The Best German Vocab Workout: 5 Steps to Turn Your Daily Life into a Vocabulary Builder

Here’s the tragic secret about learning a foreign language.

At some point, you’ll just have to buckle down and memorize vocabulary.

Luckily, you don’t need to sequester yourself in a library and memorize flashcards for two years until you achieve a C1 level.

In fact, if you follow these five steps, you can transform your everyday life into a German vocabulary builder—and soon you’ll be amazed at how many words you know.


Why Turn Your Daily Life into a German Vocabulary Builder?

You won’t have to schedule in time to learn German.

It’s akin to riding your bike or walking to work instead of driving to work, then spending an hour at the gym in the evening. Integrate your vocabulary practice into your daily routine, and soon you’ll find that doubling up on life tasks and studying is by far the most time-effective way to expand your vocabulary.

You’ll learn practical vocabulary that you actually need.

You know how in middle and high school language classes, you sometimes learned clunky, strange sentences and useless vocabulary that had nothing to do with real life? This German vocabulary builder is the opposite of that. Since you’ll be practicing German in your everyday life, you’ll learn the words you need most.

How Can You Make This Vocab Method a Success?

Write down all the vocabulary you learn and review it wherever you go.

Every time I rode the S-Bahn last year, I would review the flashcards I made on an app on my phone. I know I said that this method of vocabulary learning wouldn’t take any time away from your daily life, but if you squirrel away the time that you would usually spend doing something unproductive (like listening to music or spacing out on the S-Bahn), then you’ll be able to build in a short but crucial amount of time to practice these words each day.

So keep a notebook or use a flashcard app, and find a creative way to write down these German words!

If you want to try out a flashcard app, consider using Anki or FluentU. 

Anki lets you create your own decks, which is great for target practice. Personally, I create decks dedicated to unfamiliar words from a movie I watched. After practicing them in Anki, I can rewatch it and see how much more I understand. 

FluentU is a bit different, because the flashcards are sourced from the video content on the platform. So if you decide to watch videos from a specific section (say, “Music Videos”), you can add the words from the lyrics to your custom flashcard decks. One nice thing about FluentU flashcards is that they’re multimedia, which might be helpful if you’re struggling to focus on your flashcard practice sessions.

If you do decide to make your own flashcards, describe the definition in German instead of writing it in English—or draw a funny picture instead of writing a definition. You’ll be much more likely to remember the term quickly by removing the English middleman.

You can maximize your German reading time with MosaLingua. The web version of this flashcards app, which comes with a content library for learners, allows you to get instant translations for words that come up in your reading and add them to your flashcards easily. You can have these flashcards sync directly to your phone, so you can review them while on the go.

Look back at your list every week.

Reflect back on the words on your list every week. Create scenarios based on each of the words and practice them to make sure you know how to use the words in context, not just in theory. If you look at your list every week, you’ll ensure  you haven’t forgotten any.

Plus, the other advantage of looking back at your list or older flashcards is seeing how far you’ve come. There’s nothing like the feeling of looking back at words that were once obscure to you and thinking, “How did I ever not know what that meant?”

5 Simple Steps to Transform Your Life into a German Vocabulary Builder

Ready to integrate German vocabulary building into your daily life? Follow these five steps and you’ll be navigating daily life auf Deutsch in no time at all.

1. Put your email, Facebook and other social media in German.

Most of us use our computers and phones every single day. Facebook, email, Twitter, Instagram—these have become part of our daily lives. You really can’t avoid the digital world if you’re a working person. So by putting your social media accounts and emails in German, you’re guaranteed to interact with German every single day.

How to do this:

This is the easiest of these five steps for people who live anywhere in the world. Gmail and Facebook both have a settings option to change your language. Simply navigate to the settings panel and switch these accounts from English into German.

And don’t be daunted by the sudden change to an interface that you’ve been looking at for years. You’ll get used to the new language in no time.

Vocabulary to get you started:

  • Posteingang (inbox)
  • Gefällt mir (“like”)
  • Teilen (share)
  • Werbung (advertisement)
  • Startseite (home page)

2. Join a German-speaking social group

By joining a German-speaking social group, you’ll learn vocabulary while making new friends, and perhaps expand your horizons as well. Sounds pretty perfect, right?

Here in Berlin, I started volunteering with a group that leads excursions of refugee children to Tempelhof Feld, a famous airport-turned-park in the city. What better way to learn German than by immersing myself in a German-speaking organization—and giving something back to the community at the same time?

How to do this:

If you live in Germany, you’re in luck. Groups like Give Something Back to Berlin and sites like will clue you in about the groups operating in your area.

If you live outside Germany, don’t despair. Plenty of cities around the world have German language schools and German interest groups that are comprised of people like you who want to have fun and practice German. Google “German social group” in your city, and chances are you’ll find that some Deutsch-philes out there are looking to learn and socialize.

Vocabulary to get you started:

  • Mitglied (member)
  • Ausflug (expedition)
  • Verein (club)
  • Meeting (meeting)

3. Find a way to work in a German setting

Most of us have to work, right? So why not find a way to work and practice German at the same time? You’ll be surrounded by German all day every day, saturating yourself in the language—which usually means learning very important business and office-related vocabulary.

How to do this:

Admittedly, this one is much easier if you live in Germany. Look for a job at a German company, not an English-speaking company run by expatriates. If you’re a freelancer, look for a co-working space where Germans are working, not people from other lands.

If you live outside the German-speaking world, plenty of American companies have branches or partnerships in Germany. Ask your boss if you can become involved with projects working with those German branches. Or, if your company doesn’t have a partnership in Germany, do some research on what your industry is like in Germany. Perhaps you’ll come up with some interesting ideas to improve your own workplace.

Vocabulary to get you started:

  • Büro (office)
  • Schreibtisch (desk)
  • Wasserkühler (water cooler)
  • Mitarbeiter (co-worker)

4. Get German health insurance

I’m pretty sure I’ve never learned as much complex German as when I applied for membership in a German health insurance organization. Those forms are complicated, and they really want plenty of information about their customers.

But by soldiering through those forms, seeing the same words over and over again, I greatly expanded by bureaucratic and health-related vocabulary.

How to do this:

If you live in Germany, apply for membership with a private German company or a public German company instead of obtaining private, foreign expatriate insurance through an English-speaking company. It can be tempting to apply for insurance in your native language, but don’t take the bait. You’ll be glad you didn’t.

Unfortunately, this is the one step on this list that you really can’t take unless you live in Germany. But even if you live elsewhere, take a look at German insurance companies such as TK and AOK; you’ll learn some vocabulary and a bit about the German insurance system to boot. You can even fill out TK’s online application form for fun!

Vocabulary to get you started:

  • Einkommen (income)
  • Versicherungspflicht (insurance obligation)
  • Unterlagen (documents)
  • Fragebogen (questionnaire)

5. Join a German exercise class

You’ll get to work out, make friends and learn German all at the same time. Sure, it can be frustrating to participate in a class where you’re not sure what’s going on at first, but panic and confusion can often be great motivators in learning new vocabulary. I bet after one or two classes, you’ll know far more than you ever imagined.

How to do this:

If you live in Germany, it’s easy! Just sign up for a class at your local gym. If you don’t live in Germany, there are plenty of German workout videos online that you can watch and learn from. Check out this Dance Power videoyoga video or cardio video to get started.

Vocabulary to get you started:

  • Workout Video (workout video)
  • Liegestütz (push-up)
  • Situp (sit-up)
  • Fitnessstudio (gym)
  • Yoga (yoga)

Learning lots of German vocabulary can seem daunting, but if you start integrating German into your daily life using these five steps, your vocabulary will expand faster than you ever could have imagined.

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe