The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics

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Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 21

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Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 21, No. 0, pp.450-471
Abbreviation: KASELL
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print) 2586-7474 (Online)
Received 11 Apr 2021 Revised 13 May 2021 Accepted 25 May 2021

우리나라 초등영어교육에 적합한 팝송 탐색: 언어 수준과 내용 분석
성민창 ; 김기택

Pop songs for primary English education in South Korea: An analysis of language level and content
Min-Chang Sung ; Kitaek Kim
(1st author) Professor, Gyeongin Nat’l Univ., Tel: 031-470-6335 (
(corresponding author) Professor, Seoul Nat’l Univ., Tel: 02-880-7680 (

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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study aims to find pop songs appropriate for use in teaching materials for primary English education in South Korea. We analyze 500 pop songs from annual hit lists in English-dominant media in the last ten years (2011–2020). We first exclude 134 songs with explicit or non-English lyrics. We then assess each of the remaining 366 songs in terms of vocabulary, grammar, and tempo, using three criteria: (a) whether over 90% of vocabulary tokens in it would be known to primary English learners; (b) whether it has three or fewer tokens of past participles, a grammatical structure not yet studied by primary English learners; and (c) whether its tempo is slow enough to facilitate the lyrics’ comprehension by primary English learners. We find 43 songs that meet these criteria. We then qualitatively examine these songs’ videos, using eight criteria to exclude any with content potentially inappropriate for primary learners (e.g., sexual or violent material), removing 37 more songs. Thus, we find six songs appropriate for use in primary English education. Pedagogical implications are discussed based on the results.

Keywords: pop song, primary English, vocabulary, grammar, tempo

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