How to Learn English with The Beatles: Yellow Submarine

Have you been studying English for some time now, but find it difficult to stay motivated?

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If you’re losing focus and patience with the language, maybe it’s time to introduce more music into you studies, and what better band to choose than The Beatles.

Now, more than sixty years after the band was formed, the Beatles are still very popular amongst all generations and have been acclaimed as the most commercially successful band in the history of music.

Why are The Beatles such a good choice of music to help your English?

Well, during their career, The Beatles changed and evolved a lot. This change didn’t just influence their style, but also the complexity of their lyrics. From the simple lyrics of their first single “Love Me Do,” to some of their deeper and more socially involved lyrics, in songs such as “let It Be,” the vocabulary changes drastically. Listening to the Beatles will give you a more vast range of English vocabulary, increase your listening skills immensely and open your minds to this cultural phenomenon that was, or rather, is The Beatles.

In this article, you’re going to go on an English adventure in a yellow submarine. You’re going to pick up some new vocabulary and you’re going to get some grammar tips from the lyrics.

Let’s start your Beatles English lesson here. What does the name the Beatles mean? Os Besouros right? Wrong, the word beat means bater, and the conjugation stays the same- beat/beat/beat.

The band name, The Beatles, is used in the past participle which would translate to, Os Batidas in the musical sense.

AN ENGLISH JOURNEY IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE

The Yellow Submarine, since its release in 1969, has been one of the most famous songs in the world, they even made an animated movie about it. I’m sure most of you a familiar with the song and at least know the chorus, but can you sing the whole song? Let’s take a look at the video and the lyrics verse by verse.

[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wrs5DjHNUOE” width=”600″ height=”400″]

Verse 1

In the town where I was born,
Lived a man who sailed to sea,
And he told us of his life,
In the land of submarine

THE PASSIVE VOICE

In this first verse we see the use of the passive voice, “Where I was born.” This is used when we want to put more focus on the action (the verb) and not on who or what did the action (subject). Who gave birth to you? Your mother obviously.

This is used a lot in newspaper and magazine headlines to grab the attention of the reader. For example,

  • John lennon was murdered! The focus is on the fact that he was murdered, not who murdered him.
  • New Beatles album has been released! Who released the album? That’s not important.
  • Over 1 million records sold in 2 weeks! Who sold the records?

Structure of the passive voice

The structure of the passive voice is quite simple as you will see below. Remember, the main verb is always in its past participle form. Check the irregular verbs here.

subject + auxiliary verb (be) + main verb (past participle)

Verse 2

So we sailed on to the sun,
Till we found the sea green,
And we lived beneath the waves,
In our yellow submarine,

PREPOSITIONS

Most of you are probably familiar and know how to use a lot of the more common prepositions, for example, in/on/at. But, in English there are a large range of prepositions that are used just as frequently but tend to get ignored or forgotten easily, beneath is a good example of this.

Here is a list of some of these prepositions, check to see if you know how to use them all.

 

Verse 3

And our friends are all aboard,
Many more of them live next door,
And the band begins to play.

ALL ABOARD/ ALL ON BOARD

In the song when they sing “all aboard,” they are saying that everyone is literally on the submarine. This expression is used at portsand train stations to signal to passengers that the boat or train is about to leave. A similar, and more common expression, is on board. On board can be used figuratively to say that everyone agrees on the topic or decision. For example,

  • The employees were all on board when the manager suggested they take the day off.
  • If you want to go to see the Beatles cover band play tonight I’m on board.

Verse 4

As we live a life of ease(life of ease)
Every one of us(every one of us) has all we need,(has all we need)
Sky of blue,(sky of blue) and sea green,(sea of green)
In our yellow(In our yellow) submarine.(submarine) ( Haha! )

EASE

In the song the word ease means comfort, but it also has a lot of other meanings. The other common uses of the word ease would be, as a verb (to ease) and as a noun (with ease). For example,

  • I got a massage to ease the pain in my back (to relieve the pain)
  • Paul Mcartney still sings with ease (with no difficulty)

To learn other meanings and expressions with the word EASE, click on this link.

Chorus

We all live in a yellow submarine,
yellow submarine, yellow submarine,
We all live in a yellow submarine,
yellow submarine, yellow submarine.

Yellow submarine, yellow submarine… as you can see, this song really gets stuck in your head, even 40 years after it was first released and we’re still singing it.

CALL TO ACTION

Like I have just done with the song “Yellow submarine,” you can do the same with any other song, be it The Beatles or another band. Find the lyrics to some of your favorite songs and dissect the lyrics word for word. Also, don’t forget the importance of singing along with the music, as this helps you learn the phonetic structure of the language.

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  • So happy to find a kindred spirit. I have been doing similar that I call Karaoke English. We should talk sometime. http://myeslfriends.com/wordpress/edupunk-english/karaoke-esl/

    And here is one of my promo vids that you are welcome to remix for your students. http://youtu.be/h_L4Vb1zxhQ

  • I love using music in class. But I really don’t like the Beatles and I’ve found that many, many of my students don’t either. They feel it’s very much of another generation. Imagine when you were a teenager and your teacher asked you to listen to a song from 60 years earlier. You would have laughed and thought them so old fashioned!

    In my experience teachers tend to use music which comes from their own generation but this goes against the one of the basic tenets of teaching: keeping the students interested.

    So I’d like to suggest that before a music lesson a decent Needs Analysis takes place and in it the class says what kind of music they like. Almost certainly it won’t include the Beatles!

  • Very thoughtful and extensive lesson ideas!! I love it!!
    Thanks