Learning a new language and listening to music go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Plus, music is an easy way to learn German without really putting in much extra effort.
But where to start? Here’s a guide to finding German music and some easy German songs for you to start with.
Why Learn German Using Music?
Listening to music in a new language can help you learn a lot. In fact, research has shown that music can help you learn phrasing, specifically, where one word ends and a new word begins. You’ll understand where the words end much better just based on the tune, especially if you’re listening to an English song you already know translated into German. It’s a more efficient way to learn pronunciation and practice listening comprehension than just listening to someone speak.
Besides the science behind language learning, you’ve also got an anthropological reason for using music to learn a language—it’ll help you connect with German people. When you break out your knowledge about German music, Germans will be impressed, exclaiming their surprise with your familiarity of German music, especially considering that English-language music dominates the local market. (Trust me, I’ve done this a lot!)
Finally, listening to German music will certainly diversify your taste in music. Granted, you might not warm up to Schlagermusik (literally, hit music), which is a popular music style specific to the German-speaking world, but you’ll also get to know German bands and singers in genres that you like in English.
How Can I Find German Music?
Technology today makes finding new music way easier than in the days of cassette tapes and traditional radio, so there’s no real excuse not to bring German music into your learning repertoire.
For starters, you can always check out Spotify Deutschland, which is always putting together playlists with German music, like the best German rap and the best German pop of 2016. Alternatively, just search for “Deutsch+genre name” as one word and you’ll find lots of playlists from other users too. For example, Deutschrock is German rock, Deutschrap is German rap, Deutschpop is German pop, etc. Genre names are taken directly from English, with the exception of Schlagermusik (see above).
Not only can you stream music on Spotify, there’s also a myriad of online German radio and download sites that you can find music with. You can get the full radio experience or save the music rather than just streaming. Or maybe you want a visual aspect too, so looking on YouTube might be more your thing. You can even find playlists with Disney songs translated into German which will give you a whole new perspective on the songs you knew growing up.
Lastly, you can also check out playlists on Napster since it’s now a legal service that also streams music. The music is curated much like on Spotify, so it might be a matter of preference which music service you use.
10 Wicked Easy German Songs You Can Learn Today
5 Easy German Songs and What They’ll Help You Learn
When some people think “easy songs,” they might immediately think of children’s songs, since they’re usually straightforward and repetitive. And sure, I could probably give you a list of German children’s songs, but the probability of you using the songs to learn from them would be lower than giving you songs you’d normally listen to.
Instead, the following easy German songs are from German artists that people actually listen to. Listening to German artists can help you learn correct pronunciation and get familiar with local cultural topics. Heck, if you look closely enough, lots of German songs have hidden grammar lessons, and the songs below are great examples of this.
If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it? This question and its answer use the conditional form in German and Die Prinzen’s song “Millionär” (“Millionaire”) is all about what the singer would do if he were a millionaire. It’s a simple enough message that anyone can understand. Sure, the song itself is perhaps a bit cheesy with an even cheesier video (if you’re able to find it available in your country) but you’ll remember how to use the conditional in no time thanks to this song.
One thing we never think about is the sheer amount of abbreviations around us in our daily lives. Die Fantastischen Vier is a hip hop group from Stuttgart that cleverly put together many common abbreviations used in Germany into a song. The title “MfG” is a common abbreviation in letters and emails for “Mit freundlichen Grüßen” (Kind regards).
There’s no real grammatical lesson here, but you’ll learn how to pronounce letters with this song. You might have to research into what each abbreviation is if you’re truly curious, but if you want to learn the pronunciation of letters, “MfG” is definitely the song to help.
In 2006, Germany was the host of the World Cup, spurring a flood of soccer-related songs. The German national team were favorites, ultimately placing third in the tournament. This Sportfreunde Stiller song was everywhere and was an unofficial anthem that people were singing the whole summer.
It’s a good way to learn numbers, even if they’re very specific to the years that Germany had won the World Cup prior to playing host in 2006. After Germany lost, Sportfreunde Stiller created another version for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (“‘54, ‘74, ’90, 2010”). However, Germany placed third place again, so for the 2014 tournament in Brazil, the band didn’t put out another version. Go figure, Germany won the World Cup that year.
Bonus: You’ll learn about German national soccer history which is always a good conversation starter in certain circles.
There are some songs that for some reason, you can’t escape even if you try. Helene Fischer’s “Atemlos durch die Nacht” (“Breathless Through the Night”) was one of those songs, even if you don’t listen to Schlagermusik. Perhaps it’s because the song managed to straddle the line between Schlager and pop music that it appealed a little bit to different groups of people and made it inescapable. The lyrics are very easy to understand and helpful to learn how to use the present tense.
The punk band Die Toten Hosen are so popular in Germany that they sell out stadiums when they go on tour. Their song “Tage wie Diese” (“Days Like These”) is one of those songs that almost everyone knows and sings along with, whether at a house party or a bar. The lyrics are very descriptive about “days like these” that are so good you don’t want them to end. With lines like, “Ich warte seit Wochen / auf diesen Tag / und tanz’ vor Freude über den Asphalt” (I’ve been waiting for weeks / for this day / and dance with joy over the asphalt), you’ll pick up how to use prepositions like a pro.
5 Easy German Songs Translated from English and What They’ll Help You Learn
In the 1960s, many English-language artists recorded their songs in German because of their labels’ demands to try to make a global impact. Funny enough, these versions weren’t a huge hit on the German market and are more of an oddity and collector’s item today. Here are five that you should check out and what they can teach you about the German language.
You’re probably familiar with the English version of the song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” But the song was translated and released as a single in the West German market along with the b-side, “Sie liebt dich” (“She Loves You”). When listening to the version in German, you can learn how to use the dative form—come on, give me your hand!
Better known in English as “I Walk the Line,” Johnny Cash’s “Wer kennt den Weg?” is an easy way to pick up the accusative. The story in both English and German versions are similar enough, though the title is translated as “Who knows the way?” If you look at the German lyrics, the accusative form becomes a little clearer to understand with both definite and indefinite articles appearing.
You’ll probably know “Helden” better as “Heroes” and with this fairly moderately-paced song, it’s easy to pick up German word order which can sometimes be difficult to learn. Plus, David Bowie sings so clearly that you’ll also figure out very easily where one word ends and another begins.
Instead of “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” Dusty Springfield is waiting and dreaming in German. Unlike English, German doesn’t have a true present progressive form, so in this translated song you’ll see how the present tense and infinitive form are used instead.
You probably know this 80s hit as “99 Red Balloons,” which was translated from the German, “99 Luftballons.” But you should definitely check out the original German version; prepositions are scattered throughout and the song’s theme is completely different. In English, it’s a fairly harmless song about going to a toy shop and buying 99 red balloons. In German, it’s clearly an anti-war song, where the “Luftballons” (balloons) are a metaphor for bombs.
Whether you’re listening to classic German songs, new artists, or your favorite artists translated into German, integrating German songs into your learning routine is bound to help and make the process way more lively and interesting.
With this list, you’ll be able to open your horizons and find more songs that will help improve your German without you even realizing it!
Patricia Lee has been studying and working in Germany for ten years and has lived in Berlin, Cologne and Düsseldorf. She has also worked and lived in Shanghai, learning Chinese in the process.
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