Hopefully this won’t get me reported to the authorities for my abusive behavior, but I’ve been casting about for something new to enliven my study of German. I decided on pop songs. I’m specifically aiming to reduce my inhibitions when speaking this summer in a German language immersion environment. I think my best bet is conducting my learning in the most playful manner I can devise.
There has been a lot of acting out dialogs from German Readers and the Pimsleur CDs*. DS2 is not clear on why I keep involving him in my shenanigans, but melodramatic German dialogues conducted with yourself are just crazy. When done with your child, they’re home schooling!
Just when your teen thinks you can’t get any more embarrassing, you add singing out loud in German to your repertoire. I even do it in the car in the school parking lot when I’m waiting to pick up DS2.
Yeah, I’m that kind of mom.
My new playlist, Deutsche Popmusik:
I found lyrics for all of these songs online in the original Deutsch and in English translation. Try MetroLyrics.
1) So ein schöner Tag (Fliegerlied)
I chose a version performed by Zillertaler Dirndljäger found on iTunes.
We have to begin with Fliegerlied. More properly titled, “So ein schöner Tag (Fliegerlied)“, the name translates to Such a Nice Day (Aviator’s Song.) I played the song previews on iTunes to choose the one I liked best of the many covers of this song. Be sure you search for both “So ein schöner Tag” and “Fliegerlied” to see every version of this track.
I first heard this song at Waldsee family week where my son and I went to learn German in 2015. They played this song. They played it a lot. There are coordinating hand motions, too. And I liked it all! Any time a party atmosphere could be conjured in the Waldsee “Village,” it was, and the disco music flowed.
Personally, I find Fliegerlied charming and catchy. I couldn’t figure out all the words properly by ear, not even with a teaching session by the music leader early in the week. I got the gist of the lesson that we were singing about something that flies and having a good day.
Fliegerlied turns out to mean “aviator” or “airman.” Obviously not the easiest word to guess via mime. This bouncy ditty is great for picking up quickly as it repeats… and repeats… and repeats a few lyrics. Just try not to get this one stuck in your head.
I have a very high tolerance for song repetition, so proceed cautiously if you don’t. Fliegerlied is an Ohrwurm (ear worm; a song that gets stuck in your head) for sure. Waldsee gets full credit for this song being on my list. It’s the first one I’d recommend for a cheerful student of German.
2) 99 Luftballons
Performed by Nena; more than 99 versions found on iTunes!
You thought this one would be first, right?
99 Luftballons was an international hit in 1984, and it doesn’t need any more introduction or description from me. They play this one regularly at Waldsee, too. Unless you’re Captain Kirk or ein Kriegsminister, what’s not to like? You’ll be able to discuss war, balloons, and UFOs with the new vocabulary.
Original version by Grauzone is on iTunes; search both Eisbär and Eisbaer to find every cover.
I believe this will be the first song I memorize completely in German. I’ve had it two days and I can almost recite it by heart. I just looked at the lyrics I downloaded and did a quick count, and I think there are only 20 unique words in Eisbär, most of which are obvious (Eisbär=”ice bear”=polar bear) or easy beginner words (mussen=have to, but sounds conveniently like “must”; kalt=cold.) Learn two verbs: schreien (screaming) and weinen (crying) and you’ll understand the whole song.
Admittedly, this song is my least favorite on the playlist from a musical perspective. The music is repetitive, too electronic for my taste, and the song feels longer than it should be.
4) Wir Sind Wir
By Paul van Dyk featuring vocals by Peter Heppner; ordered CD single from Amazon.
I saw the video of this song online as I searched for my German pop songs. This one has slower tempo and more complex lyrics. We Are Who We Are is the title in English. The lyrics poetically describe lingering societal issues from the reunification of east and west Germany and how the people are responding. I’d describe its temper as somber but hopeful. Since I’m an optimist, I like it on principle for noble subject matter. The singer also enunciates very clearly—super helpful for the language learner. It’s really easy to follow along with his vocalized lyrics, which isn’t true of all these songs.
5) Ich Will
Available on iTunes; performed by Rammstein.
I’m not even checking to see if anyone has covered this song. I think you must listen to the original or give it a pass. This is heavy metal music, quite different than everything else on the playlist. The video I viewed online was downright creepy and not my cup of tea, but the song translates as cruel but not vulgar. I study around my kids, so really salty language would eliminate a song for my situation.
If you enjoy metal—or can get past the growling intensity here to memorize the lyrics—you’ll be rewarded with several useful additions to your vocabulary. This guy WANTS (wollen, to want, to intend; Ich Will translates to I Want) a lot of stuff from the audience. He states that emphatically in the present tense (plural du– form.)
I might be growling it rudely at people, but I will never forget how to say “I want” auf Deutsch after hearing this song a few times.
Useful vocabulary includes “I want to disturb the peace;” ich will die Ruhe stören. And, in case I am robbing a small group of you, “I want to see your hands!”
“Ich will eure Hände sehen!”
Actually, I’ve just realized, this will come in handy with the kids, too. Now how do I say, “I want to see your beds made!”…
* Can’t imagine the Pimsleur lesson dialogues acted out dramatically? Try pretending you’re interrogating a suspected spy while repeatedly asking each other:
- “Do you speak German?”
- “Do you speak English?”
- “Are you an American?”
Yeah, the kids LOVE it. Ha!