Wenn Ausländer Deutsch phonetisch singen

Date:July 10, 2006 / year-entry #229
Orig Link:https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20060710-26/?p=30573
Comments:    18
Summary:When foreigners sing German phonetically, the results are kind of painful. Listen, if you dare, to Johnny Cash sing "Wer kennt den Weg? (I Walk the Line)" [WMV] [Real]. If you can't get enough, you can grab the lyrics and sing along. Listening to the recording brought back painful memories of my high school German...

When foreigners sing German phonetically, the results are kind of painful. Listen, if you dare, to Johnny Cash sing "Wer kennt den Weg? (I Walk the Line)" [WMV] [Real]. If you can't get enough, you can grab the lyrics and sing along.

Listening to the recording brought back painful memories of my high school German class, where there were those students who simply couldn't lose their thick American accents. It has been twenty years since I last studied German formally, and I'm certain that my own German pronunciation has picked up a Swedish accent in the meantime. My vocabulary has also deteriorated (on that page I get the gender of the word "Person" wrong), although my grammar at least has thankfully held steady. (Well, except when I lose my senses entirely and forget how to decline adjectival nouns.)

If Johnny Cash isn't your thing, you can go to the article and click to listen to David Bowie sing Space Oddity in Italian, or the Beatles sing Get Back in mixed German and French...

Comments (18)
  1. Rainer says:

    Listening to the song and his difficulties with the German "Umlaute", it reminded me of one of my early visits to italy.

    When you go shopping in Germany and you want a bag, you ask for a "Tüte". In an Italian supermarket some 15 years ago I tried my luck and asked in German for a "Tüte", because the girl at the cashpoint seemed to speak a little bit of German.

    I had no luck until one of the Germans nearby said I had to ask for a "Tute".

    Well I got it ;-)

  2. Mike Swaim says:

     At my high school, grammer and vocabulary were emphasized over being able to speak the language. When one of my friends finally went to Germany, she ended up speaking German with an English accent, rather than her rather noticable Southern accent.

  3. Ah yes, the Italian version of Bowie’s "Space Oddity" (called "Ragazza Solo Ragazza Sola" I think (I’m a bit of a Bowie fan myself).

    As a trivia point, the Italian version isn’t a strict translation of the English lyrics. If memory serves, back in ’69 when the song was written, nobody realized that the person who "translated" the song into Italian just made up their own lyrics and completely ignored the meaning of the original song. Bowie just sang it phonetically and didn’t realize that it wasn’t the song he wrote.

    I don’t think that is likely to happen today (when you could easily use Babelfish to check the translation), but back then… owel.


  4. David says:

    Speaking of "Space Oddity" did anyone else play it timed to the space shuttle launch? It is incredible.

  5. Sebastian Redl says:

    Then there’s Elvis Presley’s "Wooden Heart", his mixed English-German rendition of a traditional song. It’s actually not that bad.

  6. Nawak says:

    This is dramatic, I’m french and I couldn’t discern any french word in the "Get Back" German/French mix… maybe… hmm… Pluton? Not that would make any sense…

    I did understand some german words though :)

  7. Michael Puff says:

    Irgendwie wurde der Text aber sehr frei übersetzt:

    "I keep a close watch on this heart of mine

    I keep my eyes wide open all the time

    I keep the ends out for the tie that binds

    Because you’re mine, I walk the line"

    Übersetzung von Günter Loose:

    "Am allerschönsten war es doch zu Haus

    Und doch zog’s mich einst in die Welt hinaus

    Und in der Ferne suchte ich mein Glück

    Wer kennt den Weg, den Weg zurück"

    Das hat ja noch nicht mal mehr thematlich etwas mit dem Original zu tun. In der Übersetzung hat er sein Mädchen verlassen, im Original erzählt er, wie glücklich er mit seinem Mädchen ist.

    Was die Aussprache betrifft, wenn man sich erstmal an den Akzent gewöhnt hat und beim ersten Mal mitliest, kann man es beim zweiten Mal recht gut verstehen.

    @Raymond: I leave it to you to provide the translation as a practice. ;)

  8. Daniel says:

    There is this English version of "99 Luftballons" by Nena (99 red balloons) sung by an American punk band which is kind of funny since one stanza is sung in German. Kind of badly. But nice.

    Well, must be one of <a href="http://www.216colors.com/luft/">those bands</a>.

  9. Andreas says:

    Daniel: It’s by Goldfinger.

  10. The newnewthing says:


    "Düsenflieger" is a pretty hard word if you’re not German.

  11. Marcel says:

    The worst (and/or funniest) example I’ve come accross is the song "Herz aus Stahl" (Heart of steel) from Manowar. Not only does it appear that the lyrics have been translated from English to German by the some Chinese guy, but I still cannot figure out what some words are supposed to mean. And I’m German.

    Still, bonus points for trying.

  12. Alun Jones says:

    I have to recommend Leibach’s German heavy metal version of Queen’s "One Vision", and remind you that at least the Beatles had a good reason for singing in German, since they got much of their start in Germany.  "I wanna hold your hand" exists in a German version that isn’t too bad.

  13. _noname_ says:

    Luftballons = air balloons

    not red balloons :):)

  14. Jon Konrath says:

    Peter Gabriel (re)did two albums in German, his third and his fourth (which was Security in the US).  He doesn’t speak German, and did everything phonetically.  I also don’t speak German, so I can’t vouch for them, but the albums are still pretty neat.

  15. AlexF says:

    Actually he refers to the English translation – obviously "air baloons" or simply "baloons" did not fit the verse size, so they (translators) went with red baloons instead. The funny thing is – they preserved the german numeral format – "nine and ninety" – again, for the same reasons

  16. MikeA says:

    Hmmm, you sure about that? When I read that I wondered to myself why I had never noticed that. When I listened to the English version to check, I realised that the reason I hadn’t noticed it is because she sings "ninety-nine red balloons" all the way through the song…

    > The funny thing is – they preserved

    > the german numeral format – "nine and

    > ninety" – again, for the same reasons

  17. Mats Gefvert says:

    I’m spending some of my time hoping that a German tourist – of which there seems to be quite a few in my town – will one day assault me with questions about how to get to places or where a nice café might be.

    Because, secretly, I long to speak German. Even though I think grammatical errors will abound.

  18. Amanjit Gill says:

    Hey, the beatles’ version of "get back" (first link, npr.org site) is a whole lot more frightening for me (an indian being raised in germany) and reminds me of some kind of ww2 war movie or game… that’s the real threat!

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