Popular German Folk Songs

If you are a teacher, you know the educational value that German folk songs offer its learners through their simpler vocabulary and vivid imagery. Further they are more easily learned than poetry.

However, if you are a German learner who has not been introduced to German folk songs, I invite you to take the opportunity to listen to them, learn them and yes even sing them - even if your attempt is only in the shower.

Don't shy away from learning new vocabulary just because of the infantile connotation folk songs sometimes get. You'd be surprised at how rich the imagery can be in certain folk songs and the glimpse into German culture it offers. It has been proven countless of times that music can accelerate language learning, so why not take the plunge? Learning one folk song a week would add a breadth to your vocabulary in no time.

The following are some favorite German folk songs that are fairly easy to learn:

This is a popular old German folk song that explains all the tasks that farmers need to do throughout the year starting with March. Lots of action verbs in this song that permit the learner to easily visualize and thereby learn quickly the meanings of these words. Putting pictures above the verbs would would speed up the learning process of the song.

  • Der Mond ist Aufgegangen

I have fond memories of this German folksong.

It is very popular, sung by children,sung at church,and heard almost always when German folk songs are sung. It is a very versatile song for teaching German. The first verse is best suited for beginners, whereas the other verses lend themselves to intermediate students. It is also a great song for discussing symbolism and religion.

This is a favorite folk song of teachers for introducing bird names - fourteen in total! Also wedding vocabulary is learned as the birds in the song celebrate a marriage.

  • Die Gedanken sind frei

The oft-repeated refrain "Die Gedanken sind frei" stays in your head. This a good song for discussion about freedom and human rights.

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  • Muss i denn

This German song made popular internationally through Elvis is good practice for those German learners who want to learn a little bit of southern German dialect.

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  • Dat du min Leevsten büst

Now to practice some northern Plattdeutsch. This folksong is much harder to understand than "Muss i denn", therefore it is more suitable for intermediate/advanced learners.

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  • Sah ein Knab ein Rӧslein stehn

This folksong is a good introduction to Goethe for the advanced beginner. Written by Goethe in 1799, the poem "Heideröslein" (rose on the heath) was set to music by multiple composers. The version that is sung today was composed by Schubert. A lesson on rhyme and symbolism can be presented through this song.

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  • Kein schöner Land in dieser Zeit

Very well-known folk song in Germany, sung often around campfires as it is an evening song.

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  • Im Frühtau zu Berge

Many Germans would be surprised to know that this popular folksong is originally from Sweden. It was translated  in the early 20th century into German and was an instant favorite Wanderlied and has been so ever since. There have even been parody spinn-offs made from this song such as  Beim Frühstück am Morgen sie sehn and Im Frühstau bei Herne wir blühen richtig auf.

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  • Grün, Grün, Grün 

Today this is regarded more of a children's song sung in the primary grades. However in the 19th century it was known as a dancing folksong. This song is perfect for learning colors and job titles simultaneously. What I like most about this song is that you can insert your own color into the song and the accompanying job title associated with it.

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