SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

GERMAN LANGUAGE

10 catchy songs to help you learn German

If you’re bored of staring at case tables and memorising the gender of every single noun, why not give yourself a break and listen to some music? Here are 10 songs which will help you master German grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

Singer Helene Fischer performs in Leipzig in 2022.
Singer Helene Fischer performs in Leipzig in 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jan Woitas

After a while you’ll be effortlessly singing along with these tunes and using phrases from them in your everyday speech without even realising.

1. Nena: 99 Luftballons (99 Air Balloons)

Nena in performance. Photo:DPA
 
We’ll start with a classic which you’re bound to already know. This song is great because you’re probably already familiar with the tune. After a couple of listens – and maybe a quick glance over the lyrics – you should be able to understand the story of these 99 Luftballons. 

“Hast du etwas Zeit für mich
Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich
Von 99 Luftballons
Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont”

The West German song tells the story of how 99 air balloons floating towards the horizon are mistaken as a threat and are shot down, leading to a 99-year war, which leaves all sides in ruins. The song was released in 1983 and achieved world-wide success. 

Take note of the interesting war vocabulary, like Fliegerstaffel (flying squadron), Düsenflieger (jet planes), Benzinkanister (petrol canister) and Trümmer (ruins) – hopefully your use of this vocab will be limited to the theoretical. 

2. Helene Fischer: Atemlos durch die Nacht (Breathless through the Night)

Helene Fischer performing her hit Atemlos durch die Nacht. Photo:DPA
 
Pop princess Helene Fischer delivers the best German cheese. Her song Atemlos durch die Nacht became the most successful song in German history after its release in 2013.
“Atemlos durch die Nacht,
Bis ein neuer Tag erwacht”
 
It’s the definition of Euro-pop and extremely catchy so will be a real Ohrwurm (ear worm). Most Germans know the words to this hit – even if many of them wish they didn’t.
 
This song is so simple it can’t really teach you much, but the fact that you won’t be able to get it out of your head means you’ll soon be able to romance people in the cheesiest way possible.

3. Marlene Dietrich: Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind (Tell me where the Flowers are)

Here’s another classic. Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind, was originally written in English and has since been translated into over 30 languages. Marlene Dietrich famously performed the German version in Israel in the ’60s.

The song is pretty simple to follow, it isn’t too fast and utilises lots of repetition to strengthen its message of the futility of war. It begins with Dietrich asking where the flowers have gone and what has happened to them. The answer: the girls have picked them all in haste. Then Dietrich asks where the girls have gone, what has happened to them. This structure continues until it goes full circle and sees the flowers on the graves of dead soldiers. 

“Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
wo sind sie geblieben
Sag mir wo die Blumen sind,
was ist geschehen?”

This song demonstrates the changing word order after question words like wo (where) and was (what), depending on whether the sentence is a question or a statement.

4. Rammstein: Ohne dich (Without You)

You can’t have a list of German songs without an appearance from German heavy metal gods Rammstein. Ohne dich is a pretty moody song, with lots of repetition of the phrase “ohne dich”. So you’re not likely to forget which case the prepositions ohne takes any time soon.

This song also has great examples for practising that pesky group of prepositions which take either accusative or dative dependent on movement: an, auf, hinter, in, neben, über, unter, vor, zwischen. A good example can be seen in the lines below.

“Doch der Abend werft ein Tuch aufs Land,
Und auf die Wege hinterm Waldrand…”

In the first line the movement makes auf take an accusative, while in the second hinter is describing a position and therefore takes a dative.

5. Howard Carpendale: Ti Amo (I Love You)

Howard Carpendale. Photo:DPA
 
We promise this song is actually German. This South-African singer brings you a German version of the Italian love song Ti Amo. It has a slow and steady rhythm and will have you humming along in no time.
“Ti Amo, du sagtest Ti Amo,
Das heißt ich lieb dich so.”
 
The beauty of this show is that all the vocabulary is very simple and you probably won’t find any complicated grammar points to try to contend with. Even the lines above (engl. Ti Amo, you said Ti Amo, / That means I love you so), are clear, precise and almost self-explanatory.

6. Wise Guys: Nur für dich (Only for You)

The Wise Guys are a German a cappella band whose quirky songs will always make you laugh. In this song, the main singer recounts all the things he did just for his girlfriend who has now left him.

The sentence structures are great to borrow from and adapt to your own situations if you want to bemoan all the little things you do just to please other people.

“Ich bin nur für dich mit dir in Bridget Jones gegangen
Ich hab’ nur für dich mit dem Joggen angefangen”

The phrase “nur für dich” is embedded into each statement after the first verb. There’s also some help in knowing which verbs take sein in the past.

7. Adel Tawil: Lieder (Songs)

Adel Tawil on his Lieder tour. Photo:DPA
 
If you fancy training your translation skills, listen to this song and see how many pop references you can spot. Adel Tawil has taken quotes from his favourite songs from around the world, translated them into German and and has made them into a brand new hit. This is a great translation exercise, so try listening and matching each line to the artist it originally comes from.
 
“Ich ging wie ein Ägypter, hab’ mit Tauben geweint
War ein Voodookind, wie ein rollender Stein”
Granted, it may sound better in the original German.
 
8. Tim Bendzko: Nur noch kurz die Welt retten (Just Gotta Save the World Real Quick)

A perfect tune to help with complicated word order problems. If you’re not quite sure in which order to place all those little words in your sentence, Bendzko has the answer.

Even the title is a great example of knowing where all the adverbs, nouns and verbs go in a short phrase:

“Nur noch kurz die Welt retten”

Bendzko shows the hierarchy of the three adverbs, and also demonstrates that, in a phrase with no subject, adverbs come before nouns, which come before verbs. 

9. Cro: Whatever

Here’s one from a guy who insists on always wearing a panda mask to protect his identity. If you want to know how a real German speaks (granted a younger German) then Cro takes you speedily through vocabulary you may need to describe a crazy night, or when chilling with mates.

“Das war mit Abstand die schlimmste Woche,
Die ich in meinem Leben je hatte.
Ich weiß nicht ob ich aufstehen soll
Und ich hab keinen Plan was ich mache.”

You probably will have to take a look at the lyrics for this one, but if you can imitate Cro’s speed, you’ll sound like an absolute German pro in no time.

10. Julia Engelmann: Grapefruit

Julia Engelmann is a German spoken-word poet, who rose to fame after competing in poetry slam competitions. She is known for incorporating music into her poems and Grapefruit is a great example of this.
 
The poem-song is addressed to a friend who’s feeling down; she tries to brighten up her friend’s day with the promise of “grapefruit for breakfast”.
 
This is an incredibly sweet song and is great to help you practise your pronunciation due to its spoken-word elements. It’s also a perfect study of different tenses, as you’ll find the present, perfect, imperfect, conditional, future, imperatives and straight up infinitive lists.
 
“Komm, wir machen mal das Fenster auf, das Radio laut
Lass frischen Wind herein und alle alten Zweifel heraus
Wenn du fest daran glaubst, dann wirst du glücklich
Und heute gibt es Grapefruit zum Frühstück.”
 
From just this short snippet you can see the wealth of verb usage. There’s a second-person singular imperative, present conjugated verbs and an example of the future tense with the common German habit of omitting the main verb after werden if it’s guessable in context; here “dann wirst du glücklich [sein]”. Phew, who said learning German couldn’t be fun?

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

GERMAN LANGUAGE

‘6 German words I now use in English’

One of the consequences of learning a foreign language is that some words end up slipping into your everyday English. Sarah Magill explains why she uses these German words more often than their English equivalents.

'6 German words I now use in English'

Getting to a stage where I feel comfortable using the German language has been a long, arduous process which has taken me nearly eight years.

But one thing I didn’t expect about becoming a German speaker, was that I would find myself using German words in my everyday English, too.

READ ALSO: 10 German words that English should adopt

Sometimes due to laziness, sometimes for conciseness, or sometimes just because I like the sound of the word, I often use these words now amongst German-speaking friends instead of their English equivalents. 

(die) Bescheinigung

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I love this word. Be-schein-i-gung. It’s got a nice, bouncy ring to it, even though it means something pretty dull.

Bescheinigung is a German word for “certificate” or and is used for all kinds of formal certifications.

Sick notes lie on a table. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Büttner

It’s often stuck to the end of other words too, to mean a specific type of certificate, for example – Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung (sick note) or Anmeldebescheinigung (registration certificate).

I often find myself saying things like “But I don’t have the right Bescheinigung” or “do I need a Bescheinigung for that?”

anmelden

The frequency with which you have to anmelden in Germany, may explain why this word is so firmly rooted in my everyday vocabulary.

Anmelden is a verb which can mean “to register”, “to enrol” and “to login”, and it’s a word I encounter on a daily basis, as it appears on most websites, as well as in front of Covid test centres or at reception areas in medical and government buildings. 

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The German versions of famous English sayings

I’m ashamed to admit that I have also corrupted this word slightly for my own convenience and sometimes say things like “oh I need to anmeld myself” which is of course, very, very wrong.

(die) Kupplung

If you don’t drive or only drive automatic cars, this isn’t a word you generally need to know. But for me, the German word for “clutch” is forever seared into my brain after having it shouted at me by an enraged German driving teacher on numerous occasions.

The interior of a Skoda Octavia TS 1200, with the clutch and brake pedals visible. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/SMB | Skoda Auto Deutschland GmbH

Kupplung is a very nice German word in that it describes what the mechanical elements of a clutch do – they connect and disconnect two rotating shafts, or “couple” them.

I can sometimes be heard saying things like: “Oh I took my foot off the Kupplung too quickly”.

Leider

Whereas the English equivalent – “unfortunately” – can sound a bit clunky and overly formal, leider is a nice little word which you can use to add a touch of polite regret in all kinds of circumstances in German.

The sign above a shop door reads “sadly closed”. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

Thanks to its brevity and the way it can be stuck quite easily into a sentence, this word has crept into my everyday English, and into phrases such as “we are going to have to wait, leider”.

(der) Feierabend

This is just one of the many German words that we don’t have in English, so it’s perhaps more forgivable that I use this in English conversations quite a lot. 

Literally meaning “celebration evening” the word Feierabend is used for the free time after work and it invariably gets a nice response when you tell colleagues or shop assistants schönen Feierabend! (have a nice free evening!).

(die) Kasse

I like to use this German word a lot because – surprisingly – it’s actually easier than having to find the right equivalent word in English.  

A notice reading “No free choice of seats – please register at the entrance” hangs on the outside wall of an inn in Freiburg’s old town. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

For example, in English we have separate words for “checkout”, “till”, “paypoint”, “ticket office” and “cash register”, but in German, the word Kasse covers them all. 

So it’s a rare example of a German word being less specific than English, and it’s also short and easy to say. 

READ ALSO: 7 ways to talk about money like a German

SHOW COMMENTS