World Music Quiz

Jessica Newby Kawata & Rachael Harris



  • Key Words: Global Issues, Music
  • Learner English Level: Beginners to Advanced
  • Learner Maturity Level: Jr. High School and above
  • Preparation Time: about 5 minutes
  • Activity Time: One class period

Though English is considered an international language, many of us view music as the true language of intercultural communication. In this lesson students write their responses to selected pieces of music while listening to music soundtracks. Afterwards, they discuss their answers in English. This enjoyable lesson enables the students to express their likes, dislikes, and opinions in English, and exposes them to other cultures.


Materials needed are a compilation of music from around the world, a CD or cassette tape player, a World Music Quiz Handout Sheet & Answer Sheet, and a world map.

1) Preparing the music

If you happen to be a world music buff, ransack your own collection. Most CD shops carry a variety of world music compilations such as "The Pocket Womad" by WOMAD Productions, "Global Celebrations" by Ellipsis Arts, and "The Real World Sampler" by Real World. We played all tracks for a maximum of 3 minutes; however, this may be adjusted to accommodate the level of the class.

2) Preparing the quiz sheet

First the teacher must choose categories and corresponding vocabulary. The categories should be chosen to meet the needs of a particular class or lesson. We chose the categories Likes, Feelings, Countries, Images, and Languages, and gave the students the necessary vocabulary in boxes at the top of the quiz sheet. To increase creativity we left an "other" option in the Feelings and Images boxes. The following are some examples:

  Likes Feelings Images
Beginners: like, don't like sad, happy sea, mountains
Intermediate: love, like, hate angry, relaxed desert, jungle
Advanced: adore, detest confused, irate other

The countries and languages categories selected depend on the music that is chosen. In some cases, the language may be unknown even to the teacher. In that situation you can generalize and say "an Indian language," "a Chinese language," or "an African language." After the vocabulary content of the boxes is decided, set up the "Quiz Sheet" by making a grid with the song numbers listed vertically on the left and the categories running horizontally along the top of the page.

3) Preparing the answer sheet

Make an explanatory sheet stating the track numbers, artist's name, song title, country/continent and language. This information is interesting for many students. They can refer to it if they are particularly interested in a piece of music.

4) Preparing the students

The number of pre-lessons on vocabulary and background knowledge required will depend on the students' level. If your focus is on geography or cultures, more in-depth preparation may be needed.

The Lesson

In the classroom, hand out the "Quiz Sheet" and explain to the students that as they listen to each track they should fill in the correct spaces from the options in the box. Next, turn on the music.

After the first step is finished, elicit answers from the students yourself, or pair them up to discuss in English where the music comes from, their opinions of the music, and their reasons for choosing their answers. Next, hand out the answer sheet. This could lead to a more in-depth discussion of countries and cultures.


To focus on writing, play the music with no handout, allow time between songs so the students can take notes in Japanese, and for homework have them write English paragraphs which reflect their images, feelings, impressions and so on.

If you wish to explore cultural comparisons, more time should be given to discussing the similarities and differences of music and the uses of music within cultures. Some of the above-mentioned compilation CDs come with booklets or short explanations of the purpose of the song (for example, festivals, weddings, funerals, etc.). It's very interesting to include a range of Japanese music like Okinawan and Ainu music to show students the cultural variety of music in Japan.

Follow-up Activities

This activity lends itself to a variety of follow-up activities.

  • Students choose one of the countries, research it, and do either a written or oral report.
  • Students write about an imaginary trip to one of the countries.
  • In pairs, students plan a trip to one of the countries
  • Give students an outline map and have them fill in the names of the appropriate countries.


Not only is this lesson simple and fun, but it is also extremely versatile. It can be adapted to all levels of students and to all kinds of classes. Whether you use it in a conversation, writing or culture class it will enhance the student's English, creativity and global understanding. The music exposes students to a variety of cultures and languages, increases their geographical knowledge and in the process helps to break down racial/cultural stereotypes. The discussion afterwards allows students to express themselves in English.