Top 5 Pop Bands to Greatly Improve Your German Listening Skills
Ok, so you’re squared away when it comes to reading German and you know all the go-to movies.
But have you sussed out the German music scene?
There are so many options for where to listen to German music, so you need to whittle it down to who you want to listen to.
How about some German pop?
- Why Listen to German Pop Music?
- How to Learn German by Listening to Pop Music
- 5 of the Best German Pop Bands for Learning German
Why Listen to German Pop Music?
- It’s fun! Sure, reading can also be a great way to learn German, but when listening to songs in the language you can really have some fun. It’s also a great excuse to invite your friends around for a German pop session; you can help each other by having a sing-along or playing lyrics games.
- Increase your vocab. Pop music can cover so many different subjects—from heartbreak and romance, to politics and current affairs. In fact, the range of topics covered in pop music means listening to it is a fantastic way to increase your vocabulary.
- Learn how locals speak. Listening to native speakers sing means you’ll be picking up German idioms. You know, phrases or expressions like the English “when in Rome” or “the early bird catches the worm” that don’t translate easily. By listening to German, you’ll be picking up in its hard-to-translate phrases, which you can show off in your lesson work.
- Absorb grammar and vocab. It sounds pretty spooky, but you’ll be absorbing loads of useful vocabulary and grammar subconsciously. The more you listen to German music, the more naturally the language will come to you. And before you know it, you’ll find yourself using a whole load of words and sentence constructs that you didn’t even realize you knew!
- It’s an insight into German culture. When listening to all the latest pop music, you’ll know all the trends and styles that the Germans are getting into, helping you to fit in with the locals.
How to Learn German by Listening to Pop Music
Listen without any subtitles the first time
The very first time you listen to a new pop song, do so without any subtitles or lyrics on hand. Why? This will challenge yourself to really concentrate on the German that you’re hearing. If there’s a music video with the song, try minimizing the window or closing your eyes, so that you can focus all of your mental strength on just one sense, and not get distracted by the visuals.
Can’t the visuals help you understand the meaning? Certainly—depending on the music video, of course. So add them in after your first listen and see what else you can understand. While listening, try to pick out any words at all that you recognize, and jot them down. Feel free to pause the song as necessary, so you can write with no rush.
Look up any words you don’t understand
Depending on your level, it will most likely be beneficial to have a set of the German lyrics handy—after you’ve done some initial “listening only.” If you type the song name into Google followed by “lyrics,” you should end up with a long list of results. The main (and best) website for German lyrics is songtexte.com.
As you dissect these lyrics, if you come across a word or phrase you’re not familiar with, look it up in a dictionary and then write it down. Use whatever recording system works best for you—whether it’s real flashcards, a vocab notebook, an online document, a flashcard app, etc.
Although this process might seem slow and frustrating to some, it doesn’t always have to be. FluentU’s language learning program, for instance, takes a library of authentic media, like music videos, and adds interactive features like subtitles and quizzes to each clip to help you learn. You can also add new words to your vocabulary list as multimedia flashcards.
Whether you’re doing it by hand of have a program to help you, this step is vital for improving your vocabulary, so be sure to write down new words—and give yourself a daily goal, like learning four of these words a day.
Play along using music videos
After learning the ins and outs of your lyrics, a fun game to play is Lyrics Training. In this game, you fill in the blanks of the lyrics as the music video plays. There is a huge selection of songs to choose from, categorized by both genre and difficulty.
After choosing your song, you get to select the difficulty of that round—from beginner, with 10% of the words missing, to expert, with all blanks and no lyrics on screen to use as prompts. There are two play modes to choose from as well: “Write Mode,” where you type the missing word, or “Choice Mode,” where you choose the correct word from four options.
The game keeps track of your score, so you can try to beat records and track improvement!
After you’ve mastered the lyrics, you’ll be more than ready to sing along to these German pop songs. Heck, some of these are so darn catchy that you’ll probably have already been singing along without even knowing it!
This is a perfect exercise because a) it’s super fun and b) you get to practice speaking in addition to listening. Go phrase by phrase, pausing to sing after the original, and compare your pronunciation with that of the artists. Does it sound the same? What can you change to sound more like them?
Should you be lucky enough to have friends that are also learning German, sing with them! Even if you just talk through the lyrics, you can let each other know if there are any areas of pronunciation that need to be practiced. Plus, you can also give each other a pat on the back if you start to sound like a native!
So now you’ve learned the how and the why behind listening to German pop, I’ll show you our pick of the five best pop bands out there.
5 of the Best German Pop Bands for Learning German
1. Die Ärzte
Thanks to their quirky song topics and upbeat lyrics, Die Ärzte (The Doctors) have been used to teach German in schools for quite a few years already, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t also be including them in your studies.
Die Ärzte started out in Berlin’s punk scene during the ’80s. Two members—Farin Urlaub and Bela B.—were in various different punk bands before joining forces under their medical moniker. In 1993 they were joined by Rodrigo Gonzalez to create their current lineup.
Some of their most notable hits include the anti-Nazi anthem “Schrei nach Liebe” (Cry for Love) and “Hurra” (Hoorah). In recent years they’ve taken a more poppy route with their music.
The above song, “Westerland” is one of their earlier songs from the ’80s, and probably one of their first with a pop vibe. It pays homage to Westerland—an area on the island of Sylt, that lies just off Germany’s north coast. It’s a great song to learn German to, as the chorus’s use of simple sentences are repeated regularly.
For those of you who prefer your pop to be on the more rocky side of the spectrum, Silbermond (Silver Moon) is the perfect choice.
The band comes from Bautzen in east Saxony and is fronted by lead singer Stephanie Kloß. After meeting her future band members in the Christian youth program “Ten Sing” in 1998, the foursome went on to form the band Jast in 2000 before changing to their current name the following year.
Even though they perform exclusively in German, they’re also fairly well known across the world, and have even had the honor of performing alongside the likes of Green Day and Chris de Burgh. They won the Best German Act Award in 2009 at the MTV Music Award. If you’re going to improve your German with some pop, you can’t go wrong with these award winners.
All right, so the lyrics are fairly soppy, but “Das Beste” (The Best) is one of Silbermond’s most popular songs and is possibly the most romance-heavy song to feature in this list. But it will help you with your verb conjugation! There are a lot of sentences that begin with “Ich..” and “Du..,” which means plenty of practice on how to conjugate their verb forms.
If this leaves your ears wanting more, check out “Ja” (Yes) and “Unter meiner Haut” (Under My Skin).
3. Wir Sind Helden
Wir Sind Helden (We Are Heroes) may have broken up in 2012, but their awesome pop legacy still lives on! The band is usually described as being part of the Neue Deutsche Welle scene, a genre that has developed from new wave music and punk rock.
The group, originally from Berlin, used David Bowie’s “Heroes” as inspiration for their name. Just like Silbermond, Wir Sind Helden had a fairly large international following; they even played to three sold out concerts in London in 2006 and 2007. One of their songs also made it on to the EA Sports video game FIFA ’08!
Their breakthrough hit from 2002, “Guten Tag” (Hello) is another of their songs that’s worth a listen, as is the very popular “Denkmal” (Memorial). But when it comes to nailing German, our favorite has to be “Nur Ein Wort” (Only A Word) thanks to the helpful word cards in the Bob Dylan-inspired video.
It would be wrong to write a blog post on German pop music and not mention one of its first international superstars, so here she is: Nena!
In 1983 her song “99 Luftballons” (99 Red Balloons) was released to critical acclaim across the world. As mentioned before, German pop music crosses a load of different subject matters, and Nena’s “99 Luftballons” is one of the more political songs, with its anti-war lyrics. It’s worth noting that the English version of the song was rewritten, rather than directly translated from the German, so a useful German exercise would be to compare and contrast the two versions.
After her ’80s smash hit, Nena continues to record new albums and still regularly tours. 2002 saw her duet with fellow ’80s icon Kim Wilde in their hit “Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime.”
5. Die Fantastischen Vier
Die Fantastischen Vier (The Fantastic Four), a hip hop group from Stuttgart, were one of the very first groups to rap in German. Just like Die Ärzte, they’ve been on the go since the ’80s, but are still as popular as ever.
“Die Da” is an excellent song choice for learning German, as it features one aspect of grammar that you won’t be taught in schools. Most of the time in spoken German, the Germans will substitute the third person pronoun for a definite article.
Take a look at how they do this in their lyrics:
Es ist die da, die da am eingang steht.
(It is her there, who’s standing in the entrance.)
It’s really simple—to do this, simply switch “sie” for “die.”
And that’s also a great example of how to use a relative clause! After the comma, the relative pronoun “die” sends the following verb to the end of the sentence.
Hopefully this post will have whet your appetite for some German tunes. If you pair this with your determination to get to grips with German, then you’ve found one more way to start conquering the language!