How The Nursery Rhyme 'Eins, Zwei, Polizei' Can Help You Learn German

A Game to Practice German Vocabulary Words

Woman and daughter reciting nursery rhyme
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Learning German can a lot of fun if you use a simple rhyme. While "Eins, Zwei, Polizei" is a nursery rhyme for children, people of any age can use it as a game to expand their German vocabulary.

This short rhyme is a traditional children's song that can be sung or chanted to a beat. It includes very basic German words, teaches you how to count to ten or fifteen (or higher, if you like), and each phrase ends with a different word. 

There are many versions of this popular and simple song and two of those are included below. However, don't stop with those. As you will see, you can make up your own verses and use this as a game to practice whatever vocabulary words you are learning at the moment.

"Eins, zwei, Polizei" (One, Two, Police)

This is the most traditional version of the popular German children's song and nursery rhyme. It is very easy to memorize and will help you remember numbers one through ten along with a few basic words. Both children and adults will find it to be a fun way to finish off your night with a little German practice. 

This version of "Eins, zwei, Polzei" has been recorded by at least two German groups: Mo-Do (1994) and S.W.A.T. (2004). While the lyrics for the song by both groups are appropriate for children, the rest of the albums may not be. Parents should review the translations for themselves before playing the other songs for kids.

Melodie: Mo-Do
Text: Traditional 

Deutsch English Translation
Eins, zwei, Polizei
drei, vier, Offizier
fünf, sechs, alte Hex'
sieben, acht, gute Nacht!
neun, zehn, auf Wiedersehen!
One, two, police
three, four, officer
five, six, old witch
seven, eight, good night!
nine, ten, good-bye!
Alt. verse:
neun, zehn, schlafen geh'n.
Alt. verse:
nine, ten, off to bed.

"Eins, zwei, Papagei" (One, Two, Parrot)

Another variation that follows the same tune and rhythm, "Eins, zwei, Papagei" demonstrates how you can change the last word of each line to fit the German words and phrases you are learning at the moment.

As you can see, it doesn't have to make sense, either. In fact, the less sense it makes, the funnier it is.

Deutsch English Translation
Eins, zwei, Papagei
drei, vier, Grenadier
fünf, sechs, alte Hex'
sieben, acht, Kaffee gemacht
neun, zehn, weiter geh'n
elf, zwölf, junge Wölf'
dreizehn, vierzehn, Haselnuss
fünfzehn, sechzehn, du bist duss.

One, two, Parrot
three, four, Grenadier*
five, six, old witch
seven, eight, made coffee
nine, ten, go further
eleven, twelve, young wolf
thirteen, fourteen, Hazelnut
fifteen, sixteen, you're dumb.

* A Grenadier is similar to a private or infantryman in the military.

It is understandable if you do not want to teach your children this last version (or at least the last line), which includes the words "du bist duss" because it translates to "you're dumb." It's not very nice and many parents choose to avoid such words, particularly in nursery rhymes with younger children.

Instead of avoiding this otherwise fun rhyme, consider replacing the last part of that line with one of these more positive phrases:

  • You're great - du bist toll
  • You're funny - du bist lustig
  • You're pretty - du bist hübsch
  • You're handsome - du bist attraktiv
  • You're smart - du bist shlau
  • You're special - du bist etwas Besonderes

How " Eins, zwei..." Can Expand Your Vocabulary

Hopefully, these two examples of the rhyme will inspire you to use it throughout your studies of German. Repetition and rhythm are two useful techniques that will help you remember basic words and this is one of the easiest songs to do that with.

Make a game out of this song, either on your own, with your study partner, or with your children. It is a fun and interactive way to learn.

  • Alternate saying each line between two or more people.
  • Complete each phrase with a new (and random) word from your most recent vocabulary list. It can be anything from food and plants to people and objects, whatever you think of. See if the other players know what that word means in English.
  • Practice two- or three-word phrases on the last line.
  • Count as high as you can and keep finishing off each line with a new word. See who can count the highest in German or who can say more new words than everyone else.
  • Try to create a theme throughout the song. Maybe your family is learning the German words for various fruits (Früchte). One line might finish with apple (Apfel), the next might end with pineapple (Ananas), then you might say strawberry (Erdbeere), and so on.

This is one rhyme that has endless possibilities and it can really help you learn the German language. It's hours (or minutes) of fun and can be played anywhere.

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Flippo, Hyde. "How The Nursery Rhyme 'Eins, Zwei, Polizei' Can Help You Learn German." ThoughtCo, Sep. 1, 2021, Flippo, Hyde. (2021, September 1). How The Nursery Rhyme 'Eins, Zwei, Polizei' Can Help You Learn German. Retrieved from Flippo, Hyde. "How The Nursery Rhyme 'Eins, Zwei, Polizei' Can Help You Learn German." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).