Before punk rock, credible German bands rarely sung in their native tongue, which they perceived as the language of Schlager (cheesy pop). This all changed in the late 1970s with the Neue Deutsche Welle (German New Wave), when singing in German suddenly became cool.

Grauzone (grey area) were a new wave band from Switzerland. This single made the charts in Germany and Austria in 1981.Listen to this excellent podcast for some details on Neue Deutsche Welle: https://www.mixcloud.com/Plattenkompanie/popstories-neue-deutsche-welle-german-new-wave-1979-1983/

Eisbär, eisbär
Kaltes Eis, kaltes Eis, eisbär
Eisbär, oh Eisbär
Ich möchte ein Eisbär sein
Im kalten Polar
Dann müsste ich nicht mehr schreien
Alles wären so klar

Eisbären müssen nie weinen…

Polar bear, polar bear
Cold ice, cold ice, polar bear

Polar bear, oh polar bear
I’d like to be a polar bear
In the cold polar
Then I wouldn’t need to cry anymore
Everything would be so clear

Polar bears don't need to cry…

PRONUNCIATION: I think it’s time to confront the umlauts….


Ä is a distinct vowel in German. Like all German vowels it has a long and a short version.

The short version sounds very close to /e/ (like the ‘e’ in get).

The long version doesn’t exist in English, but it is close to /ɛə/ or /ɛː/, which is an ‘air’ sound. So bär sounds pretty close to bear. It shouldn’t sound like ‘bar’!

Another word in the song with this sound is wären (would, I think this is in the subjunctive).

Other words with this sound include vählen (to vote), gähnen (to yawn) and das Mädchen (the girl).

The letter ä is sometimes replaced by ae, for example if you are using a keyboard that doesn’t have the German characters on it.

NB The diphthong ‘äu’ is pronounced ‘oy’.


The ö is a tricky sound. It should be made with pursed lips and to me it sounds a bit like a French sound e.g. the vowel sound at the end of ‘bleu’ (French for blue). The phonetic symbol is /ø/.

Here in the song the sound appears in möchte (would like, a useful word when ordering food and drinks!), which comes from the verb mögen (to like).

Other words with this sound include: die Flöte (the flute), blöd (stupid), böse (evil) and Köln (Cologne).

I think the difference between the short and long ö is fairly small.

Here are some words that contrast the ‘o’ and ‘ö’ sounds:

die Krone (crown) – krönen (to crown)

groß (big) – größer (bigger)

schon (already) – schön (beautiful)

The ö is sometimes replaced by oe. For example the composer Arnold Schönberg’s surname is generally written as Schoenberg in the UK.


Like the ö this is made with pursed lips, but with more of an ‘oo’ sound (as in ‘you’). Again it sounds slightly French to me. The phonetic symbol is /ʏ/.

In this song it appears in the word müsste (from the verb müssen).

I think the difference between the short and long ü is fairly small.

Here are some words that contrast the ‘u’ and ‘ü’ sounds:

jung (young) – jünger (younger)

gut (good) – die Güte (kindness)

der Stuhl (the chair) – die Stühle (the chairs)

The ü is sometimes replaced by ue.

See this excellent site for more info: http://joycep.myweb.port.ac.uk/pronounce/index.html


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