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Lesson Transcript

Chuck: This is Intermediate Series Lesson 3.
Judith: Willkommen.
Chuck: Welcome to the third GermanPod101 Intermediate lesson.
Judith: This lesson will introduce another interesting German song to you, as learning German from songs is fun.
Chuck: Alright, what song did you pick this time?
Judith: 99 Luftballons by Nena. It’s a song that you may have heard in English before but originally it’s in German and the German text is a lot more expressive.
Chuck: I actually know this one.
Judith: Well, I'm sorry. As usual, this is still not out of copyright even if it’s an older song and we can’t play the song on here. However, I have an alternative that is Chuck will sing.
Chuck: What? I…
Judith: Come on, you just admitted that you know this song.
Chuck: Alright. Hast du etwas Zeit für mich? Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich von 99 Luftballons...
Judith: I think that’s enough. Chuck, the listeners will probably be very happy to look at the lesson description on GermanPod101.com and just go to the site that we list...
Chuck: auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont.
Judith: They can listen to the song there or they can buy a legal MP3. And let’s look at the text now.
Chuck: You sure it’s ok?
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: Ok. Don’t forget to write and say how much you love my singing.
Judith: Yeah, I can so see that happening. Alright, let’s do it the boring way.
Judith: Very courageous. Hast du etwas Zeit für mich? Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich.
Chuck: Nein, ich singe ein Lied für dich.
Judith: Just translate.
Chuck: Ok. “Do you have time for me? Then I sing a song for you.”
Judith: von 99 Luftballons auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont.
Chuck: “From 99…”
Judith: No, “about”. It is a false friend. Von is “about”.
Chuck: “About”, ok.
Judith: Or “of”.
Chuck: Ok, easy, easy. I had a bit to drink so… We’ll get this.
Judith: You shouldn’t drink before recording.
Chuck: “About 99 air balloons”? “Hot air balloons”?
Judith: Simply “air balloons”. You know, those balloons filled with air?
Chuck: Hot air balloons.
Judith: No, I think hot air balloons would be the ones that carry people, no?
Chuck: Oh, yeah.
Judith: This is the small kind, you know the ones you would have for a party.
Chuck: “On their way to the horizon”?
Judith: Yes. Denkst du vielleicht grad an mich? Dann singe ich ein Lied für dich. Von 99 Luftballons und dass sowas von sowas kommt.
Chuck: “Are you perhaps thinking right now about me? Then I’ll sing a song for you about 99 balloons…”
Judith: und dass sowas von sowas kommt. It’s really hard to translate. I mean it doesn’t sound good in English. And that something like that comes from something like that. It’s like “that the things can have this kind of cause, this cause can provoke such a reaction”.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: Sowas, it’s like so etwas, it’s a contraction.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: Something like that.
Chuck: Yeah, I understand it but it’s hard to translate.
Judith: Yeah.
Chuck: I think I need some more beer and then I can translate better.
Judith: Hey, don’t get drunk here on the line. We might have concerned parents calling us.
Chuck: I will drink some water now. As I was before...
Judith:Nonalcoholic beer, right?
Chuck: Nonalcoholic water.
Judith: 99 Luftballons auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont hielt man für UFOs aus dem All.
Chuck: UFOs I understand.
Judith: Except in German we just say it as one word, UFO. We don’t say U-F-O. Were taken for UFO’s from space, that’s All. Space.
Chuck: Oh, ok.
Judith: And hielt man is derived from the verb halten, are held to be. Darum schickte ein General ne Fliegerstaffel hinterher.
Chuck: So “That’s why a general sent his air force here”?
Judith: Yeah, well, “a fleet of air craft” or fighter airplanes.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: Alarm zu geben wenns so wär. Dabei waren da am Horizont nur 99 Luftballons.
Chuck: “To give an alarm when it’s true…”
Judith: If it was true.
Chuck: “So then it was on the horizon only 99 balloons.”
Judith: “Yet”, “yet on the horizon there were only 99 balloons”. Dabei. Yet. 99 Düsenflieger, jeder war ein großer Krieger, hielten sich für Captain Kirk.
Chuck: What’s a Düsen?
Judith: A Düsenflieger is a jet pilot.
Chuck: “Everyone was a great soldier”?
Judith: “Great warrior”.
Chuck: “Warrior”…
Judith: Krieger.
Chuck: Just like Captain Kirk.
Judith: “They took themselves to be Captain Kirk.” It says hielten again.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: Das gab ein großes Feuerwerk.
Chuck: “There was a lot of fireworks.”
Judith: Yeah. Die Nachbarn haben nichts gerafft und fühlten sich gleich angemacht.
Chuck: What’s raffen?
Judith: It’s colloquial for “understand”.
Chuck: So “they didn’t understand and they were soon turned on”? No.
Judith: No. They were feeling, they were feeling threatened.
Chuck: That can come from anmachen?
Judith: Yeah, well, anmachen literally means to, like, flirt with somebody. It has a somewhat negative connotation and so this is in this sense, “threatened”.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: So “They felt threatened” Dabei schoss man am Horizont auf 99 Luftballons.
Chuck: “Then one shot the…”
Judith: I said dabei is best translated as “yet”.
Chuck: Ah…
Judith: As in contrary sense.
Chuck: “Yet the men shot the 99 balloons”?
Judith: Man is not a double N here. It’s single N, so “somebody” or “you” or “one”, “one was shooting at 99 air balloons”.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: 99 Kriegsminister, Streichholz- und Benzinkanister hielten sich für schlaue Leute.
Chuck: So “99 war ministers”, Streichholz?
Judith: “Match”, like a match for lighting a fire.
Chuck: Yeah, “a match and gas canisters”.
Judith: Yeah, it’s just an image of how dangerous this kind of situation was. Hielten sich für schlaue Leute. “They took themselves to be smart people”, they thought they were smart, witterten schon fette Beute, riefen Krieg und wollten Macht.
Chuck: Witterten?
Judith: Wittern is “to scent”, like a dog would scent.
Chuck: Beute is…
Judith: Beute is “prey”.
Chuck: Ok.
Judith: “They scented their fat prey”. Riefen Krieg und wollten Macht.
Chuck: “They called war and wanted power.”
Judith: Man, wer hätte das gedacht, dass es einmal soweit kommt, wegen 99 Luftballons.
Chuck: “Man, who would have thought that it would come this far because of 99 balloons?”
Judith: Wow, perfect translation.
Chuck: That’s because of that beer. I mean the water I’ve been drinking.
Judith: 99 Jahre Krieg ließen keinen Platz für Sieger.
Chuck: “99 year war leaves no place for a victor.”
Judith: Kriegsminister gibts nicht mehr und auch keine Düsenflieger.
Chuck: “There’s no more war minister and also…”
Judith: War ministers because we were talking of 99 of them before.
Chuck: How would you say one?
Judith: Einen Kriegsminister gibts nicht mehr.
Chuck: Ah, I get it. Ok.
Judith: The idea is that all 99 of them perished in this war.
Chuck: So “There’s no more war ministers and also no air force”.
Judith: Yeah, “no more jet pilots”. Heute zieh ich meine Runden, seh die Welt in Trümmern liegen.
Chuck: “Today I'm taking my rounds”, “I'm taking my circles”?
Judith: “Taking my turns and just walking around”.
Chuck: “And I see the world in shambles”?
Judith: “Ruins”, yeah. Hab nen Luftballon gefunden, denk an dich und lass ihn fliegen.
Chuck: “I found a balloon and I think about you, and let it fly.”
Judith: Nena has always been a very anti-war singer, and this is a cold war song so…
Chuck: I think she got her point across.
Judith: Yeah. Now for today’s cultural point, I would like to talk about the cold war in Germany. And you can guess after the Second World War Germany would not have been seen as friendly, but it proved to be a necessary barrier against communism. And that’s what turned Germany into what it has become today. The thing is that the powers clashed right in Germany, the West and the East, the communist, the capitalist, the Americans and the Soviets. So the thing is that the powers clashed right in Germany and they were dividing the country into the East and the West. And they divided Berlin into East and West. In fact, between June 1948 and May 1949, the Soviets even laid siege to West Berlin and they were trying to occupy West Berlin themselves. They did that by preventing supplies from reaching it and they forced the Western allies to launch a massive scale air operation to bring all the necessary supplies by aircraft. Can you imagine that? A city of several million people, and they were entirely supplied by air for almost a year.
Chuck: That’s pretty crazy.
Judith: Yeah, it’s known as the Berlin Airlift in German. Luftbrücke in German.
Chuck: You will even notice that there’s a complete movie about this.
Judith: Yeah. Well, more than one movie mentions it but there’s one movie that’s called Die Luftbrücke and it’s all about this historical moment. Now, after the Soviets had given in on this occasion, Berlin remained divided. Between 1961 and 1989, the Soviets even had a fortified wall separate the West Berlin from the rest of Eastern Germany. Cause, you know, Berlin is all the way in the East and yet the Western wanted to have a share of that pie, you know. Each had their own little zone in Germany and each had their own little piece of Berlin. So the Soviets had this wall and they were trying to keep East German citizens from emigrating to Western Germany that way. And a lot of people were killed in their attempt to cross the wall because Eastern Germany was very much worse than Western Germany.
Chuck: Yeah, at the end of the Second World War, pretty much all of Germany was a rubble, especially the bigger cities which were home to industry. But from that rubble, the victor’s extracted anything still of use such as machinery from factories and ships to their countries. The plan for Eastern Germany was then to be turned into a country of agriculture which can still be noticed today. Some among the Western allies would have liked the same for Western Germany, but in the end it was decided that Western Germany would be much better as a powerful barrier against communism and as a prime example of the superiority of capitalism.
Judith: It might be interesting to know that another way was possible at the time, namely Austria had also initially been divided but then it concluded a treaty to the effect that Austria would be neutral in the cold war. And in exchange Austria gained its unification. Switzerland, of course, had been neutral throughout the whole war and remained so afterwards.
Chuck: Anyway, Germany remained divided despite a lot of cries for reunification. And the plan was to turn Western Germany into a success story. And it was.
Judith: There are a lot of factors that turned Western Germany into such a successful country so soon after this devastating war. One of them was certainly the Marshall plan. The Marshall plan was the Americans’ attempt to rebuild Europe by giving a lot, a lot of funds to all the countries stricken by way, and especially also Germany, I mean Western Germany. And, through this plan, the German factories were able to buy new machinery in place of the old ones that had been abducted to various victorious countries. So that they were actually better off after this. And another thing that led to this success was, of course, the cleansing of the Nazi elite, leading to new leaders, new government. And the new government had more sensible policies, especially with the economy. They did everything to get the economy started again and of course there was a lot, a lot of hard work for everybody involved, especially the Trümmerfrauen, the women that helped rebuild Germany when the men were still prisoners of war or didn’t come back at all. Western Germany really recovered a lot more quickly than anybody could’ve expected. This economic success around 1955 is known as the Wirtschaftswunder, “economy miracle” if you want. Western Germany was a lot more prosperous than Eastern Germany and today, 20 years since, it’s still that way. Well, there are still indicators of this because the average income or the average standard of living is still higher in the Western part of Germany than in the East, despite all government measures.
Chuck: And you’ll also notice that if you work in Western Germany you’ll see that part of your paycheck is actually taken out for something called a Solidzuschlag, it’s a solidarity payment that’s made from West Germany to East Germany.
Judith: Yeah, I think it’s only in the more prosperous states that they do this, but it’s that idea. Yeah, we’re giving money to Eastern Germany this way and Eastern Germany has already received maybe ten times as much as we initially receive in the Marshall plan, and unfortunately it has not been as successful at recovering.
Chuck: Well, it looks like we got through this whole thing without any grammar or anything like that.
Judith: It’s not over yet. Grammar is coming up right now.
Chuck: You’re sure?
Judith: Yes.
Chuck: Can’t we just go, leave and drink some water?
Judith: No, sorry, but I’ll try to keep it short.
Chuck: Alright.

Lesson focus

Judith: Today’s grammar is the past tense because it was liberally used throughout the song. For the past tense regular verbs take the ending te, TE. For example, with the verb schicken, “to send”. Ich schickte.
Chuck: I sent.
Judith: Du schicktest.
Chuck: You sent.
Judith: Er schickte.
Chuck: He sent.
Judith: Wir schickten.
Chuck: We sent.
Judith: Ihr schicktet.
Chuck: You all sent.
Judith: Sie schickten.
Chuck: They sent.
Judith: This is how it works for regular verbs, we call them weak verbs. Irregular verbs take a different stem, much like in English, and it sometimes even matches. For example, the verb singen. The form for singen is ich sang.
Chuck: I sang.
Judith: And you know the vowel matches in writing “to sing”, singen, ich sang, “I sang”. Another irregular verb that you noticed in the text was halten, ich hielt. It would be “I held” or “I took something for”. You know, “all these people with their misassumptions”.
Chuck: Like “I held that to be true”.
Judith: Yeah, for example. Anyway, there are two really important irregular verbs that you, of course, need to know. And one is sein.
Chuck: To be.
Judith: The form is war.
Chuck: Was.
Judith: Ich war, du warst, er war, wir waren, ihr wart, sie waren. You see, the endings are the same. It’s just all based on the stem war, which is completely unrelated to sein. And the other really important verb is haben and the preterite past tense of haben is hatte, with the same endings.
Chuck: So the good news with these irregular verbs is you just have to learn the one change and then all the regular rules apply.
Judith: Just like German students do for English. You know, when German students learn English they say, “To sing/sang/sung”, that is “to sing” infinitive, “I sang” the past tense, and “I have sung”, “sung” is the past participle. So for German you’d be doing the same because it’s the same language family. You have to learn singen and ich sang and eventually you will learn gesungen.
Chuck: At least we weren’t the only ones who have to learn it.
Judith: Yeah, so, diese Lektion war interessant, oder?


Chuck: Ja, aber diese Lektion war auch lang genug. Can we stop here?
Judith: I guess. If you all promise to look at the transcript and the exercises and do them.
Chuck: Of course I will. I’ll do them tomorrow, I'm sure.
Judith: Tonight.
Chuck: Like, a little after midnight?
Judith: Ok.
Chuck: Right, thanks for listening. See you next week.
Judith: Bis nächste Woche!