I was super-happy seeing today’s Bloganuary prompt because I love music and this was something I had been wanting to write about for ages.
First things first, here’s my public Spotify playlist that contains songs in English, Hindi and German.
My primary motivation about writing this post is not to share my music or show my love for it. It is to acknowledge the fact that music was extremely helpful in improving my German language skills.
A very important disclaimer first; I was already at intermediate level (B1) when I started listening to songs in order to improve my German. I wouldn’t recommend this method to someone who is just beginning with their language learning journey. I would say that visiting a course, watching self-paced learning videos, or learning from a book would definitely be better and help in laying down the basics in a more structured manner before taking this musical plunge. But later on, one can use music (and other media) to learn newer words and eventually improve their command on the language.
Before we begin with the German learning story, I also must meantion that I have photographic memory when it comes to lyrics. In my friends’ circle I am famous as the girl who can memorise all songs. In fact I must admit that as a teenager, I think music and lyrics played a huge part in improving my English, as I could memorize all songs by Westlife, Boyzone and many more (not just boy bands!) without much effort. Back in those days, there was no Spotify and no internet to search lyrics on, but cassette tapes (I feel like a dinosaur!) came with folded pages of lyrics like this, and I would easily get them in my head somehow. It’s a superpower I am very grateful for. 🙂
Anyway coming back to some recent history; With the basic language skills from school days already brushed up before landing in Germany, I started learning German at B1 level in the summer of 2019 when I was visitng my husband in Hamburg for a few months. I soon realised that it was time to take it a step further. As recommended by my German teacher, I decided that I would start watching German movies/series and begin listening to German songs to improve my vocabulary.
I was on a sabbatical and not working at that time so learning German was my one and only job which I took extremely seriously. I had joined a language school in Hamburg city and from my home in Wedel, it would take around 1 hour to get there by S-Bahn (local train / metro). During this time I started listening to the Radio but soon realised that they talked more in German (which was too fast for me to understand), but most of the songs they played were in English.
Therefore, I turned to Spotify.de in order to listen to German songs. I looked at the top German playlists etc. and would get recommendations of songs to add in my playlist. I think 80 Milionen and Lieblingsmensch were the first songs I heard and I absolutely loved them, especially appreciating the fact that I could understand them, at least partially!
Then I discovered the wonderful side-by-side translations. Every time a new song would play on my shuffled playlist, I would pause it, open the song lyrics on google, and hit translate at bottom to see it in both English and German together and then hit play to follow along.
When I first listened to and understood the song , ‘Nur noch kurz die Welt retten’, I was literally mind-blown!
I cannot even put it in better words than it is described here so I borrow with due credit.
Tim Bedzko’s song “Nur noch kurz die Welt retten” is about the fast-moving nature of today’s working (world) society. He criticizes that work-related obligations have gained priority over family and friends. It is more important to be busy around the clock than enjoying one’s leisure time. Tim Bendzko exaggerates the image of a workaholic by putting him or her on an equal footing with a superhero who has to save the world from harm and danger. The question is: Does an unanswered e-mail, an undone phone call, or a delayed meeting really affect our lives so negatively that a disaster will be the immediate consequence? I don’t think so.As explained in ‘Transparent Language Blog’
Frankly speaking, in addition to teaching me German, these songs were teaching me life lessons. It was also a wonderful way to efficiently utilize the 2 hours I was spending in train each day!
I can not explain how much this side-by-side translation helped me in understanding the songs and their meaning and improving my vocabulary. I would hear them over and over again, fall in love with them and explain them word-by-word to my husband, who was also learning basic German at that time.
I also used to watch lyrical videos on Youtube. The title of this song actually explains concepts of Wechselpräpositionen and Adjektivendungen (for Dativ), so in addition to improving Wortschatz, this also helped with Grammatik (that’s how I convinced my husband that we should listen to more German songs!). But seriously, ‘In deiner kleinen Welt’ is one of the sweetest songs I have ever listened to, in any language.
I also would sometimes get recommendations to rap songs, which took more time for me to understand, but I do enjoy some of them while running! I randomly recogonise only a few parts of the song and shout out the words that I can understand. Just like:
Listening to more and more songs and watching videos on Youtube, I also stumbled on wonderful gems like this one!
And then eventually I started remembering lyrics to my German songs. These and many many others are now an integral part of my playlist; I know the lyrics for most of them on my playlist by-heart and can sing and understand them fully without needing to read or translate the lyrics each time. German songs are also staples on our weekend Youtube playlist which my husband and I enjoy while relaxing on a Friday evening with a few beers or while completing our chores on a Saturday.
As of 2020 I have a full-time job. Although I am teleworking nowadays, I live very close to my office, so thankfully there is hardly any commuting time, as I ride my bike to work. I do try to listen to my German songs on my short runs or in my free time. I am also hapy that now when I listen to a new song, I do not quickly have to open the lyrics, but I am actually able to understand some of them without help.
Right now I am at level B2 and taking a German class once a week. I know and realise that that is not enough if I really want to improve my German and that language learning is an ongoing process. Nevertheless, it brings me great happiness and satisfaction to see how these 2 passions that I individually enjoy (music and learning German) came together and made me fall in love with both of them a little more!
Ok last song before I sign off. Another favourite – especially love the lyrics – not only as a German learner but also as a space engineer!) 🙂
Yes, German is a tough language to learn, but once you start feeling comfortable with it, it is beautiful indeed!
Anyway, thanks for flying by my orbit! 🙂
See you tommorrow!