18 September 2014


Deutsch (und Disney!) am Donnerstag
Or less alliteratively, German (and Disney!) on Thursday

This post is either perfectly timed or totally out of place: it all depends on how dystopian you think Disney is or isn't. LOL!

My German lessons will resume soon, but I haven't been totally idle. Recalling how great English songs were as teaching tools when I was an EFL tutor, I decided to learn some German Lieder for myself. Naturally, I started with children's songs (like Der Kuckuck und der Esel) and older pop songs (like Ich Will Keine Schokolade); but they just didn't stick to my memory the way I wanted, and studying with them never quite transcended a translation exercise. It was very frustrating for a while--because I could feel my language muscles getting flabby--but unexpectedly, this revision strategy collided with another and I found the perfect cross.

That other strategy involved reading the German translation of an English novel that I'm already very familiar with. Knowing what to expect, I believed, would free my mind to pay attention to context and keep me from pausing my reading in order to look up new words. Unfortunately, Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen was far too ambitious a choice. =P I'm not quite on that level yet . . . but as I found out through a serendipitous YouTube recommendation, familiar songs can take me where familiar novels can't.

Here's a three-legged list with some of the Disney classics that I've been enjoying. Let's see if you notice a theme!

3 German Versions of Disney Songs
That I Can Sing A Decent Bit Of

Das Farbenspiel des Winds

This wasn't my first Disney-auf-Deutsch song, but it was the first one whose lyrics I could remember on my own! After all, half of it reads like a vocabulary list of random things in nature. (What does ein Wolf have to do with ein Luchs?) Seriously, the advantage of "list songs" is that they teach new words and don't require beginners to follow a complex line of reasoning in order to get the point. Of course, this one isn't only a list; it begins and ends with an argument. But its being a very faithful translation helps. Unfortunately, I have little use for complex sentences these days . . . because I have no one to say them to =( . . . so the strings of words ("Sein Leben, seine Seele, seinen Stolz"--Oh, look! All three genders! LOL!) and the slogan-like phrases ("Kannst du singen wie die Stimmen in den Bergen?") have been the most helpful.

In Deiner Welt

I think I would have made a project of learning all the songs from Die Meerjungfrau if I hadn't learned that there are actually two different German translations of them. I seem to like the 1998 versions better, and if it weren't for my tendency to be like Schopenhauer's donkey (der Esel von Schopenhauer!), starving to death between two bales of hay because it can't decide which one to eat, I'd already know them. =P As fun as they are, though, they're not also useful. As I learned after setting Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen aside (but only for the moment!), I don't really need to know how to talk about wands and cauldrons and spells and such . . . or about gadgets and gizmos and thingamabobs (although "Ich hab' viele!").

In Meine Welt

Now, THIS I know! Dieses Lied weisse ich! And I think it's romantischer auf Deutsch than it is in English. It's as faithful a translation as the music allows: if one idea didn't fit in its old place, it was put in another. (That really helped me out.) The main difference is that Aladdin doesn't invite Jasmine to some impersonal "whole new world" but to his own world: a change that reflects the complexity of the story. Remember that at this point in the plot, Aladdin is still lying to Princess Jasmine about who he is, which means he doesn't have a world to invite her to. Or to be perfectly accurate, he does--but it's not the world he means. The really interesting part is that Jasmine knows he's lying; she just doesn't have proof. She accepts his invitation anyway, because she wants to let him think she means the fake world until she can learn about the real world and he can "propose" properly! Disney's Aladdin has long been one of the best Disney movies to analyse, and it looks as if the German version will just provide more grist for that mill.

Have you ever appreciated a song in translation? Tell us about it in the combox! =)


Belfry Bat said...

Adeste Fideles, full stop.

Brandon said...

I like "Avaruus", the Finnish version of the originally English Christmas song, "Walking in the Air":


Finnish (Arja Koriseva)

The Finns seem to like the song a lot; there are literally dozens of covers of it.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bat -- I always sing the Latin lyrics of that one . . . even if it throws off everyone singing the English lyrics. #evilgrin

Brandon -- That one is new to me! Taken on its own, it's not very Christmasy . . . except for the haunted quality in the melody that I do associate with Christmas. =)