Learning through song

I wonder - from the singsong rhythms of alphabet and times-tables learning, to “Doe, a dear…” music helps to fix information in the mind. Are there any Welsh songs which perform the same function? In the same way that SSIW’s repeated phrases are an instruction in grammar and vocabulary, are there songs which are designed to teach? Obviously any song will be instructive, I’m really asking about ones composed with that purpose in mind.


I’m sorry I don’t know any songs like that.

However I can confirm any song may work great to remember words and sentences and pronunciation!
When I was at school I’ve never been able to learn poems in Italian by heart (except for one “L’infinito” - that I almost completely forgot in the meantime).

But I could/can learn and remember songs in English and Welsh (without even knowing what they meant/mean).

By the way I got curious about what the “Doe, a dear” song was, so I looked for it…and I have to complain with the composer! The pronuciation of the notes it’s meant to teach is not right!!! :joy:


Aran is fairly keen on informing as many people as possible that grammar doesn’t exist, so I’m not sure that your statement will be taken in the spirit you meant it!!! :wink: Unless I convince him that his approach of hiding grammar instruction in plain sight has worked…yes, that should work :grin:
Seriously though, I don’t know of any songs like that, so I think this thread is a brilliant idea!


Slightly off-topic, but within the theme of keeping information in the mind:

Songlines in Australia (from Wikipedia)

A knowledgeable person is able to navigate across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena. In some cases, the paths of the creator-beings are said to be evident from their marks, or petrosomatoglyphs, on the land, such as large depressions in the land which are said to be their footprints.

By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, Indigenous people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia’s interior. The continent of Australia contains an extensive system of songlines, some of which are of a few kilometres, whilst others traverse hundreds of kilometres through lands of many different Indigenous peoples — peoples who may speak markedly different languages and have different cultural traditions.

Since a songline can span the lands of several different language groups, different parts of the song are said to be in those different languages. Languages are not a barrier because the melodic contour of the song describes the nature of the land over which the song passes. The rhythm is what is crucial to understanding the song. Listening to the song of the land is the same as walking on this songline and observing the land.

In some cases, a songline has a particular direction, and walking the wrong way along a songline may be a sacrilegious act (e.g. climbing up Uluru where the correct direction is down). Traditional Aboriginal people regard all land as sacred, and the songs must be continually sung to keep the land “alive”.

Lynne Kelly’s “Memory Codes” is a fascinating account of how songlines like the above, and monuments like Stonehenge all served an information sharing and retention purpose in pre-literate societies.


@nia.llywelyn spent some time trying to convince me that nowadays the goat you are likely to spot in a field and, if you are at my stage of development, excitedly babble about from the back seat of the car while one of your tiwtwrs is trying to concentrate on the rollercoaster of a road, is actually a “gafr gwyn” not a “gafr wen” as in “Oes gafr eto?”…

[Wen appeared, I noticed, in one of the “ceffyl” songs @GeraldPughroberts and nia have been leading us as Hangout group to crucify on a recent YouTube broadcast. Gerald, solo, sings beautifully, but choir by conference call is a tricky call…]

Apart from the obvious tongue twister element to the Oes Gafr song, you learns your colours, some important elements to the sheep and practice a treiglad to boot!

I remember being very taken with Goosey Goosey Gander as a child. “Whither shall I wander?” and “In my lady’s chamber” are two of my favourite phrases and I use them wherever I can. Useful for historical knowledge for an anglophone kid to learn that chamber/bedchamber was originally a (bed)room, not a talking shop for commercial bigwigs as nowadays used in “Chamber of Commerce”, and also as preparation for French “chambre”.

When reading it, one notes that gander is only a half-rhyme with wander, because of the dark-a-after-W rule, which is what I call what the Derry accent ignores, making it hard to transcribe into English for your common or garden anglophone to cop on to.

Jack’n’Jill go up the hill to fetch a bucket of w-atter in a Derry playground, or used to, to rhyme with “matter”…

“Le petit prince Emmanuel”, French children’s song, (English version is in a songbook currently stored in my garage) is great at teaching the days of the week and familiarity with the hours of the day, and counting backwards.

There is a French adult song, by a famous singer songwriter, which references a different Emmanuel(le) and makes a lot of deliciously corny and suggestive puns around the name.

Anything by Georges Brassens, of course, will teach you loads, and you’ll want to visit Sète.

Welsh Tourist Board take note. Welsh language culture can hook ‘em, to help you reel ‘em in, (rather than scare ‘em off with talk of frightening, lonely, empty spaces). Wales then gets the sort of visitor whom the language learning has pump-primed to look for the full range of colours in goat-hair craft products…

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That’s the point though, isn’t it - that ‘rules’ (not interested here in a debate about the (non)existence of grammar) ARE hidden in plain sight when you learn by rote or by song.
Well, any composers of music reading this can take it as a cue for a song…


Rhythm is key. I took part in a study once where speed of recall was tested between groups of people who’d learned their tables the old fashioned, rote, way were compared to younger people who had never learned to recite them. The older students were much quicker.


Fascinating - how were they being tested? Producing a complete table, or finishing off part of a phrase, or something else?


I would imagine that the pattern(and pathway)-making that the brain goes through (at an early age to boot) stands you in good stead as you mature. And I’m very confident that SSiW’s stance on not worrying is equally helpful, but that only comes from my having read comments by other forum members…


Quick questions: the tutor would say something like ‘Seven Sevens’ and it was a case of who answered first.

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Which actually is akin to completing a phrase, isn’t it. You aren’t wasting time working something out. You don’t need to know the Why. You just need to know the What.

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I don’t remember many songs done on purpose to learn something, in Italian. Singing tables may be effective but seems pretty weird to me! :grin:

However, I started teaching myself English with songs. I was in love with Paul McCartney, :blush: and even liked the cheesy stuff he was playing at the time; but when I discovered the Beatles…wooohoo…I went nuts!
I decided I wanted to be British. :joy:

I recently found this quite hilarious evidence at my parents’ house. :nerd: And I wonder if native English speakers would guess the actual sentences from my transcriptions. :thinking:

By the way I did the same with Welsh songs, more recently - it’s fun!


hi Gisella
No, we didn’t sing the tables, they were just traditionally learned with a singsong rhythm, e.g. Once two is two, two twos are four, three fours are twelve etc. Kind of bouncy.

Your story about wanting to be British reminds me of something the Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen said. He learned English partly by listening to Monty Python. This gave his English accent a definite Cockney twang (Eric Idle probably). When he played a villain in the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, he had to be told to make himself sound more Scandinavian!
Your transcripts are cute. When I try to write down something I’ve heard in Welsh I get similar results…

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Singing times-tables - news just in, there is a Welsh version of “Supermovers” on the way :wink:


I was ready to re-learn tables, but unfortunately I get a “This content is not currently available on this device” warning.
Not sure it’s a technical issue related to browser/computer or the fact I’m outside UK!

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Frightening. I read that and an involuntary ‘49’ shot out of my mouth!


and that’s how it works!


The childrens’ nursery rhyme CDs are a great way of learning words. Cerys Matthews Cd called TIR has a leaflet with the words to some very traditional songs like Llwyn Onn, Mfanwy and Migldi Magldi. Simple kids songs like Heads, shoulders, knees and toes, One finger, one thumb, keep moving.


That sounds very helpful. Thank You.

Further to my post of Sept 20th… here they are!