian Arabs and gave them gold when
  • Gold was converted to money it all changed
  • Money then became empowerment for Europeans

I Know I Can, Nas
  • The Persian military invaded
  • They heard about the gold, the teachings and
    everything sacred
  • Africa was almost robbed naked
  • Slavery was money, so they began making slave
  • Egypt was the place that Alexander the Great went
  • He was so shocked at the mountains with black
  • Shot up they nose to impose what basically
  • Still goes on today, you see?
  • If the truth is told, the youth can grow
  • They learn to survive until they gain control
  • Nobody says you have to be gangstas, hoes
  • Read more learn more, change the globe
  • Ghetto children, do your thing
  • Hold your head up, little man, you're a king
  • Young Princess when you get your wedding ring
  • Your man is saying "She's my Queen
  • Chorus

Recent development of the Slam Poetry Movement
in the United States
  • Urban poets such as Saul Williams, write and
    perform poems in the open mic poetry gatherings
    in America
  • Slam Poetry is a kind of urban poetry that
    expresses the voices of urban youth (see his 2006
    collection of poetry The Deads Emcees Scrolls)

Lines from Saul Williams poem, Untimely
  • happiness is a mediocre standard for a
  • middle class existence
  • i see through smiles and smell truth in the
  • distance
  • beyond one dimensional smiles and
  • laughter
  • lies the hereafter where tears echo
  • laughter
  • (you would have to do math to)
  • divide a smile by a tear
  • times fear
  • .
  • i lack the attention span to meditate
  • my attention spans galaxies
  • here and now are immense
  • seconds are secular
  • moments are mine
  • self is illusion
  • musics divine

Local Efforts in Developing Hip Hop Rap as a
Positive Voice for Hong Kong Youth
Works by MC Yan and his fellow artists in the
late 1990s in HK
  • . Dont let people see you as a useless kid,
  • be yourself
  • and try your best
  • but even if you dont succeed,
  • dont go slit your wrists,
  • or jump off a building,
  • or drink Dettol
  • (English translation of some of the lines of
    the song, Take Care Tonight, by LMF)

Culturally Compatible/Responsive Curriculum
  • American educationists, Roland Tharp, Kathryn
    Hu-Pei Au, Cathie Jordan, and their colleagues
    (1983) have in the past two decades developed an
    approach to teaching second language students
    (e.g., Native Hawaiian students learning Standard
    English in public schools) through a Culturally
    Compatible/Responsive Curriculum
  • A culturally compatible/responsive curriculum
    draws on the home, community and popular cultural
    resources that students bring to the classroom

Culturally Compatible/Responsive Curriculum
  • Under this approach, teachers and curriculum
    planners design lesson tasks and teaching
    approaches that will arouse students interest in
    school learning through capitalizing on students
    familiar everyday cultural resources (e.g., youth
    popular culture) as bridges
  • to bridge the students world outside the
    classroom and the world of school learning inside
    the classroom

Literature Needs to be Democratized
  • Connecting English literature to young peoples
  • Using youth popular culture as a way to induce
    students to appreciate
  • English language arts

Literature Needs to be Democratized
  • The Professor of English for Speakers of Other
    Languages at the University of London Institute
    of Education, Henry Widdowson, wrote (1992)
  • Literature needs to be democratized, but this
    is not achieved by deprivation. To deny children
    access to great literature is to keep it within
    the preserve of an elite. What needs to be done
    is to make it more readily accessible. So it is
    not a matter of replacing the prestigious with
    the popular but of developing an awareness of how
    they are related, how they share the total
    literary glory which everybody is entitled to
    experience. The task of education is to reveal
    their common kinship.
  • (H. G. Widdowson, 1992, p.
    7 italics in the original)

Building Positive Youth Identities Building
English Speaker Identities
  • ELT Rap represents our efforts in relating
    popular verbal art and youth popular culture to
    great literature of the world
  • We also draw on a holistic, positive, youth
    identity building approach
  • Inducing students into the empowered identities
    of English-rapping EMCEES emcee or master of
    ceremony is the name for vocalists in hip hop
    rap music)
  • In our teaching materials, e.g., we have used the
    theme of adventure and treasure-hunting the
    final treasure to be discovered by the student is
    the beautiful world of language arts and powerful
  • Transforming students identities from the usual
    self-image of a poor English learner to a
    proud EMCEE in English and bilingual raps
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