The town where I went to high school had a radio station. The station had a German program on Sundays. Having lived in Germany for two years and having taken German in school, sometimes I would tune in to the program.
One Sunday I was working on some homework while the German program was on in the background. I wasn’t paying attention. The host played a record about an astronaut. As I worked on my homework I followed the story about the preparation for the space flight. Then came the countdown.
Now I can count in German until die Kühe come home, but the countdown in the song about the astronaut slapped me across the eardrums. While I subconsciously followed the song before, I was now aware that it was in German. I didn’t understand anything in the rest of the song. I can’t seem to understand a foreign language if I am aware it is a foreign language.
With that said, I do have an ear for what might be “passable” German.
Elvis recorded a song called Wooden Heart which has some German lyrics. While he is not singing perfect German, I think he is at least passable. He might come across to a German as saying “Wie gehts, y’all,” but he sounds as if he could possibly have a basic conversation in German.
Joe Dowell also had a version of the song
It strikes me that, prior to this song, the only German words Mr. Dowell had ever heard were kindergarten and gesundheit. His German is cringe-worthy. He obviously was singing the words phonetically having no idea what they meant.
He later recorded the song in stereo. Oddly enough, this version does not have the German verse. I don’t know if there is a connection, but it seems that his German was so bad in his first recording that they decided to leave it out all together in the second.
There are a couple of songs with a German word that make me wince. Listening to them makes you think they are singing about the title character of a 1953 movie starring Alan Ladd.
One of them was done by several artists in the 1930’s and ’40’s, including the Andrews Sisters
In the early 1960’s, Wayne Newton had a hit with another record that totally messes up the pronunciation of the word schoen.
It would be one thing if the singers just mispronounced the word, but it it not really their fault. The rhyme schemes are predicated on the incorrect pronunciation. They rhyme shoen with explain and pain.
In German, the word is written schön, with an umlaut (the two dots) over the o. What does an umlaut do? Simply put, they add a slight e sound to the vowel which is why they are often replaced in English by an e (schoen vs. schön). That makes the umlaut over the u in Mötley Crüe redundant, and changes the pronunciation from Motley to Mootly.
Officer Toody gives us a demonstrates.
How is schön pronounced? Take the word shoe and add an n.
It does not sound like