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In Rammstein's "Ausländer", there's this verse:

So hab ich mich schon früh gezwungen
Dem Missverständnis zum Verdruss
Dass man Sprachen lernen muss

  1. Dem Missverständnis zum Verdruss - literally to impart frustration onto misunderstanding, am I right that here, the meaning is something like to avoid misunderstandings?

  2. If so, what is the sentence structure here? I'm trying to "clean it up" and having some trouble:

  • Ich habe mich schon früh, dem Missverständnis zum Verdruss, gezwungen, dass...

    • dass doesn't fit, does it?

      Ich habe mich gezwungen, [etwas zu tun]

      would make sense.

    • Something like

      Ich habe mich früh zu etwas gezwungen, dass ja nichts passiert

      would make sense colloquially, but in the lyrics, it's just ich habe mich gezwungen, dass, so it's missing that subject?

  • Also,

    Ich habe mich [...] gezwungen, dass man Sprachen lernen muss

    that also seems incomplete to me (because the [...] part doesn't change the overall structure)?

    • Ich habe mich zu der Einsicht gezwungen, dass ...

    • Ich habe früh eingesehen, dass ...

    or something like that is what I'd expect.

It's tempting to me to assume that all of this is artistic license, intended for German ears that can integrate over the poetic flow, but I can't help feeling that it's just my mediocre German understanding that's limiting me here. Any insight?

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  • 5
    If you wonder if this is somehow idiomatic, no. This sounds just as garbled to Germans as to you. We can but guess what this is supposed to mean.
    – user2508
    Aug 18 '21 at 20:33
  • For me the "Dass man Sprachen lernen muss" reminds me strong to Wilhelm Busch "Max und Moritz": "Also lautet ein Beschluss, dass der Mensch was lernen muss." It is the beginning of the 4th chapter and leads into the topic of school as part of every childs life. It is a traditional old German children's book with intention to teach children how to be "artig" (kind/nice). So the old fashioned "Verdruss" part would fit into this time scheme... 2 days ago
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It's hard to answer this without a whole lot of personal interpretation, please bear with me.

You're right, it's all artistic license.

Read as a text, the three lines at first just sound convoluted, like they were written by someone who's not very eloquent in German. But that's not true at all on second glance, and I suspect it's an intentional effect. I think it has to be taken into consideration that Rammstein are very interested in how it sounds. Rammstein just loves to use words that sound good in their particular "martial" way of pronouncing German. Which means: words with many consonants, many rs, many hissing sounds.

gezwungen
Missverständnis
Verdruss
Sprachen lernen muss

I'm pretty sure that the way it sounds played a major role especially for the very unusual wording "dem Missverständnis zum Verdruss". A line that's not easy to come up wth at all.

Your questions:

  1. You got that 100% correct. He expresses it like he learns languages in order to annoy the personified concept of "misunderstanding".

  2. The main sentence (without the Missverständnis line) in standard prose would be:

So habe ich mich schon früh gezwungen, Sprachen zu lernen.

To expand the part after the comma to the longer "dass man Sprachen lernen muss" isn't really possible with "gezwungen" in standard German. As you wrote, it would work with other verbs though, for example "So habe mich schon früh überzeugt, dass ..." or "Ich habe schon früh die Erfahrung gemacht, dass ...", so to transfer that sentence structure to the more colorful and fitting "ich habe mich gezwungen" isn't completely correct, but not a far stretch either.

The sudden change from "ich" to "man" while still meaning "ich" is a very common trait of colloquial German btw. People switch to "man" when they want to sound less personal. In this case, it fits the more general statement in the dass clause.

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This part is basically just one sentence:

So hab ich mich schon früh gezwungen, dem Missverständnis zum Verdruss, dass man Sprachen lernen muss.

The middle part is just additional Info, the start of the "Nebensatz" with "dass" is very regularly done like this, just see your own examples above, or on DWDS here. Taking your own example here "Ich habe mich gezwungen, [etwas zu tun]" you say would be fine, it is fine because [etwas zu tun] becomes [Sprachen lernen]

The use of Verdruss here can basically be translated as "to the anger of misunderstanding" in which "misunderstanding" is somewhat personified

Yes it is somewhat artistic, but it is perfectly fine german too

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Andere Länder, andere Zungen
So hab ich mich schon früh gezwungen
Dem Missverständnis zum Verdruss
Dass man Sprachen lernen muss

It may be a case of "Reim dich oder ich fress dich" (meaning the text was "forced" into this result in order to rhyme) or it may have a deeper meaning.

I assume, it is intentionally ambiguous and difficult to translate.

Because you would not say, "Ich habe mich gezwungen, dass man Sprachen lernen muss". So the sentence structure is very weird. Otherwise it could mean this: "Ich habe mich gezwungen - dem Missverständnis zum Verdruss - dass man Sprachen lernen muss."

Anyhow. This is not something I would write this way. Think of it as a poem. To understand a poem, you can either understand it intuitively or find out more about the context.

Rammstein uses highly controversial texts and imagery - "playing" with sometimes Nazi symbols and imagery and - here - singing about someone acting as a womanizer or - as suggested by https://www.bedeutungonline.de/ - referring to sex tourism (as also suggested by the music video).

They use - in my opinion - traits of "the ugly German" (e.g. Nazi, racist etc.) themselves to point out and criticize these traits, often crossing a line of politically correct.

The entire context of the song is that the protagonist, as a womanizer, uses language as a weapon to stalk his prey worldwide. (Something I cannot but cringe when I think about it).

Attempt (!) of a translation:

If it did not have to rhyme, I would write it like this:

In anderen Ländern werden andere Sprachen gesprochen. Daher habe ich mich schon früh dazu gezwungen, Sprachen zu lernen und damit dem Missverständnis ein Schnippchen geschlagen.

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Rammstein are virtuoses with language and they use language also in uncommon but genious ways.

  1. The literal translation is the correct one - with the meaning of the not-so literal translation you also provide yourself. Personally I'd translate it like (similarily odd structure):

So I have forced myself early on, to the dismay of frustration, that one has to learn languages.

  1. The sentence structure is at least uncommon (and I'd indeed attribute that to artistic license, probably to match the rythm etc), and I think your assessment is right. Yet Ich habe mich [...] gezwungen, dass man Sprachen lernen muss is not incomplete. The not-quoted part is not essential, but is a n explanation or expansion on circumstance. It's not a structure used often in nowadays German, yet it's grammatically correct: "etwas jemandem zum Verdruss (tun)" is often used in constellations like "Dem Lehrer zum Verdruss ging Hänschen schon vor Stundenschluss". It's a very old fashioned way to formulate that something is done to the dismay of whom or whatever.

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