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I recently started to give English lessons to my niece, who is nearly eight. My main method for learning vocabulary and pronunciation is listening to songs and discussing them.

So far we have been listening songs like "twinkle, twinkle...", and today I promised her that we will soon move to more difficult and interesting ones. She asked me, what kind of, and as I started saying, probably, Disney, she interrupted me by: "Can we do Lady Gaga's Bad romance?" I said, if the grammar is accessible, we can and we finished our lesson.

Then I actually listened to the song. And here comes the question:

How do I discuss the lyrics of "Bad romance" with a child?

First I doubted whether I should do it at all. My general approach is that if the child is interested in something she should get the explanations. Also it creates a great motivation to learn language, since we follow her interests. She is really excited about this song and tries to play it on the piano.

But I would really like to hear advice on how to do it and how much understanding I should expect. Moreover, what exactly is unhealthy for a child with regard to sexual content?

Thank you=)

  • I think popular culture songs are a bad tool to learn pronunciation, since a lot of the singers alter it for rhyming, metre, and what not! – learner101 Sep 20 '17 at 12:14
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I would look at other songs. My kids are being tutored in a language and it wouldn't please me to have them taught a song with explicit lyrics and have them explained/interpreted by someone else. As much as I think children need to be taught about sex, I think that is entirely up to the parents as to when and how when we are talking 8 years old. By 8 all of my children understood the basics of human reproduction. We had not yet covered sexual behaviors, which is really what a lot of this covers. That is another level entirely I am just starting to cover with my 10 year old and will have continuing conversations until he is grown I am sure, as I did with the 2 grown kids I have. I read the lyrics to make sure I recall the song & not sure how I'd explain "I want you in my rear window" to anyone of that age and it really can be interpreted one of two ways I can think of and neither is one I am hoping to explain to my kids any time soon.

Why not tell her the lyrics aren't really age appropriate (I tell my kids this) and suggest a different song she might like, like "Paparazzi"? It's also far easier to explain in general as it will make more sense to her level of understanding romance and attraction. Or even one by a different artist. I have an almost 8 yr old that is an advanced reader and has often asked to read books that wouldn't be appropriate. He has no idea what is in it, so he doesn't understand what he is asking about. He doesn't particularly want information right now about sex, so I tell him there is a lot of sex stuff in that one & he drops it. I also tell him if it's got too much scary stuff in it.

If she doesn't understand the language well enough to understand the words on her own, then she has no concept of what she is even asking & asking a question does not mean a child is ready for the answer. It depends on how much of what they are asking they understand. I am all for honest answers, but my 10yr old son overheard a term used by another child & asked me what it meant. It meant anal sex. I told him this because I did think he should know if he is old enough to start hearing people use such a term. He was horrified & not at all grateful to understand, despite asking and thinking he wanted to know. I am not sorry I told him, but I wasn't looking to explain it to him other than it really was the only answer to what he was asking. If instead he wanted me to teach him song lyrics that referenced anal sex, I'd just tell him the lyrics were inappropriate, let's choose a different song.

I homeschool and the style we use is student directed. I believe in that approach overall. I look at what they are interested & excited about and try to work with that. If they fail to get interested or excited about something they need to learn, then I look at ways to show them it can be interesting or exciting. I love that you want her to be enthusiastic about the lessons. I sincerely believe that matters. I also think you can help her make selections that are appropriate and interesting. I don't cover all the things my kids are excited about right away. I steer it in a way that makes sense for content. We will cover it all eventually, but sometimes they are asking something that needs more algebra to cover & they aren't there yet.

And in a comment I know you said she would rather you watch something adult with you versus alone. I would prefer at 8, she not watch it at all. That doesn't mean that I censor my kids from all sex, far from it. I do censor them from the type that is possibly confusing, very casual, etc. The young ones are still too young to understand sexual dynamics. That is a thing that you start to sort out more toward puberty, through puberty, into early adulthood. I do want them to view sex positively. I want them to know it is healthy, it is likely going to be part of their lives in whatever way they determine, that most humans are sexual. None of my message is negative, it's merely catered to understanding level.

I don't know what all her musical tastes are, but where I live, EVERY little girl that age LOVES "Shake it Off" by Taylor Swift and it's an excellent message about keeping your chin up no matter what anyone says about you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrFZ6fXyia0

There are many great ones, like Because I am a Queen by India Arie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J4zOYEOW5k

Or Katy Perry has a nice one in Roar too for a positive message. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2l4bdAyFUQ

I remembered a few more, so adding them..

Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtGY4G7II6s

Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7xsVF_XTEs How Far I'll Go from Moana and my kids and the kids I babysit all LOVE it right now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i66p0_wZ9F0

They also love "You're Welcome" also from Moana https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REntT1Amvxc

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    Thank you so much for your detailed answer, I decided to accept it, because it gave me a feeling of what to do. The thing is, one does not simply say: "it is inappropriate to you", because the word "inappropriate" doesn't bear any meaning for the child. So it is equivalent to saying nothing. Moreover, the child can interpret it as "I don't want to discuss it with you", and she will find someone else to ask. You mentioned, that it should be parents' decision. I am her aunt and my sister trusts me in these kind of questions. I always ask her opinion, but in most cases it is "use your judgement". – May Sep 19 '17 at 12:32
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    I have children. By this age they understood inappropriate, but that may just be what words you typically use. I say things to them like this or that is or isn't appropriate often. I will tell them what is an appropriate outfit for an event, or if a word usage is inappropriate or a behavior. I am sure you can find some word that is commonly used in the way you interact with her. By this age (and 4 of mine are past this age) that word was fine because we use that word and they are aware of it's meaning. I have been asked sex questions by nieces, I still run it past mom. – threetimes Sep 19 '17 at 12:38
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I wonder how helpful "Bad Romance" would be for learning English, when most of it is composed of nonsense syllables:

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Caught in a bad romance Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Caught in a bad romance Rah rah ah-ah-ah! Ro mah ro-mah-mah Gaga oh-la-la! Want your bad romance Rah rah ah-ah-ah! Ro mah ro-mah-mah Gaga ooh-la-la! Want your bad romance

If you must do this song with an 8 year old, I would suggest you don't answer any of her questions with the whole truth. E.g.,

"I want your disease"

Do you want to talk about the birds and the bees and HIV? Probably not. You can say, "She just wants to be like him, even if he's sick."

Some of the other lyrics are more problematic.

You want to respect her, and that's great. You want to let her have a choice in the matter, again, that's great. But if she wanted to watch a soft core movie in English, would you respect that decision by an 8-yesr old?

If you would, then the song should be fine to discuss.

If you believe not everything out there is healthy for an 8 year old to contemplate, I'd say, "I'll respect your decisions within certain bounds (e.g. Disney music.)" Disney songs are a significant jump from "Twinkle, Twinkle". And some of them are hilarious (like the Gaston song.)

  • Thank you for your answer. On relevance to learning English. Usually, there are three components in every lesson or learning activity: 1) the material learned: i.e. vocabulary; 2) skills acquired: i.e. confidence that she can listen and understand foreign language after some effort; 3) general personality development. On soft core, I'd rather she watched it with me than without. – May Sep 17 '17 at 18:48
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I think it makes a difference that this is your niece, not your daughter. Assuming you are not her guardian, you should broach the subject with the child's parents and find out how they would like you to handle it.

If they don't want you going over this song with her, just explain to her that it has some grown-up things in it, and guide her towards another more child-friendly song. If they don't mind, I would just go into the song prepared to answer some tough questions if they arise. Something like this could be a good way to open some conversation around important topics, but I would say only with the parents' approval.

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