Nothing will cement the German language in your memory like actually using it. Be it speaking German with colleagues or watching German movies (with or without subtitles, I won’t judge), exposing yourself to the German language as much as possible will help you retain much more of what you’ve learned and it will speed up your learning, which is why learning German with music can be an incredibly powerful tool.
For this reason, you should try to use the German language whenever you can. Having a clear and well thought out German course is definitely necessary (try mine here), and watching German movies, playing German games and most importantly for you today, listening to German music, will all add a lot of sugar to your German learning experience.
In fact, research done in the 1970s by the Bulgarian physician Georgi Lozanov into the importance of music in the learning process showed that certain music puts listeners in a state of relaxed alertness or the alpha state, which happens to be the best state of consciousness for learning.
In March 2005, the Nature journal had an article from researchers at Dartmouth College in the US that showed the place in the brain where catchy tunes are memorized. They found that the sounds and words that you hear can be recalled very easily from your auditory cortex (which is where sounds are saved in the brain). In that part, you can virtually replay those sounds and words in your brain again and again. So it seems that music is the perfect way to save words to your brain.
Why You Should Try Learning German With Music
Well, it’s fun. It can even be more fun than staring into a German textbook. And like the research shows, it actually works. I’m sure you’ve had an experience where you just couldn’t get a song out of your head. They call that an Ohrwurm, i.e. an ear worm, in German. Now if that song was in German, you’d actually be using your brain’s weird quirks to learn faster. While you carelessly hum along, the melodies will carry new vocabulary and grammar concepts that get stored in your brain.
And not only will you gain insight into the German culture, you’ll also develop comprehension skills. Hearing the German language spoken will help you recognize how intonation, form and expressions are used, from street language to poetic devices that you simply won’t learn from any other source.
Since you’re probably still in the earlier stages of learning German, it’s better to start with songs that have clear vocals and lyrics that are easy to understand. If you have trouble understanding what the singer is saying, you can always use google to search for the lyrics so you can sing along. Listen to the song while reading the lyrics and keep doing that until you can confidently sing along without needing to read the lyrics. Sooner than you expect, you’ll find yourself singing German songs even when you’re not studying.
Here’s 20 Songs I Recommend If You Want to Start Learning German With Music
Fettes Brot – Für immer Immer
This band was one of the first popular hip-hop bands from Germany. They’re kind of like the German Beastie Boys. On this song, you’ll get to learn some geography and German vocab as Fettes Brot sing about all the women they’ve loved from all over the world.
Fettes Brot means fat bread in German. “Fett” is German slang for “excellent” and brot is slang for “hash”.
Nena – 99 Luftballons
Don’t let the happy tune and the cheerful electronic music fool you, this song is about a nuclear apocalypse brought about by an accident. This song will stick to your head with its catchy tune and enrich your German vocabulary with many words about war and conflict.
The singer on this song, Nena, is multi-talented singer, songwriter, actress and comedian who rose to fame in 1983 as the vocalist of the band that was also called Nena.
Tokio Hotel – Übers Ende der Welt
This song from 2007 happens to be one of Tokio Hotel’s biggest hits. The song was so powerful, it moved fans to the point where some of them learned German just to sing along to the lyrics when the band was touring worldwide. The title translates to “over the end of the world” and it’s about personal strength, letting go of what’s holding you back and following your heart, which I hope motivates you as well while you are learning German.
Deichkind – Leider Geil
Geil originally means horny, though in German slang it means cool. While leider means unfortunately. This song will show you the many negative, bad or stupid things in the world today that are actually kind of unfortunately cool all while making sure you memorize the words Leider Geil as if they were your name
Kraftwerk – Tour de France
Kraftwerk are Germany’s biggest electronic band from the 80s, and their music will definitely help you learn German. Tour de France was an international success when it came out, and as the name indicates, it’s about the world’s biggest cycling event. The song is very catchy with very simple lyrics that are easy to understand and learn, making it perfect if you’re just getting into German music.
If you like this song, you’ll definitely like their other song, Autobahn, which was even a bigger hit than this one.
Listen to Tour de France (You’ll have to Google that as there’s no legally shareable link available) – And here the lyrics
Die Ärzte – Elke
This humorous and energetic love song will appeal to you if you enjoy punk music. It’s by the Berlin band Die Ärzte and it tells the story of a couple who start their story as pen pals and then end up together “12 seconds later”
2RAUMWOHNUNG – Wir trafen uns im Garten
Despite the upbeat sound this pop song has, it’s actually about break-up. It’s the perfect song that will teach you all the vocabulary you need to talk about break-ups and heartbreak, but unlike its subject matter, it sounds very positive and happy. The couple meet in a garden and after the singer is left sad and tired from the thought of breaking up with her ex-partner, she tries to distract herself with other things.
Revolverheld – Halt Dich an mir fest
In keeping with the theme of heartbreak, this song will also help you learn the vocabulary you need to talk about a relationship that is falling apart. It’s an emotionally charged ballad by the Hamburg band Revolverheld.
Silbermond – Ja
This band from Bautzen, Saxony have been making emotional, calm pop songs since 1998. Ja will help you learn words you can use to express feelings of sadness or disappointment, but also being strengthened through love.
Die Toten Hosen – Tage wie diese
Tage wie diese means “days like these”, and it’s a song about those beautiful days when you feel like you can be anything and do the impossible. It’s a cheerful pop-rock anthem that was written to make the crowds hold their lighters up in the air and sing along.
Peter Fox – Alles Neu
On Alles Neu, Peter sings about wanting a new start for himself and Berlin, his home city and how the city has been in constant change for the last 20 years. The song is rich with imagery of construction tools and Berlin being riddled with cranes and construction sites. This track comes from Peter’s solo album, who is also the lead singer of Seeed, a reggae inspired band.
Cro – Super Gelaunt
Super Gelaunt means “in a great mood” in German, and on this song, Cro ironically raps about being in a great mood despite the many shortcomings in his life like not being able to pay rent, not having anything to drink or smoke, failing in education or even accidentally getting his girlfriend pregnant.
Cro is like the German Macklemore; his approach to rap music isn’t Gangsta. He calls his style of music “raop”, a mixture between rap and pop, and his signature panda mask seals the friendly deal.
Materia – Lila Wolken
This song is all about relieving stress and partying all night with your friends. The lyrics talk about staying up until lila wolken (clouds are purple). Definitely a song that’s uplifting with a tune that will be difficult not to keep coming back to.
Materia means matter in German, but in this case, it is Marten Laciny’s stage name, who is a German hip hop artist from Rostock (you’re probably familiar with his music if you’ve played FIFA 12)
Adel Tawil – Lieder
Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain and many other American artists are Cleverly referenced in German on this song by Adel Tawil, the former vocalist of the band Ich + Ich. In this song, Adel sings about the many musicians who have influenced him artistically.
Lucilectric – Mädchen
Mädchen, meaning girl in German, is a song off of Lucilectric’s first album, which was a big hit song in the early 1990s. The lyrics are about a girl that dares the boys to fight her, because she’s so confident that she will win.
Sadly, Lucilectric was a one hit wonder, as after the success of their teen anthem, the band broke up in 1999.
Peter Schilling – Major Tom
Inspired by the classic David Bowie song, Space Oddity, Peter sings about an astronaut (Major Tom) losing contact with ground control and coming face to face with his mortality. This tragic ballad is so powerful and moving that it took Peter Schilling to new heights of success. Even the English version of this song went on to become a hit in the USA!
Advanced Chemistry – Fremd im Eigenen Land
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this Heidelberg hip-hop crew paved the way for German hip-hop in the 1990s. Translated as “stranger in my own country”, Fremd im Eigenen Land is a protest song from 1992 that was a reaction to the racist programs of Rostock-Lichtenhagen and it beautifully speaks about personal experiences and emotions regarding radical political views,
Tocotronic – Pure Vernunft darf niemals siegen
This song is the perfect example of German discursive rock, as it combines left-wing intellectual lyrics with heavy guitar music and uses themes that build on the traditions of Neue Deutsche Welle, resulting in a mixture of pop, punk, indie rock and grunge all in one song.
Tocotronic are an indie rock band from the 1980s who were part of a movement called the “Hamburger Schule”.
Peter Fox – Haus am See
Peter fox is just so good that I had to include him twice. This song also comes from his solo album “Stadtaffe”, meaning city monkey. On Haus am See, which translates to house by the lake, Peter sings about his dream of living life in a house by the lake together with his family.
Mia – Fallschirm
The last song on our list comes from Mia (Not to be confused with M.I.A.), who sing about realizing one’s imperfections and coming to terms with the fact that the singer is constantly on a journey of self improvement, and how this realization is helping her stay positive and move forward.
Mia are a pop group from Berlin and they have been making music since 1997.
Written by Abdullah