Elke Sommer sagt No

Elke SommerKnow “Schlager”, know Germany.

Love’em or hate’em but the much maligned Schlager” are an integral part of German life.

The term (der Schlager, plural: die Schlager) describes nothing else but a German pop song. It’s the style of music that for English native ears sounds decidedly Eurotrashy but that for millions of Germans has been the soundtrack of their lives. Even if you end up rebelling against it at a later stage – Believe me, I’ve tried! – these addictive ditties easily become a part of you that is impossible to shake off.

The good news for German learners is that these songs by and large operate with a relatively simple vocabulary that is generally sung very clearly and with a catchy rhythm and melody that makes the lyrics easy enough to remember.

There are countless examples for this type of song and Elke Sommer’s ICH SAGE NO is by far not the most popular but I like the way this YouTube video integrates the German lyrics with a collage of her photos.

Sommer is not generally known as a singer but as part of the post-war “Fräuleinwunder” was one of the few German actresses who have managed to create something of an international career for herself. She acted opposite Paul Newman (The Prize) and Peter Sellers (A Shot in the Dark), appeared in a number of TV shows (The Six Million Dollar Man, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island), was in Carry on Behind and in two films by Italian genre master Mario Bava but my overall favourite performance of hers was as one of a duo of sexy female killers in Deadlier than the Male, the best James Bond movie to not feature James Bond but instead focus on bikini clad vixens who emerge out of the ocean and murder by harpoon.  (Check this YouTube clip to get an idea what I am talking about.)

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for Freedom on the Road South

OK, time to switch off your taste buds, but recently I discussed with an Irish friend of mine who is fluent in German how helpful some of the 1970s German Schlager (pop songs) are when it comes to learning the lingo. They can be pretty annoying, but because they quickly burn their way into your memory will help to remember certain phrases much easier than if you just tried to remember the individual words and sentences. (Also check out Daliah Lavi’s OH WANN KOMMST DU? for learning the days of the week amongst other things.)

He mentioned Tony Marshall’s Auf der Straße nach Süden, a song I hadn’t listened to in ages, and then emphasised that this was quite clearly the model that David Hasselhoff’s Looking for Freedom was based on.

Of course, he was spot on. How could I never have noticed the fact that both songs sound virtually identical? Judge for yourself: Look at the first video from 1978. Marvel at the fact that singers as tone deaf as Tony Marshall became Schlager Stars. Then notice how badly the audience clap to the rhythm and tell yourself: “That explains a lot.” Do not, however, forget to also have one ironic eye scan the lyrics that are also printed on the YouTube page as they will help you e.g. with some of the prepositions (“Auf der Straße nach Süden/mit der Sonne als Ziel”) as well as with some general vocabulary.

Then listen to The Hoff’s video and salute the man who was single handedly responsible for bringing the Berlin wall down. (You did know it was him, didn’t you?)

Daliah Lavi – Oh wann kommst Du? (Learning German through music)

One way of learning to understand German (or any other language) is through the use of music.

The melody of any song will help you to memorise certain words and phrases nearly instinctively. Just make sure to follow those steps:

1. Listen to the song and try and understand the lyrics

2. Listen to the song again, but this time also read the lyrics. (You will notice that this time you are already starting to understand more than the first time.)

3. Slowly read the lyrics without listening to the song and translate the passages that you don’t understand.

4. Listen to the song again without the lyrics.

At this stage you should have a good understanding of what the song is about. From now on you can occasionally listen to the song again whenever you feel like it or even have it play in the background, so that certain words and phrases will sink into your consciousness. Learning German through songs is a fun way to quickly gain a good active knowledge of the language.

Have a look at the YouTube video below. Yes, it is not the most sophisticated song ever written and feel free to have a snigger at some of the 1970s décor, but once you have followed this exercise I bet you will have at least mastered the days of week. You will also have mastered one simple question (Wann kommst Du?) as well as some of the most common second person singular forms (Du kommst, Du willst, Du kannst, Du glaubst) and got a feel for the usage of “wenn…. dann…”.

Incidentally, you will also have noticed how many of the lyrics are part of the most commonly used words of the German language.

Not bad for just one simple little song, eh?

Daliah Lavi – Oh, wann kommst Du (Lyrics)

Montag, Dienstag, Mittwoch, Donnerstag,
Freitag, Samstag, Sonntag jeder Tag
vergeht ohne Ziel

Für mich sieht der Sonntag wie Montag aus
der Alltag ist überall zu Haus
jeden Tag das selbe Spiel

Vielleicht gibt es irgendwo einen Sinn
und irgendwer weiß den Weg dorthin
wo Liebe wohnt

Weil Montag, Dienstag, Mittwoch, Donnerstag,
Freitag, Samstag, Sonntag weil kein Tag
ohne Liebe sich lohnt

OOh, oh oh oh oh oh wann kommst du (uhhh)
OOh, oh oh oh oh oh wann kommst du (uhhh)

Wenn du gehn willst, lass ich dich gehen
woran du glaubst, werd ich verstehn
du kannst fragen, was du nie fragst
alles sagen, was du nie sagst
du kannst träumen, wovon du gern träumst
und versäumen, was du gern versäumst
wenn du treu sein willst, dann sei doch treu
wenn du frei sein willst, dann bist du frei

OOh, oh oh oh oh oh wann kommst du (kommst du)
da dei da dei da dei da dam da di da da dei da dam da di di di dum la da di da da dadadam
da dei da dei da dam da dei da di da dei da dam da di di di dam la da di da da dadadam

Vielleicht gibt es irgendwo einen Sinn
und irgendwer weiß den Weg dorthin
wo Liebe wohnt

Weil Montag, Dienstag, Mittwoch, Donnerstag,
Freitag, Samstag, Sonntag weil kein Tag
ohne Liebe sich lohnt

OOh, oh oh oh oh oh wann kommst du (uhhh)
OOh, oh oh oh oh oh wann kommst du (uhhh)

Wenn du gehn willst, lass ich dich gehen
woran du glaubst, werd ich verstehn
du kannst fragen, was du nie fragst
alles sagen, was du nie sagst
du kannst träumen, wovon du gern träumst
und versäumen, was du gern versäumst
wenn du treu sein willst, dann sei doch treu
wenn du frei sein willst, dann bist du frei

OOh, oh oh oh oh oh wann kommst du (kommst du)
OOh, oh oh oh oh oh wann kommst du (kommst du)
OOh, oh oh oh oh oh wann kommst