German song lyrics can help you learn German grammar, vocabulary and idioms, the way they’re sung on the street!
Today, I’ll share some songs from my favorite German artists—many of them hip-hop and R&B artists—that I’ve used to improve my listening comprehension and German speaking skills.
- 1. Samy Deluxe
- 2. Xaiver Naidoo
- 3. Blumio
- 4. Cro
- 5. Glasperlenspiel
- Tips on Learning German with Song Lyrics
1. Samy Deluxe
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Do you know what Samy Deluxe, German rapper and hip-hop artist, is saying? Check out this tongue twister from his song, “Sprech Wie Ich Sprech” off his hit album, Dis Ist Wo Ich Herkomm (2009).
Samy Deluxe: “Sprech Wie Ich Sprech“
“Deutsche Sprache schwere Sprache, sprech wie ich sprech (ich sag’)
Deutsche Sprache schwere Sprache, rap wie ich rap (ich sag’)”
(German language difficult language, speak like I speak (I say)
German language difficult language, rap like I rap (I say))
Of course, it sounds a lot better in its native language, but it just goes to show that even German speakers acknowledge how hard it is to speak German! A Hamburg native whose parents immigrated from Sudan, Samy Deluxe is a great example of why Germany is a country of cultural diversity – “multikulti,” as they call it – and home to many speakers of German as a second language.
A unique and authentic voice in and of Germany, Samy sings about race, class, demographic change and growing up in Germany, sometimes even poking fun of the German language itself. For example, nothing seems to rhyme with the word for “CEO” in German: Vorstandsvorsitzender.
“Deshalb versuch ich auf Deutsch zu singen
ohne dabei zu Deutsch zu klingen
ich würde gern’ Worte benutzen wie Vorstandsvorsitzender
doch das geht nicht, weil ich in Deutschland bin (ouh yeah) (und sag’).”
(Therefore I try to sing in German
without sounding too German
I’d like to use words like “CEO”
but that doesn’t work, because I’m in Germany (oh yeah… and say…))
2. Xaiver Naidoo
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
What’s a better way to learn your ABCs and 123s in German than with Sesamestrasse, Germany’s Sesame Street? Longitudinal education research reports that children who watched Sesame Street as preschoolers actually had better grades in high school – so imagine what it could do for your German!
Xaiver Naidoo: “Was wir alleine nicht schaffen“
Click the link above to check out the episode of Xaivoo Naidoo and Bert and Ernie as they learn an important lesson about working together.
Naidoo sings, “Was wir alleine nicht schaffen, dass schaffen wir so zusammen.” (What we cannot achieve alone, we can achieve together.)
Here are some phrases that might be a little bit harder to understand in this video. Preview these words so you know what Xavier says before you watch the video to reinforce your learning during viewing.
Der Leiter – The ladder
Backen – To bake
Dass erscheint mir viel gescheiter – That seems much wiser to me
Ich fange dich auf wenn du dich fallen lässt – I catch you if you let yourself fall
Difficulty Level: Native
Each week Blumio, an Asian-German rapper who gained his fame through YouTube, raps his take on the latest news. From the Syrian conflict to German elections, Blumio covers it all. You also may find that he’s quite critical of the events lately, a cultural practice not uncommon in most conversation circles.
From commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to teaching young viewers about ultra-consumerism through demand for the iPhone 6, Blumio’s perspective is another example of how the German voice is not one size fits all, and how German music comes in all sizes, shapes and forms.
Blumio Rap Da News: “Episode 97”
In a recent im gerappten Rückblick (or in “rapped roundup”) Blumio comments on the coverage of Xavier Naidoo’s recent concert for peace at the Reichstag in Berlin, which was misinterpreted by the media to accuse Xavier of being right-winged. (See, I told you, these German rappers are everywhere!). In Episode 97, Blumio raps about how the media always seems to portray events the way they want to portray them, hypocritically and often deeply incoherent.
Why does Blumio’s Rap Da News have what might be described as a “native” difficulty level? Blumio uses a lot of colloquial language and slang that a native speaker may be more familiar with, as well as addresses complex issues in such ways that highlight his lyrical craft. Check out these key words that you might hear in this latest rendition of Rap Da News. (Warning: this may not be a politically correct video to some viewers!)
Rechts sein – To be right-winged or conservative
Recht haben – Literally, in German, “to have right” means “to be right”! (Hint: don’t mix up the two!)
Ein Konzert über den Frieden zu geben – To give a concert about peace
Feind beschreiben – To describe the enemy
Zwingen – To coerce or to force
Difficulty Level: Basic to Intermediate
Imagine a world where you could afford anything you ever wanted. You certainly wouldn’t worry about money anymore, which is what Cro sings about to a girl in the song “Einmal Um Die Welt”. Don’t be fooled by his strange animal masks.
Born Carlo Waibel, the 24-year-old Cro, self proclaimed King of “Raop,” a combination of rap and pop, is one of Germany’s most popular artists. (Cro is quite modest about his English in this article, as he comments about the differences of succeeding in the German and American music market, but hey – it’s a lot better than most Americans’ German!)
Cro: “Einmal Um die Welt”
Listen to “Einmal Um die Welt” and follow along with the lyrics here. You might hear the following words or idioms.
Baby bitte mach dir nie mehr sorgen um Geld – Baby please never worry yourself about money
Gib mir nur deine hand – Just give me your hand
Ich kauf dir Morgen die Welt – Tomorrow I’ll buy you the world
(Notice that in many German songs, artists will shorten words or syllables, but it’s not often grammatically correct. You might already know that the full form of the phrase is “Ich kaufe dir … etwas!” He does the same thing in the line “Und ‘nem Safe an der Wand,” where the full phrase is “Und einem Safe an der Wand” – And with a safe on the wall.)
Surfen auf Hawaii – Surfing in Hawaii
Shoppen in LA – Shopping in Los Angeles
(German grammar note: You surf “auf” Hawaii, but shop “in” LA. Why? No idea. German just has its rules!)
Difficulty Level: Advanced
All right ladies, I must admit this feature of German music artists has been a little one-sided, so I’d like to conclude with a shout out to one of my favorite bands with a female singer: Glasperlenspiel. While the German rap and hip-hop scene may be dominated by male artists, female vocalist Carolin Niemczyk is one girl who takes the lead in the pop scene.
Accompanied by keyboardist Daniel Grunenberg, this electro-pop duo named themselves after Nobel Prize winning German author, Herman Hesse’s last novel, “Das Glasperlenspiel” (“The Glass Bead Game”). Their hit single “Grenzenlos” or “Limitless” reached the top ten charts in Germany in 2013.
Here are the lyrics with some key vocabulary words defined below. I hope you can use the tools mentioned above to look up the rest of the words you don’t know!
Warning: if you look up this song online using Songtexte, the lyrics are wrong! These are the correct lyrics:
Lass uns verschwinden im Nebel, im Licht,
im Schatten dieser Nacht sieht man uns nicht
unauffindbar, führ’ mich aus,
ich lad’ dich ein, weit hinaus,
denn geht die Sonne und der gehen wir auf
Keine Träume sind wir uns zu groß,
Ich schwör dir heute sind wir grenzenlos,
Wir werden wahr und wir fallen hoch,
Ich schwör’ dir heute sind wir grenzenlos.
Wenn unmöglich wieder möglich wird,
sich alles Schwere so leicht verliert,
mit Bass und Beat gehen wir laut,
auf die Dächer hoch hinaus
wir sehen wie die Sterne auf uns schauen.
(Chorus x 1)
Weisst du noch was du mal geträumt hast, erinner’ dich,
Weisst du noch was du geträumt hast, erinner’ dich an dich,
Weisst du noch was du mal geträumt hast, erinner’ dich an dich,
Erinnert dich an dich! x 3
(Chorus x 1)
Der Nebel – The fog
Das Licht – The light
Der Schatten – The shade
Ich schwör dir – I swear to you
Unauffindbar – Undiscoverable
Führ’ mich aus – Take me out (from the separable prefix verb ausführen)
Hoch hinaus – High and far out
Tips on Learning German with Song Lyrics
- Find German songs online. What are some ways to get started learning German with song lyrics? You can use websites like Spotify, Pandora, 8tracks and even YouTube to discover new German artists like Samy Deluxe, Xaiver Naidoo, Blumio and more. Stations like Planet Radio.de play the latest top 40 hits.
- Go easy on yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t understand what artists are saying from just listening to the song on repeat alone, especially with German rap lyrics. With rhymes flying at over 80 words a minute, learning German from rap lyrics isn’t easy. (In fact, I probably can’t even understand what most rappers are saying in English.)
- Look up lyrics and their translations. Lyrics sites like Song Texte or Lyrics Translate, which provide a direct translation in parallel to the original text, can help you make sense of the German. Use Google Translate, Dict.Leo or any of these recommended German dictionary apps to look up any additional words or phrases you don’t understand.
- Use flashcard apps to learn new words. Keeping track of new words to study is great, but how should you go about actually studying them? Flashcard apps, of course! You can create your own flashcards, but the convenience and ease of using an app are more desirable than using a pen and paper.
Anki is a great app to use for this. Its interface is straightforward but incredibly versatile and powerful. You can also create flashcards on FluentU, although the strength of that app is that it teaches German through authentic videos. Basically, any word in any of its videos can become a flashcard for study with personalized quizzes, so it’s a good choice if you like to learn your vocabulary in context, with real examples.
- Watch out for German slang. Keep in mind that many artists use an informal form of German, considered “Umgangssprache,” or “street German,” as opposed to the “Hochdeutsch” or “high German” taught in schools. This can be a huge advantage when you’re hanging out with college students, but they might not show up on your B1 test.
- Play lyrics games. Remember when you followed the bouncing ball in old Disney sing-a-long songs? Well you can fill in the blanks with the missing words at Lyrics Training, a language learning lyrics game. Choose from various difficulty levels and even a karaoke function to sing along!
I hope that these artists will help you get started learning German with song lyrics. Needless to say, there are many more great German artists to discover out there. Thanks for reading! Bis zum nächsten Mal! Until next time!