We’ve written a lot about using music to learn German.
But what about introducing songs to beginners?
What if a song like “Alles Neu“ or one of our recommended hip-hop songs is too fast or too complicated?
What if you’re looking for something your students can really sing along to, not just sort of mumble?
Look no further! Here are some simple German songs we think your beginning students will love, no matter their ages.
What Makes These Songs Simple?
These songs use a lot of the basics: simple present tense, short sentences and easy vocabulary (none of these surprising words). They also use a lot of repetition, so once students know one part of the song, they can latch on to it again if they lose their place, all while perfecting those few phrases by practicing them repeatedly.
Don’t be fooled: these songs aren’t babyish, embarrassing or condescending. We did throw in one well-known German Sesame Street tune, but only for its vocabulary usefulness and cultural relevance. The rest are legitimate hits in Germany from various decades. They may be simple, but they enjoyed popularity among real Germans of all ages. As a result, your students will be learning a little bit of culture while you practice the basics.
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How to Use Simple German Songs in the Classroom
There are many ways to introduce these songs into the classroom. Whatever task you choose, be sure that students understand all directions before playing the song, and then consider allowing it to play a second (or even third) time. This allows students to check their work and to avoid the pressure and confusion of misunderstanding anything the first time.
Check for Understanding – You can simply play the songs for your students and ask them to write down any words or phrases they understood. This can easily become a competitive small group exercise, where students who correctly identify the most words win. Any words that can’t be identified at first can become vocabulary for you to explain and review.
Fill-in-the-blank Exercise – You can print off the lyrics with gaps as a simple cloze exercise for students to complete individually.
Translate Lyrics – You can ask students to translate the lyrics into English, which might be especially fun given the differences between the official English and German versions of “Da da da” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” This task is best done alone at first, but can be checked with a partner and shared as a class, along the lines of the “think-pair-share” technique. It’s up to you to set parameters on materials: Can students use paper dictionaries? Dictionary apps? Websites like dict.cc? Prior knowledge and context only?
Perform a Song – Musically talented students may be inclined to give a performance to the class.
Karaoke – The state German conference and competition where I grew up often offered German karaoke as an end-of-year activity for students. If your students become familiar with multiple German songs, search YouTube for videos with the Songtext (lyrics) shown, and let your students belt it out. You can even find songs with built-in subtitles and translations on German video learning platforms like FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Even apart from the karaoke suggestion, many of these songs are also available with music videos on YouTube for free. If you have access to a projector or Smartboard, why not combine the audio and visual representations? Students will of course realize that YouTube can become an excellent resource for home study if they wish to find more songs by the same artists.
So what are these simple German songs?
You Can’t Go Wrong with These 5 Simple German Songs
1. “Da Da Da” by Trio
This ’80s tune even became well known in the USA. But if you only remember the two-tone beat and the monotone refrain, you may not have even noticed that the rest of the lyrics are actually German!
The song is about the end of a relationship, when two people realize that they no longer love each other. The song’s most frequently reoccurring line (after “da da da”) is, “Ich lieb’ dich nicht. Du liebst mich nicht,” which means, “I don’t love you. You don’t love me.” Of course there are other lyrics, but they are also quite simple and sometimes even transition into English.
This song is also a definite Ohrwurm (ear worm). It may make your younger students glad to have missed the ‘80s, but they’ll be lying if they say it’s not stuck in their heads after you play it!
2. “Der, die, das” from Sesamstraße
As promised, this is the one children’s song we’ll be discussing. It comes to us through the German version of Sesame Street, Sesamstraße.
The song encourages listeners to ask questions whenever they’re curious or confused. The song rhymes the three main articles, “der, die, das,” with three important question words, “wer, wie, was” (who, how, what), and introduces “wieso, weshalb, warum,” three of the different ways to say “why.” After asking these question words, the song reminds us that “wer nicht fragt, bleibt dumm“: He who doesn’t ask questions remains dumb!
Perhaps best for younger beginners, this song will help your students remember the basics of German articles and question words while gaining a glimpse of an important German cultural institution. Several generations of Germans have now had the chance to enjoy Sesamstraße, and this song remains among the show’s most popular and beloved.
3. “Du hast” by Rammstein
Now we’re changing gears entirely.
Rammstein is, of course, one of the most popular German hard rock bands. This particular song doesn’t use curse words and has only a passing reference to double-entendre adult content, which can be completely avoided by only playing the song’s first (extremely repetitive) minute or two. Its overall sound probably still make it inappropriate for young learners. Nevertheless, the lyrics are simple, and they can help beginning students understand their first German Wortwitz (language joke).
Is Rammstein singing “du hast mich” (you have me), or are they singing “du hasst mich” (you hate me)? It’s impossible to say. But it’s a great opportunity to teach students the importance of distinguishing single s, double s, and eszett (ß). You can also introduce the simple present conjugations of haben (to have) and hassen (to hate) to compare two similar irregular and regular verbs.
4. “Komm, gib mir deine Hand” by The Beatles
Here’s a song that your students might already know. Before reaching international stardom, the Beatles famously got their start in Hamburg’s Reeperbahn district. Although neither John, Paul, George nor Ringo spoke German fluently, they did roughly translate a few of their songs for local audiences. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” made the cut.
The song uses very simple language such as “du bist so schön” (you are so beautiful) and “in deinen Armen bin ich glücklich” (in your arms I am happy), which are understandable to beginners. Students will enjoy hearing a familiar song in a new way, and they’ll be proud that they can follow along with it perfectly. Introduce this tune around Valentine’s Day, and you’ll help show them that yes, the German language can be romantic.
5. “Guten Morgen, Sonnenschein” by Nana Mouskouri
This is the most lyrically complex song on the list, but it still uses enough simple vocabulary and grammar to be appropriate for beginners who’d like a challenge. Beyond that, it’s also incredibly catchy.
The song is about the singer’s desire not to see a fun evening end. She welcomes the rising sun only reluctantly, though the song itself is extremely cheerful. With lines like “Guten Morgen, guten Morgen, weck mich auf und komm herein,” (Good morning, good morning, wake me up and come in) and “Der Tag öffnet gerade die Augen” (the day is opening its eyes), this song can easily be tied into a discussion of the weather or daily routines.
With its slightly more difficult grammar, the song can also help students who are beginning to learn about relative and dependent clauses. However, the familiar vocabulary and high level of repetition in this song prevent it from going over beginners’ heads.
With five suggested activities and five songs, you now have a variety of options for including music in your beginners’ classes. You know your students and your curricular goals best, so adapt whatever works for you and your learners.
No matter what you choose, however, introducing these simple German songs is a great way to build your students’ confidence, expose them to authentic materials and have a little fun in between verb drills and worksheets. Enjoy!