Learn the German Lyrics to '99 Luftballons'

Discover how this early-1980s hit translates into English

Lyrics for '99 Red Balloons' in German and English
ThoughtCo/ThoughtCo

You may have heard the 1980s pop song "99 Red Balloons," but you may not know that it was originally a German tune. The German pop singer and group, Nena, released the international hit song in 1983 and the English version a year later. Nena was the stage name of the group's lead singer (Gabriele Susanne Kerner) as well as the group itself. Though Nena (the band and singer) had a few hits after this song, "99 Luftballons" was by far its most significant success and remains a favorite in both languages.

Balloons Soar, Nena Fades

"99 Luftballons" was an antiwar protest song written by the band's guitarist Carlo Karges. Karges had attended a Rolling Stones concert in 1982 in what was then West Berlin, where that band released hundreds of helium-filled balloons. He wondered how East German or Soviet forces might react if balloons crossed the Berlin Wall, which still stood at the time. The song was composed by the band's keyboardist, Jörn-Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen.

After the massive hit, whose English-language version reached No. 1 in the U.S. in 1984, Kerner's career, as well as that of the band, leveled off, especially in the non-German-speaking world. The group broke up in 1987. Karges never joined another band and passed away in Germany at age 50. Fahrenkrog-Petersen moved to New York, formed another band, worked with the American punk group The Plasmatics and wrote several Hollywood movie soundtracks.

Kerner made a comeback in 2005 when she released a new album that returned her to the spotlight. Several songs from her "Willst du Mit Mir Gehn?" ("Will You Go With Me?") album shot up the German radio charts. But she, Karges, and Fahrenkrog-Petersen never had another success that soared as high as the balloons, though Kerner continues to record and tour.

It can be a great German language lesson to learn the lyrics of this catchy tune, which still holds up decades after its release in both languages.

'99 Luftballons' Lyrics in German and Translation

The song, released in Germany in February 1983, soon had a sister version in English, written by Kevin McAlea, which was released in North America in 1984. That song (also sung by Nena) loosely follows the German lyrics, though it is not the same as the direct English translation printed here for learning purposes.

German Lyrics Direct Translation
Hast du etwas Zeit für mich Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich Von 99 Luftballons Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont Denkst du vielleicht g'rad an mich Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich Von 99 Luftballons Und dass so was von so was kommt Do you have you some time for me, if so I'll sing a song for you about 99 balloons on their way to the horizon. Maybe you're thinking about me right now if so I'll sing a song for you about 99 balloons and that such a thing comes from such a thing.
99 Luftballons Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont Hielt man für Ufos aus dem All Darum schickte ein General 'ne Fliegerstaffel hinterher Alarm zu geben, wenn es so wär Dabei war'n da am Horizont Nur 99 Luftballons 99 balloons on their way to the horizon People think they're UFOs from space so a general sent up a fighter squadron after them Sound the alarm if it's so but there on the horizon were only 99 balloons.
99 Düsenjäger Jeder war ein großer Krieger Hielten sich für Captain Kirk Das gab ein großes Feuerwerk Die Nachbarn haben nichts gerafft Und fühlten sich gleich angemacht Dabei schoss man am Horizont Auf 99 Luftballons 99 fighter jets Each one's a great warrior Thought they were Captain Kirk then came a lot of fireworks the neighbors didn't understand anything and felt like they were being provoked so they shot at the horizon at 99 balloons.
99 Kriegsminister - Streichholz und Benzinkanister - Hielten sich für schlaue Leute Witterten schon fette Beute Riefen Krieg und wollten Macht Mann, wer hätte das gedacht Dass es einmal soweit kommt Wegen 99 Luftballons 99 war ministers matches and gasoline canisters They thought they were clever people already smelled a nice bounty Called for war and wanted power. Man, who would've thought that things would someday go so far because of 99 balloons.
99 Jahre Krieg Ließen keinen Platz für Sieger Kriegsminister gibt's nicht mehr Und auch keine Düsenflieger Heute zieh' ich meine Runden Seh' die Welt in Trümmern liegen Hab' 'nen Luftballon gefunden Denk' an dich und lass' ihn fliegen 99 years of war left no room for victors. There are no more war ministers nor any jet fighters. Today I'm making my rounds see the world lying in ruins. I found a balloon, think of you and let it fly (away).

The German and English lyrics are provided for educational use only. No infringement of copyright is implied or intended. The literal, prose translations of the original German lyrics by Hyde Flippo are not from the English version sung by Nena.

Popular Songs by Nena (Kerner)

If you find that you liked "99 Balloons," you might enjoy hearing and learning the lyrics to other songs by Kerner, released both before, during, and after her years with the band that rose from its German roots and strode so dramatically onto the world stage with its politically charged, early 1980s song.

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Flippo, Hyde. "Learn the German Lyrics to '99 Luftballons'." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2021, thoughtco.com/nenas-99-luftballons-song-4076776. Flippo, Hyde. (2021, September 8). Learn the German Lyrics to '99 Luftballons'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/nenas-99-luftballons-song-4076776 Flippo, Hyde. "Learn the German Lyrics to '99 Luftballons'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/nenas-99-luftballons-song-4076776 (accessed October 19, 2021).