Two Exercises for Improving your German Vocabulary

Hello everyone!

Glad to have you on my blog =)

I wanted to share a quick post today with two exercises for improving your German vocabulary. You can use the exercises for any of your target languages, but since I have a B.A. in German, attended all sorts of classes to learn German, tried (nearly) every method to improve my skills, and lived in Germany for a year, I wanted to do a language-learning post for German 😀

My specialty in life would have to be German grammar 😉 Most people are indifferent when it comes to grammar, but I love it! It’s interesting for me to learn about the structure of different languages,  so it’s no surprise that I have predisposition for liking (German, Russian, French) grammar. German grammar seems difficult in the beginning for most learners and that’s the popular opinion around the world, but, in my opinion, it’s much more reliable and logical than French or English grammar. 

I’m not sure if many German learners read my blog, but if you are learning German and have questions, or want recommendations for German learning resources, please feel free to ask in the comments.

 

With the little introduction aside, let’s move on to the two exercises:

Exercise 1:

  1. Write a text in German. For example: a diary entry, a letter to a loved one (imagined or real), a report about something, or an essay on a particular topic.
  2. Try to think and write in German only. There may be some words that you still need to translate, so make a list of the words you need to know.*
  3. Group words from the list together. You can group verbs/adjectives/prepositions together, or words that belong to a particular topic such as “university life.”
  4. Study these words and re-write the text. Here is an essay checklist for writing correctly in German: Essay Writing Checklist. Here is a list of transition words to help with the structure of your essay: Aufsatz Phrases (pdf). Finally, here is another resource that discusses common mistakes students of German make in their writing: Grammar and Usage Advice.

 

*why should you start with German instead of translating? 1) If your goal is to speak German, you have to use German before you get really good at it. Actively using a language is the only way to become “fluent,” so it helps to start thinking, speaking and writing even the most basic phrases and sentences when self-studying. 2) You want to avoid awkward translations. By using German only, you are helping to develop a feeling for correct, natural German. Also, if you are just translating a text instead of trying to see what you know first, your progress will be very slow. 3) If you are an upper intermediate or advanced student, I would suggest translating an essay you have written in your native language into German. You have already developed a feeling for the language, so your main concern is no longer major translation mistakes, but rather limited vocabulary. You may have good grammar and know many words, but are you always repeating them over and over? Translating a text you have written in your native language will give you plenty of opportunities to learn new words and to compare your writing ability in your native and target languages.

 

Exercise 2:

  1. Select a topic (for example: animals, nationalities, professions.)
  2. Jot down words you already know.
  3. Search them online for natural examples from native speakers. For this I recommend: Tatoeba, a collection of sentences and translations or use a dictionary to find related words. I recommend dict.cc.

Let’s use the word Kellner (waiter):

Kellner example
By searching dict.cc, we learned that instead of saying “ich bin Kellner von Beruf” you can also use “arbeiten als.” More colloquial, would be the verb “kellnern.” There are also further collocations like “eine Stelle annehmen.” Dict.cc also gives grammatical information and synonyms at the top of each entry (not shown here.)

 

 

So, how else can you improve your vocabulary in a foreign language? a) Listen daily to native speakers by watching TV shows, the news,  films, or YouTube videos. b) Read daily— you can actively look for new words, or just enjoy the story. Exposure and practice are key.

 

More blog posts I’ve written about learning foreign languages:

 

I hope it helped! I’m going to use the first exercise to help with my French self-study and the second one to expand my Russian vocabulary.

Have a great morning/day/evening,

Stephanie ❀

Ten Tips for Learning Vocabulary in a Foreign Language

Dear language learners,

I want to share my top ten tips for learning vocabulary in a foreign language. Each language is rich in vocabulary and it’s a necessary part of language learning. These tips will help you to learn vocabulary more effectively.

Let’s begin!

  1. In addition to writing down the new word, also make note of the grammatical information (part of speech, plural form, declination, past tense for irregular verbs), a translation or definition, and an example of the word in natural context.  ” Although I love children, I love babies more. I have been working as a baby-sitter for two years.”  baby (n.)- babies (plural); “a very young child, especially one recently born.”
  2. Break down words into familiar elements. regardless: regard (n.)- attention to something; -less (an adj. suffix) meaning without; regardless = “without attention to the present situation despite the prevailing circumstances.” This will help with productive languages like German and Russian, which sometimes results in very long words that seem challenging at first, and, once you understand how the main prefixes and suffixes in a language work, you can use the language more creatively.
  3. Learn words with their antonyms. You make it easier for yourself to memorize new words with this method.
  4. Memorize words in small phrases. This makes a difference when you not only want to understand a language, but also produce it without a major struggle or much hesitation. Thank you for the flowers. Thanks for your help!” You may be surprised when, at an advanced level in a foreign language, you struggle to respond quickly and fluently in basic situations like saying sorry or thanks because you simply haven’t practiced them.
  5. Add images and audio to online notecards. Images will support visual learners, and listening to correct, native pronunciation will help you speak with a better accent and be better understood. This is especially important for beginners and languages with less predictable pronunciation such as French.
  6. Try to have your notebook, deck of notecards or list of vocabulary words always on you. Practice them when you lie down to sleep, when you ride the subway, or when you have a break from school/work.
  7. Instead of learning random lists, learn words that have a connection to each other. Some example topics include: school or university, family, human communication, government, etc.
  8. Look around your environment and try to label things in your mind. This way you are learning vocabulary that is relevant to you.
  9. Take it a step further and put labels on objects in your surroundings. This is most useful for beginners or those who are struggling to learn new vocabulary in their target language.
  10. Train yourself in drills. For example, write down the ten words you are trying to learn and recall the translation without looking. Or create a story with the new words. Language production is the key to memorizing vocabulary deeply!

 

Conclusion: When learning a new word, your goal should be able to use the word. Grammatical information as well as an example in natural context are ways to boost your chances of using the word correctly and easily. Another important thing to do when learning vocabulary is to repeat. Do not forget to learn correct pronunciation with audio and try searching the word in Google images to get a clear picture in your mind. A great way to improve your comprehension in a foreign language is to do a lot of reading and listening—it helps connect the pieces and after a lot of input you will develop a feeling for the language. Many teachers say that you should at least try to learn one new word a day, but don’t overwhelm yourself with hundreds of new words in just a few days–stick to small goals.

Stay tuned for future posts on tips for speaking and listening in a foreign language and click here for more language-related posts that you don’t want to miss!: Language Learners‘ Toolbox

~ Stephanie F.

 

General Tips for Language Learners

The closer the target language is to your native language, the easier it will be to learn. Don’t get discouraged. It takes years to get really good at a language. You’re not bad at languages. You just need to step out of your comfort zone and go all in 🙂

Dear readers,

Thanks for visiting my blog today! How goes it? 😉

Before we get started, I want to say one thing: you learn a language by doing. It requires motivation, some sort of system, and regular exposure/practice. The closer the target language is to your native language, the easier it will be to learn. Don’t get discouraged. It takes years to get really good at a language. You’re not bad at languages. You just need to step out of your comfort zone and go all in.

 

img_4646
~studying German October 2017~

 

General Tips

  • Keep a grammar cheat-sheet at your desk or on the bathroom mirror.

 

  • Write hard-to-remember words on the back of your hand. One per day. 🙂

 

  • Create mental images of the words you are trying to learn in your target language. Search Google images. Don’t just rely on the translation in your native language.

 

  • Play video games in your target language.

 

  • Every once in a while, go back to old materials. A refresher is never bad and you can look back on the progress you’ve made.

 

  • Learn with interesting materials according to your personal interests instead of only working with a text book that may not interest you very much. Try out YouTube videos, online materials, fun stories, and music.

 

  • Have a notebook just for that language. Stay organized.

 

  • Stay relaxed when speaking the foreign language. In the beginning, find a language partner who is aware of your level and goals in the language.

 

  • Look for cognates and FALSE FRIENDS! The cognates will be easier to memorize but will still enlarge your vocabulary. Learning the false friends will not only save you from mistakes, but will also teach you more about the history and linguistics of both languages.

 

  • Spend timing learning how to conjugate verbs and build correct sentences according to the tense system of that language.

 

  • Be intentional with your vocabulary learning. What words do you need? What words are you expected to know? Develop an interest for digging deeper into the word bank of the language.  😀

 

  • When writing a school paper or just practicing the language, write it in your native language first and then translate into target language afterwards. Writing is a great way to make progress with your language level; I suggest also writing in your target language to help get the language integrated into your thoughts until you produce sentences without thinking about it.

 

  • Look for audio materials with transcriptions or subtitles. Listen to the materials several times and take notes.

 

  • Spend enough time with materials for learners and with the authentic language. What basic grammar do I need to know to make use of the language? How do native speakers speak the language? Both are important to “take in” and be able to use the language.

 

  • Build “language islands” and practice speaking. Language islands are stories, experiences, answers to common questions, etc. that may come up during a conversation. Learn correct phrases, structures and practice vocabulary, so that you speak more fluently the next time you have a conversation.

 

  • When listening to a conversation or a talk in your native language, try translating in your head into your target language. You can also translate your target language into your native–this should help to build vocabulary.

 

  • Don’t expect that you are going to command the language as easily as your native language and realize it is a process not an instant achievement 😉

 

That’s it for the general tips! Did you learn something new from this post? I’d love to hear from you.

~ Stephanie F.