Rhabarberbarbara Translation – A German Tongue Twister

On Twitter, user Anagrama directed my attention to a fun video: Rhabarberbarbara. (Video and translation below.)

The name of the video means “Rhubarb Barbara,” and it’s apparently a take on an old German tongue-twister.

Rhubarb Cake By Usien (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Rhubarb Streusel Cake
By Usien [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], Image Source

One of the interesting features of the German language is its insistence on mashing words together to make one long word. For instance, while English makes “Residence Permit” two words, German uses only one: Aufenthaltsgenehmigung.

It’s one of the things that makes German frustrating for learners, but also fun. At some point, you just have to accept that long words are the way they are and you might as well try to enjoy this linguistic feature rather than run from it.

That’s one reason I like this video. It’s keeping things light. I’ve read some books by André Klein, an author who specializes in writing stories for German learners, and he’s really good at keeping the tone light in his books. The stories are carefully written, but at the same time they don’t take themselves too seriously. He’s written several books, but the two I’ve read are:

Those were both pretty fun and were a nice bridge from very simple texts you’d find in self-study courses and the chaos of authentic materials written for native speakers.

Anyway, here’s the Rhabarberbarbara video, followed by a translation. (Edit: I didn’t make the video, but I did create the translation.) I only defined each new tongue-twister word once to keep things short, so you’ll have to keep up a little. 😉

Translation:

In a small village, there once lived a girl with the name Barbara.

And Barbara was known everywhere for her wonderful rhubarb cake.

Therefore she was also called Rhabarberbarbara (Rhubarb Barbara).

Rhabarberbarbara noticed quickly that she could make money with her cakes and opened a bar: The Rhabarberbarbarabar (Rhubarb Barbara Bar).

The Rhabarberbarbarabar went well and quickly had regular customers.

And the three most well-known of them, three Barbarians, came so often to the Rhabarberbarbarabar to eat Rhabarberbarbara’s delicious rhubarb cake that they were called the Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren (Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians) for short.

The Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren had beautiful beards. And when the Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren wanted to maintain their Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbärte (Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians Beards), they went to the barber.

The only barber that could handle such a Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbart (Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians’ Beard) was called Rhabarberbarbarabarbabarenbartbarbier (Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians Beard Barber).

The Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier also liked to go to the Rhabarberbarbarabar. And in addition to eating Rhabarberbarbara’s delicious rhubarb cake, he liked to drink a beer, which he ceremoniously called Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier (Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians Beard Barber Beer).

The Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier could only be purchased at a very specific bar.

And the person selling the Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier at the counter of the Rhabarberbarbarabarbabarenbartbarbierbierbar (Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians Beard Barber Beer Bar) was named Bärbel.

And so the Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren, together with the Rhabarberbarbarabarbabarenbartbarbier and Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierbarbärbel (Rhubarb Barbara Bar Barbarians Beard Barber Beer Bar Bärbel), went to the Rhabarberbarbarabar to eat Rhabarberbarbara’s delicious rhubarb cake and to clink a glass of Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier.

Prost!

  • http://lightonspanish.com/ Jorge Sivit

    Hi Ron!

    I had a lot of fun trying to pronounce all the long words in the video. Have you tried?

    Übrigens, the word Aufenthaltsgenehmigung took me back to my days in Berlin!

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      LOL…I did try, and it makes me laugh. I can sort of do it, but I feel like I might just be babbling.

  • Ana Guardia

    Oh yes! This is lovely! I spent all day singing the silly song, I think it does help exercising for saying the really big words and I do love rhubarb cake.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      I’ve never had it. My family is from Michigan, so I’m pretty familiar with rhubarb pie, but I could definitely go for trying rhubarb cake.

  • http://lindsaydoeslanguages.com Lindsay Dow

    Hi Ron, thanks for breaking this down and translating it! I saw the video last year sometime but never got around to figuring out what it actually all meant! 😀

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Glad to help! Writing it out made appreciate how ridiculous some of the longer words were. Good practice for me too.

  • Chucho Izquierdo

    Does anyone have the original text? I’ve tried to copy it from what I hear but it’s hard! So far I have this:

    In einem kleinen Dorf da lebte einst ein Mädchen mit dem Namen Barbara.

    Und Barbara war überall für ihren wunderbaren Rhabarberkuchen bekannt. Deshalb nannte man sie auch Rhabarberbarbara.

    Rhabarberbarbara merkte schnell dass sie mit ihrem Kuchen Geld verdienen könnte und eröffnete eine Bar. Die Rhabarberbarbarabar.

    Die Rhababerbarbarabar liegt(?) gut und hat schnell Stammkunden. Und die drei bekanntesten unter ihnen, drei Barbaren, kamen so oft in die Rhabarberbarbarabar um von Rhabarberbarbaras leckeren Rhabarberkuchen zu essen dass man sie auch kurz die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren nannte.

    Die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren hatten schöne Bärte, und wenn die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren ihren Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbärte pflegen wollten gingen sie zum Barbier.

    Der einzige Barbier,der einen solchen Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbart bearbeiten könnte, hießt Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier.

    Der Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier ging auch gern in die Rhababerbarbarabar
    um von Rhabarberbarbaras leckeren Rhabarberkuchen zu essen

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Hi, Chucho! I couldn’t find a full transcript myself anywhere. You’re definitely on the right track. Where you had the question mark…I believe that’s “lief gut” for “went well” or “ran well.”

      I’m impressed with what you got. It’s a pretty good learning exercise, right??

      • Chucho Izquierdo

        definitely! I finished already, thanks for the correction btw! Here’s what I got:

        In einem kleinen Dorf da lebte einst ein Mädchen mit dem Namen
        Barbara.

        Und Barbara war überall für ihren wunderbaren Rhabarberkuchen bekannt.
        Deshalb nannte man sie auch Rhabarberbarbara.

        Rhabarberbarbara merkte schnell dass sie mit ihrem Kuchen Geld verdienen
        könnte und eröffnete eine Bar. Die Rhabarberbarbarabar.

        Die Rhababerbarbarabar lief gut und hat schnell Stammkunden. Und
        die drei bekanntesten unter ihnen, drei Barbaren, kamen so oft in die
        Rhabarberbarbarabar um von Rhabarberbarbaras leckeren Rhabarberkuchen zu
        essen dass man sie auch kurz die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren nannte.

        Die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren hatten schöne Bärte, und wenn
        die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren
        ihren Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbärte pflegen wollten gingen sie zum
        Barbier.

        Der einzige Barbier,der einen solchen Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbart
        bearbeiten könnte, hießt Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier.

        Der Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier ging auch gern in die
        Rhababerbarbarabar

        um von Rhabarberbarbaras leckeren Rhabarberkuchen zu essen, zudem er gern ein
        Bier trank dass er feierlich das Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier
        nannte.

        Das Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier konnte man nur in eine
        ganz bestimmten Bar kaufen. Und die Verkäuferin des
        Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbiers hinter dem Theke der
        Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierbar hießt Bärbel.

        Und so gingen die Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbaren zusammen mit dem
        Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbier und Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbierbarbärbel
        in die Rhabarberbarbarabar um von Rhabarberbarbaras leckeren
        Rhabarberkuchen zu essen und eine Flasche eisgekühlten
        Rhabarberbarbarabarbarbarenbartbarbierbier anzustoßen.

        Prost!

  • Ute Bretschneider

    Thanks for the video!! Have used the story for pronunciation and the fun of compound nouns for years – the video went straight into the resources!!