Learn English with Rolling Stone Magazine

rollingstone coverDo you love to scream out to your favorite ROCK songs? Maybe you’re passionate about the rhythm and flow of RAP music. Do you like to put on your dancing shoes and bust a move to some R‘n’B? Or, do you prefer to get down to some James Brown style FUNK !!!

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If you are anything like me, you would say YES!! to all of these options.

But, what if I told you that you could master the English language using all of these awesome music genres, with the help of the most famous music related magazine in the world, ROLLING STONE!

Every day I go to the Rolling Stone website to get my daily fix of musical information from news to reviews, artists profiles, photos, videos and much more.

Because I love music, and I love teaching English, I decided to put the two together with a lot of my students. I believe that any person can learn a lot of English with any song, if they know what to look for. To prove this I’m going to show you a little game I play with my students  called, “choose a number between 1 and 500.”


On the Rolling Stone website, you’ll find a page with the 500 greatest songs of all time, voted by their readers. I use this list of classic songs to prepare lessons that contain all elements of English learning, for example,  grammar, vocabulary, structure, slang, pronunciation listening and a lot more.

So, choose a number between 1 and 500???

You’re taking too long to respond so I used this random number website and it chose the number 228.

And the winner is: The Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go Now”

[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqH21LEmfbQ” width=”500″ height=”300″]

If you want to read all the lyrics click here. Now let’s break this down to an awesome English class with 3 different areas


The first grammar point I noticed is in the title of the song, how to use the word should.

Should is a “modal verb” used to suggest that something is a good or bad idea, or to give someone advice.

  • We should listen to the clash more often!
  • I don’t think he should tell his girlfriend what happened.
  • You should stop smoking cigarettes, they’ll kill you
  • Should we bring anything to your party?
  • Should I get a haircut?
  • Should my brother buy that car?

Should is a modal verb that we don’t conjugate, so it is always used with a verb in the infinitive. The only way to change the time reference is by using the “modal perfect.”

The modal perfect structure with should is: Subject (I, You, Anne etc) + Have + Verb (participle)

When we use should this way, the meaning differs a little. Not only are we expressing a good/bad idea or advice in the past, we are also talking about something we regret, for example.

  • I should have gone to the Clash show ( I didn’t go and regret it now)
  • You should told me earlier, now it’s too late (It was a good idea in the past)
  • I shouldn’t have drunk so much last night! (I regret it because now I’m sick)
  • Should I have spoken to him? (advice for past actions)
  • Should Anne have eaten that old piece of pizza? No, she shouldn’t have. Now she’s sick! (She regrets eating the pizza now)


Learning with music is going to give you 2 massive advantages learning English, which are:

1. Your vocabulary is going to increase dramatically in a way that you will remember. When you listen to a song, and understand the lyrics enough, you will start to visualize the context of the song in your head. The song becomes a story, or a message in some cases, which makes memorizing the words/lyrics easier to remember because you have connected the new word to part of the song’s story.

2. Now that you have all these new words, you have a perfect opportunity to practice them whenever you want by imitating the singer. If you sing along with the track you’ll start to notice that natives often shorten many words, abbreviate others, you’ll see specific stress points in each word and start to feel the FLOW of the language.

Finding the FLOW of the language is another way to say, you speak FLUENTLY!

Try to work your flow with these 3 lines from the song. Listen to the song again if necessary, and repeat the phrases over and over again until you feel like you are speaking/singing in a natural, fluent way.

“Darling you gotta let me know, should I stay or should I go”

“If I go there will be trouble, An’ if I stay it will be double”

“This indecision’s bugging me, If you don’t want me, set me free”


Do want to become a fluent English speaker but at the same time have a lot of fun and connect to the hundreds of different music/social cultures from around the world?

Then it’s time for you to forget about that boring old course book you’re using, get proactive, and start turning your favorite songs into a cool, interesting and VERY effective way to learn (and easily memorize) the English language.

Rock on Real lifers, and remember a ROLLING STONE gathers no moss.

If you have any tips, suggestions, innovative ideas about learning English with music, leave a message at the bottom of this post, or contact us through Facebook . We would love to hear about your language learning methods. Also, join our mailing list to stay up to date with what’s happening at Real Life English.