GERMAN POP LYRICS
Rammstein are one of the few German rock bands who can pack stadiums around the world. Thanks to them the German language has become cool to a generation of headbangers.
Going to a Rammstein concert? Don’t know any German? Don’t despair, with my bluffers guide you can shout along to the choruses of four of their key songs and be the envy of your friends.
Anyway, my German is too basic to attempt full translations, so the idea here is to look at how the songs can help German beginners, with the emphasis on pronunciation.
If you want translations of the full songs look here:
SONG 1: RAMM4 (2016)
Perhaps their easiest lyrics are in their new song Ramm4:
Ya! Nein! Rammstein!
Yes! No! Rammstein!
The letters ‘ei’ are pronounced ‘eye’ in German, no ‘nein’ sounds like the number 9.
The letter ‘s’ is usually pronounced /z/, but before p and t it becomes a ‘sh’ sound, so the band name sounds something like Ram-(sh)teye(n).
NB ‘Ein Stein’ means ‘a stone’. The name Einstein is also pronounced this way i.e. with a ‘sh’.
NB Though the /r/ in German sounds a bit stronger than in English, it is not usually rolled like a Spanish /r/. However, the group’s frontman often rolls it when singing their name.
SONG 2: SONNE (2001)
This song starts with the numbers 1 to 9, which is nice for language learners.
See my previous post on ‘Numbers’ by Kraftwerk if you want to revise these.
The numbers are then repeated before each line in the chorus:
Eins, hier Kommt die Sonne
Zwei, hier Kommt die Sonne (etc.)
One, here comes the sun
Two, here comes the sun (etc.)
The letters ‘ie’ are pronounced ‘ee’ in German, no ‘hier’ sounds like ‘here’, which is handy.
Also ‘die’ (for feminine nouns) sounds like ‘dee’ and has nothing to do with death.
As noted above, ‘s’ is usually pronounced /z/ at the beginning or the middle of a word, hence sun sounds something like ‘zonne’.
NB The ‘o’ here is short (as in a word like ‘on’). You can compare it with ‘der zohn’ (the son) which has a long ‘oh’ (as in ‘oh no!’) and thus sounds like ‘zone’. The ‘h’ before the vowel is silent but shows that the vowel is long.
The letter ‘z’ itself becomes ‘ts’, so two sounds something like ‘tsveye’.
SONG 3: DU HAST (1997)
The letter ‘s’ does sound like /s/ at the end of a word i.e. when not followed by a vowel.
So ‘hast’ sounds like /hast/.
Du hast mich
You have me
If you need a /s/ sound in the middle of a word in German you can write ‘ss’, or alternatively ‘ß’ (yes, it does look like a fancy capital B). This can also be written at the end of a word.
Du hasst mich
You hate me
So ‘du hast’ and ‘du hasst’ are homophones i.e. they are pronounced the same despite being spelt differently. This ambiguity is clearly intentional in the song.
For the pronunciation of mich see the next song.
SONG 4: ICH WILL (2001)
“I want” (not I will!) The title gets repeated a lot in the song…
Will is easy, W becomes a /v/ sound in German, as everyone knows from comedy German accents.
Ich is more difficult as ‘ch’ is tricky in German.
You have the ‘back ch’ which is a bit like the ch in ‘loch’ with a Scottish accent. This comes after a,o,u and au.
The ‘front ch’, which comes after everything else and is thus needed for Ich, is kind of somewhere between a ‘sh’ sound and a drawn out ‘h’.
Not easy, but you can practice by singing along…