Listening to music is a staple of my language learning.
You get to hear authentic language, you get insight into a country’s culture and mindset, and music has been shown to help people retain language better.
But really, the best reason to listen to music is that it’s fun. Here are seven good songs to learn German from. I tried to pick a variety of genres so that you’ll find at least one song that you like. All of the songs below contain lyrics that are clearly enunciated and are, with one exception, sung slowly.If you need help, head over to lyricstranslate.com and look for the songs there. Or to get a general idea of the meaning, copy the lyrics into Google Translate.
If you need any specific help with lyrics, ask away in the comments. If I can’t answer your question, maybe another reader will.
1. Haus am See – Peter Fox
Peter Fox is the lead singer of Seeed, one of my favorite groups in any language. A few years ago he put out a solo album, which included this song about longing for a new adventure, while also longing to come back home when the adventure is done.
Why I recommend it: Peter Fox’s Berlin accent is neutral and familiar to any German student. Also, the poetic imagery adds an element that you’ll never get from a text book.
Why I really recommend it: The lyrics make me homesick for a life I haven’t had yet.
Alles gewinnen beim Spiel mit gezinkten Karten.
Alles verlieren, Gott hat einen harten linken Haken.
2. Dieser Weg – Xavier Naidoo
Xavier Naidoo is a soul singer who’s a mainstay of German top 40 radio and a judge on the TV show “The Voice of Germany.” He’s intensely religious, so his songs are thinly veiled spiritual songs. However, the lyrics are purposely vague enough to be enjoyed different ways.
Why I recommend it: The lyrics can’t get any easier to understand than this.
Why I really recommend it: The dude can really, really sing.
Manche treten dich, manche lieben dich, manche geben sich für dich auf.
Manche segnen dich, setz dein Segel nicht, wenn der Wind das Meer aufbraust.
3. Atemlos durch die Nacht – Helene Fischer
Last year, the beautiful Helene Fischer blew up German radio with her “Schlagermusik” style songs. If you’re not familiar with Schlager Music, it’s a mix of party pop and German folk music. Catchy beats and simple choruses make it easy to clap along with and sing along to while standing on a Fest bench. “Atemlos durch die Nacht” got so popular that it ended up generating backlash from some Germans who were tired of hearing it.
Why I recommend it: The lyrics are very easy to make out, you’ll never forget what “atemlos” means, and at least knowing of the song will make you attuned to a cultural phenomenon.
Why I really recommend it: I’m hoping Ms. Fischer will read this and send me a signed picture.
Atemlos durch die Nacht,
Bis ein neuer Tag erwacht
Atemlos einfach raus
Deine Augen ziehen mich aus!
4. Endlich sehe ich das Licht – from the movie Rapunzel (Tangled)
You know the Disney movie Tangled? It was based on the legend of Rapunzel, popularized by the Brothers Grimm. Well, Germans didn’t see a need to change the name, so in Germany Tangled is simply called Rapunzel. “Endlich sehe ich das Licht” is a song from the movie.
Why I recommend it: It’s sung very slowly, and the emotions come through in the performance.
Why I really recommend it: A childhood of Disney movies has brainwashed me. I can’t help it–deep down, I like anything Disney puts out.
Tief in mir, kenn’ ich die Bedeutung,
Was ich seh’, ist du.
5. Lass uns gehen – Revolverheld
Revolverhead has been popular in Germany for the last decade. This song is a nice counterpoint to “Haus am See.” The singer also wants to leave where he’s at, but rather than go solo, he’s asking someone to come with him and makes no indication he wants to return.
Why I recommend it: Pretty easy lyrics to understand and I think any language learner can identify with the sentiment.
Why I really recommend it: I wanted to put a rock band on the list, but figured Rammstein might be a little much.
Die Stadt frisst die Ruhe
Mit flackernden Lichtern
Schluckt Tage und Nächte in sich hinein
6. Wie schön du bist – Sarah Connor
Sarah Connor is a German pop singer who usually sings in English, and her songs are usually club bangers. (I just wanted an excuse to say “club bangers.”) With Wie schön du bist, though, she’s singing a ballad, and it’s entirely in German.
Why I recommend it: Short lines make for easy comprehension.
Why I really recommend it: Her old songs had a very Destiny’s Child/Mary J. Blige feel. But when she sings in German, she has more of a Pink vibe and comes off a lot more heartfelt–even though she sang very well in English too.
Ich seh dich
mit all deinen Farben
und deinen Narben,
hintern den Mauern.
7. Einmal um die Welt – Cro
Cro is a weird, awesome Swabian dude, who wears a panda mask at all times, calls his music “raop” (rap and pop), and is wildly popular. “Einmal um die Welt” is sung as a promise to a girlfriend (or wife or significant other) that she doesn’t need to worry about money, because if she just gives him her hand, he’s going to take her around the world to enjoy all of life’s pleasures–tomorrow. Critics might see the message as materialistic, but I choose to see it as optimistic and generous. His exaggerations aren’t meant to be taken seriously. At the core of the song, he’s saying he wants the best for his girl and wants her to dream with him.
Why I recommend it: This is by far the fastest sung song on the list, but the lyrics themselves aren’t hard to understand. (Some of the brand names I had to look up, though.)
Why I really recommend it: Cro is freaking cool. I respect the skills of German gangsta rappers, but what they rap about–that’s not me. I can really dig Cro’s skater/slacker hip hop aesthetic.
Denn ab heute leb’ ich jeden
Tag als ob ich morgen tot wäre.
Laufe durch den Park und werf‘
mit Geld als ob es Brot wäre.