Legal English Songs

I have been asked by Vesna from SEETA (South European English Teachers Association) to moderate this month music playlist which is a big challenge and great honour for me.

I thought that this event could be an occasion to investigate in greater detail the topic of Legal English songs and how they can be used in the legal English classroom which usually is not as enjoyable as General English classroom.

The songs which I am going to recommend this month will be new to me. So, I am going to break the “rule” popularized in a Polish comedy from the 70’s that “I only like the songs which I have already heard”;-).

This month event will also be an occasion for me to go back to my university years and my Practical English classes with unforgotten Richard Ramsbottom who used to play to us Bob Dylan’s songs as unbelievably difficult listening comprehension tasks. I hated them as they were my source of learning frustration and sometimes I chose to go for a coffee instead. Not alone of course.  But now when I grew up and matured and when I hear about the possibility of Dylan becoming the Nobel prize winner I am convinced that Richard was right. He not only aimed at developing our listening skill but also increased our knowledge of contemporary American poetry and social phenomena depicted in Dylan’s songs.

So, let’s go back to 1970 and start with Bob Dylan and one of his famous protest songs “Hurricane” – a story of a man who should have never been imprisoned. You can read more about the song itself on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_(song) and listen to the song on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjVcv1TCfq4&feature=related.

To work with the song I would recommend using the lyrics for example from: http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/hurricane-lyrics-bob-dylan/2e9ffb25ff6016164825696900386aa4

The second Legal English songs that comes to my mind is the classic by Bob Marley “I shot the sheriff” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XiYUYcpsT4) along with the great cover by Eric Clapton (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XiYUYcpsT4) – the story of a man who admits to having shot the sheriff but claims he has not killed the deputy.

Bob Marley said about the song: “I want to say ‘I shot The Police’ but the government would have made a fuss so I said ‘I shot the sheriff’ instead… but it’s the same idea: justice.”  (http://web.archive.org/web/20051210083237/http://www.bobmarley.com/songs/songs.cgi?sheriff)

So, we have got two songs and some reading related to them. I believe it is enough for the beginning. I hope the topic I have selected is not too tough. The question which I would like to ask here for further discussion is about possible ways of exploiting the above material in the Legal English classroom. My learners are university law students. They are not going to sing the songs, I guess. They like to have fun, though. How can they benefit from using the songs during classes then?

Please, feel welcome to join the discussion on www.seeta.eu (beginning on October 15).

One thought on “Legal English Songs

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