Language is all about naming the world around us.
Communication is an agreement of terms.
Somewhere along the line, a group of people agreed to call that a vase, and this a plant.
Take a look at the room around you and think of all the names for those objects. Now, do you know how to describe those same objects, but in German?
The key to increasing your vocabulary in any language is memory, and in turn, usage. We know so many words in our native language because we use that language each and every day.
And as we grew up, we came to know what objects were called without having to think too much about it. Repetition allows us to train our minds to know the right word to use.
In this article, we’ll discuss valuable resources that will allow you to practice your vocabulary as much as you’d like. Pretty soon all those objects around you will have two names!
Word Play: Vocabulary Resources to Supplement Your Learning
The most effective way to learn German—or any language, for that matter—is to incorporate it into your everyday life. In fact, if you can approach learning new vocabulary with a positive and fun attitude, you’ll find greater success in memorizing and recalling those words. Think “Sesame Street.”
The following resources will help you supplement your vocab exercises:
- The Goethe-Institut offers a vocabulary training app, so you can learn on the go. Take a few minutes as you ride the bus, do your laundry or even between commercials to study your German vocabulary words. If you’re looking for alternative explanations of grammar and usage, the Goethe-Institut is handy as well.
- Flashkit is a great German flashcard resource for those of us who love the feeling of a pack of 3 x 5 note cards. Flashcards can be turned so that either the English or German side is facing.
This is an important skill to differentiate, as it’s one thing to be able to translate German to English, but quite another to provide the German word for the English equivalent. Increase your fluency by mastering both practices. Cards are separated by subject, and you can learn 100 cards at a time.
- The Transparent Language: Word of the Day is the ideal place for beginners and those unsure of where to start in their epic vocabulary-learning quest. This website provides a word each day that you should focus on and try to use as much as you can.
This helpful resource spells the word, lists the word’s part of speech and pronounces the word itself as well as the German example sentence. In it for the long haul? You can sign up for the site to email you the word of the day, so your daily practice comes right into your inbox.
It’s always good to experiment with different learning methods, so check out these resources as you work on your vocabulary. However, the following sites have been created to specifically address your vocabulary needs.
No more excuses! Let’s get to learning some new vocab!
Handy Resources and Exercises to Improve Your Vocabulary Skills Daily
Most German students recognize the bright yellow cover and blue writing of Langenscheidt’s dictionary. Unsure of the meaning of a certain word? Page through Langenscheidt and you’ll soon realize why this is a favorite dictionary of many German students. This thick, brightly-bound invaluable resource is also accompanied by an online counterpart.
To access vocabulary exercises from Langenscheidt, you need to create a username and password. Accounts, however, are free. Langenscheidt offers users “quick courses” and “vocabulary courses,” which are separated by fluency level and subject. While the “quick courses” act as more of a refresher, Langenscheidt does offer more in-depth German grammar courses, including things like verb tenses.
Exercises here focus on the nitty-gritty of the German language. If you can learn the gender, conjugation or even the synonyms and antonyms of each vocabulary word, you’ll be able to navigate the German language like a pro.
For the serious language-learner, Langenscheidt does offer Language-Trainer Pro for a one-time payment of 9.90 euros. I suggest playing around with what the free site offers first and seeing if it fits your learning style before making any monetary commitment.
Want to learn about all aspects of the German language, beyond the textbook? FluentU is your resource! FluentU’s program dives deep into the language and offers students an inside-look into the daily lives of Germans, the slang that takes years to learn and understand and the tiniest aspects of culture that make German unique.
FluentU offers a unique program that provides interactive videos to help students learn real German. It takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Videos are organized by difficulty (beginner to native), topic (arts and entertainment, health and lifestyle, etc.) and format (video blog, news, shows, etc.)—so you can easily browse and find something perfect for your level and interests.
Every word comes with an in-context definition, image, audio and multiple example sentences for easy learning and understanding. You can even click on a word to see how it’s used in other videos across the site.
For example, if you tap the word bereit, you’ll see this:
You can probably already tell that FluentU isn’t just for watching videos.
It’s a complete language learning program which provides plenty of tools to actively practice your German vocabulary and grammar, like interactive subtitles, flashcards, vocabulary lists and more.
Even the flashcards are unique, allowing you to get context from video clips and play games like “fill in the blank.”
Immerse yourself in the language by watching on your laptop, desktop computer or iPhone/Android. As you watch, you’ll pick up on new words, phrases and ways of expressing yourself—without even realizing it!
You can access Vokabel.com’s content via computer, iPhone or Android. This website offers users a place to practice verbs and vocabulary. It’s just as important to know how to use a verb as it is to know what that verb means.
Vocabulary exercises are categorized based on subject. After you click on which subject you’d like to focus on, exercises pop up as a simple interactive process. Users first choose their mother language and the language they want to practice in. You can also choose to retest words you get correct.
Once you have your options set, click the “Get Word” button for your first word. Your vocabulary word will come up under “Word” in your mother tongue. Type in what you think the answer is in your test language, and click the “Test” button to check. It’s up to you to keep track of the words you get right—and those you get wrong.
Users have the option of creating their own personal tests as well. If you’re having trouble memorizing certain words, put them on a list to keep practicing.
Memrise is another site that requires credentials to log in, but the courses listed here are put together by users just like you. Listed by level and subject, this website offers students new approaches to the many same topics taught for years. Course information shows how many people have taken the course and how long users should expect to spend on each subject.
After picking a topic, users are presented with a list of words and/or phrases. Words are written with their meaning below, and users can have the word spoken aloud if they so choose.
This is a very good exercise, as it’s best to see the word, hear it and repeat the word to yourself to make sure you’ve got all three skills down pat. If you can visualize a word, hear it in your mind and know how to say it properly, you’re that much closer to fluency!
Like most of the sites we’ve discussed so far, German.net offers exercises categorized by user proficiency and subject. Labeled by difficulty, the exercises are multiple choice questions that ask users to fill in the blanks of a sentence.
The great thing about this resource is that the answers for the exercises are given to users as soon as they submit their responses. However, no explanations why a certain answer is correct are given.
Nevertheless, users aren’t only able to practice their German, but they’re able to see written example sentences that are grammatically correct. Vocabulary exercises are all about repetition. This site also offers conjugation and reading training as well.
Many German speakers go on to teach others German, and this website is a prime example of the vast number of resources available to those who spend time with the German language. German Steps offers students a variety of exercises and resources, for things like grammar, phrasing and vocabulary. The “Common Mistakes” section is a great way to make sure you’re not making simple errors.
The “Redewendung der Woche” section is similar to the word of the day listed above, except that it lists a phrase (Redewendung) instead. The phrase is written out for users to see and is accompanied by the English meaning, the meaning explained using other German words, an example sentence and synonyms.
Each of these characteristics allows us to not only better understand what the word means but also helps us connect words to greater concepts we’ve already established. Exercise your creativity by coming up with new and interesting ways to connect your new vocab words to what you already know.
Finally, the “Links” section of German Steps is a great tool for those looking to learn more about Germany, grammar, proverbs and idioms, etc.
Deutschzentrum Wien (German Center Vienna)
Again, exercises listed for this resource are categorized by user level, from beginner to advanced. After selecting the appropriate level, users can see a variety of sections with fill-in-the-blank exercises with short and long sentences. In some of those sections, users can also see YouTube videos that illustrate the particular objective of that section.
Answers to the exercises are listed below, but there are no in-depth explanations for answers given. However, beginners can print out the site’s free e-book, which offers example dialogues, exercises and solutions.
Words help us describe the world around us. Spike your fluency level by taking advantage of these free resources and adding to your German vocabulary bank.
Practice your second language daily and soon you’ll sound like a native speaker!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.