What is one of the most enjoyable aspects of your German studies? When you have reached a high enough level of competency in your new language that it opens up new avenues of communication and comprehension.
It’s thrilling, isn’t it?
However, the route there might be lengthy and difficult. There are, however, shortcuts—calm, straightforward ones that will put you at peace.
The Foundation for Acquiring German Proficiency
Grammar is an essential aspect of strengthening your comprehension of German. You must be familiar with accusatives and datives, as well as German adjective endings and the marvels of compound nouns.
On the most fundamental level, however, learning German (or any other language) boils down to this: acquiring and expanding your vocabulary.
The rationale is simple: what good is learning the system of word formation if you can’t fill it with anything? That’s exactly what it is: bad.
If you can’t tell the nice baker down the street what you want, he won’t be impressed with your ability to conjugate any adjective.
Learning vocabulary also allows you to enter the caveman phase of speaking in your new language straight away. You know, when your conversations are reduced to “Me hungry.” Bread?” Oh, the joy.
Regardless of how boring it may seem at first, this phase is critical for starting to talk and putting your training wheels on. Furthermore, having a few words helps you to read and understand what is going on around you, which aids with passive language learning.
So let’s talk about how to learn German language the best way possible. We’ll need two items for that: 1) words that make sense to learn, and 2) a technique for acquiring and retaining them in our thoughts.
But first, how much vocabulary are we discussing?
How Much German Vocabulary Is Really Necessary?
Let’s face it: you’re learning German not just because it’s enjoyable (though you know it is), but also because you want to be fluent. You want to be able to talk in your new language in a natural and uninhibited manner, as well as conduct genuine discussions.
How much German do you need to know to get to that point? Is it necessary to memorize a complete dictionary and be able to repeat it back and forth? Is it enough to know how to pronounce soccer, beer, and sauerkraut in order to shine in any German conversation?
Of course, the answer is somewhere in the middle. You don’t need the language of a young Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to express more than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In German, for example, the 100 most frequent words account for around half of the language. That’s true, 100 words will allow you to access 50% of the widely used German. However, because they are composed of several prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns, confining oneself to these will not get you very far.
To cut a long tale short, according to study, you need to know roughly 1,300 terms to understand 85 percent of German writings. Isn’t that good? It’s entirely feasible. Furthermore, once you reach that position, you should be prepared to continue learning German through osmosis.
But how do you get these 1,300 words into your mind in the first place? That’s where we’re heading now.
Building a 5-step System to Learn German Vocabulary
Our objective is to develop a structure that will allow you to constantly add German words to your vocabulary, which will surely lead to success if you stay with it.
The method consists of the five steps listed below:
Let’s go over them one by one.
1. Collect unknown vocabulary.
Finding German terms that make sense to add to your Wortschatz (German for “word pool,” meaning “word treasure”) is the first step in broadening your Wortschatz.
This will, of course, be the majority of them at first. You may obtain relevant vocabulary by either using current word lists or by exposing oneself to material and situations where new information is likely to emerge (more on that below).
What matters is that you jot down any unknown words or anything in your native tongue that comes to mind that you would like or need to communicate in German. That is the purpose of the notepad. Make it your one-stop tool for German vocabulary study.
Don’t make the mistake of writing down new words in odd locations or on pieces of paper. Discipline becomes considerably more difficult as a result. Gather everything in one place so that you can comprehend it all at once.
2. Look up the definitions of unfamiliar terms.
If you are a quick thinker (which I am certain you are), you should be able to compile a big list of terms in no time. You must now locate their translations (in both German and your native language) in order to learn their meaning.
I prefer to make a long list of terms in a word processor and then batch enter them into Google Translate. This allows me to immediately translate a large number of words, and I can copy and paste both translations into an excel file to simply input them into my study program.
The issue with Google Translate is that its translations are not always accurate. It spits out erroneous interpretations just as frequently as it offers out the correct one.
The remedy here is to fine-tune your list before importing and memorizing it. You may do so by hovering your mouse over Google’s translation to examine its alternatives. Seeing various options will give you a better idea of what the true meaning is.
If it doesn’t clear it out, look for another dictionary, such as deepl.com. However, I’ve discovered that reviewing the alternatives translations typically allows me to select the proper term (and some synonyms).
If you prefer an alternative technique of searching up vocabulary (for example, by hand), proceed with what works best for you. Simply said, I found the aforementioned strategy to be the most cost-effective for my needs.
3. Put them into use
Now that you have your language pairs, they must be integrated into your learning strategy. This might require creating flashcards or importing a file into your memorizing tool, depending on what you’re using.
Anki, for example, lets you import a csv file with German terms in one column and their English equivalents in the other. The program will then generate flashcards with the language pairs on the front and back.
4. Study on a constant schedule.
The most crucial aspect of achieving fluency is, of course, really learning what you are acquiring. What good are the greatest instruments in the world if they are not used?
It is essential to make studying a habit to maintain consistency. Make a time in your day to study your vocabulary and make a commitment to it.
Whenever is best for you: early in the morning, immediately before lunch. Ten minutes every day is preferable than an hour once a week on Fridays.
5. Cleanse and repeat as necessary.
The remainder is simply repetition. If possible, add terminology to your notebook on a daily basis. Even five more words every day (easily obtained from a 5-minute podcast) leads in 150 new additions to your German vocabulary in a month.
At that rate, you’d reach our goal of 1,300 words in just 8.5 months! That is if you are not becoming quicker (which you will). Furthermore, by utilizing some of the materials listed below, you will be able to add substantial chunks of German information to your curriculum in one fell swoop and significantly reduce that time!
To make the process less tiresome, I like to set aside one day at the end of the week for translation and word processing. Sunday evening works wonderfully. That way, you may gather new words every day for a week and then enter them into the system in bulk. It also frees up your time throughout the week to focus on vocab study, resulting in less excuses not to accomplish it.
The trick, though, is to stick to this practice on a constant basis. If you do, building a broad German vocabulary should be a breeze. Introduce yourself to new terms, collect them, look for their opposites, and study them. It’s that simple.
In a Roundabout way: How to Learn German Vocabulary
Regular vocabulary study is the cornerstone for achieving fluency in German. Having effective knowledge, on the other hand, necessitates relatively few words.
Getting there isn’t all that tough if you have a method that exposes you to new stuff on a regular basis and allows you to practice on a consistent basis. Your breakthrough moment may arrive sooner than you think.