When I lived in Germany, I had a daily routine.
In the morning I’d learn a German word of the day on my phone over my bowl of müsli.
Then, I’d spend the day rolling the word around in my mind and thinking of examples.
Finally, I’d come home in the evening to the smells of whatever my elderly Saxon landlady was cooking for dinner, often pumpkin soup or potatoes and onions.
While eating, we’d talk, and I’d make sure to use my word of the day somewhere in the conversation.
I’d spent four years taking vocabulary quizzes and reading German literature in college, but nothing improved my fluency like those conversations over the light of a schwibbogen (candle arch) in the dim Lusatian winter.
Using this method, I made sure to get my daily serving of German vocab practice—every single day!
Even if you’ve mastered the grammar of the language, you can’t fully express yourself unless you have the vocabulary to say exactly what you want to.
That’s where a word of the day really comes in handy.
How Can You Benefit from a “Word of the Day” Resource?
Learn New Vocabulary
One of the best ways you can use a word of the day system is to improve your vocabulary. It may not seem like a lot, but one word each day adds up. When you consider that just 1,300 words will let you understand 85% of German texts, a year’s worth of words of the day is a significant boost to your vocabulary.
A larger vocabulary is important because it lets you communicate more accurately. German is especially famous for having unique words to describe very specific situations or feelings, and if you know them, you’ll have no problem talking to native speakers.
Practice Correct Usage
Good word of the day resources won’t just give you the definition. They’ll provide you with real-world examples, too. In some cases, you might’ve already known the word, but as a word of the day, you can better learn when and why German speakers use it. This also improves communication.
Improve Your Comprehension
When you’re speaking a foreign language, misunderstandings can occur when you don’t know a specific word. If a native speaker uses a vocabulary word you’re unfamiliar with, you might not realize exactly what they’re saying, even though they explain themselves with other German words. And if you’re reading a book or other text, there’s no second explanation.
By expanding your vocabulary, you can more accurately understand the speech and writing of those around you. That means more efficient communication and faster improvement.
Learn Accurate Pronunciation
Especially in German, your pronunciation can make a big difference. Say a word wrong, and the other person might not understand you. Or worse, they’ll think you said something different.
Many word of the day resources have pronunciation notes, and some even have audio or video recordings by native speakers. Listen closely to these and try to imitate the way they say the word. It’s even a good idea to try recording yourself saying the word to see how well it matches that of native speakers.
How to Make the Most of Words of the Day
First of all, you should always actively use your word of the day resources. It’s easy to just glance at your notification or email and then forget the word. You have to consciously read the word and consider its definition and usage notes.
A great way to help cement the word in your memory is to go over it twice, specifically at the beginning and end of the day. This encourages the brain to store it in long-term memory.
Of course, like all aspects of language learning, the most important thing is to use your word of the day in real life. That’s how the language center of your brain fully absorbs the word into your German file. This is more than just saying the word out loud. It’s going to the grocery store or the bank and applying it in your daily routine. Even if you don’t have a German landlady making you dinner like I did, write to your penpal or get on a forum and try to use the word naturally.
Similarly, find natives using the word in a real-life context. That could mean highlighting it in a book you’re reading or taking note of it in a German TV show or online video.
One of the best ways to see your words of the day in context is to use an online resource like FluentU.
Each video features native German speakers, so you’ll learn German as it’s actually spoken. Plus, each video comes with interactive subtitles in German and English, so you can follow along as you watch and click on words for easy-to-find definitions.
For targeted word of the day practice, simply type your word into the FluentU search bar. You’ll instantly find a definition as well as tons of videos from the German-speaking world that use your word. That means you’ll get several examples of real-world usage to help you make sense of each new word.
You can even use FluentU’s customizable vocabulary review features to create your own “word of the day” vocabulary list. That way, you can go back and practice the all the words you’ve learned with flashcard games and quizzes. Check out FluentU’s free trial!
6 German “Word of the Day” Resources to Get Your Daily Serving of German
German Word Of The Day
It’s right in the name.
German Word Of The Day is a site that centers around German vocabulary and words of the day. It has a specific word of the day page that includes past words of the day so you can review all the new vocabulary you’ve learned or catch up if you’ve missed a few days. Plus, there are great downloadable resources like vocab lists and grammar references.
InnovativeLanguage.com has a word of the day resource for tons of languages, including German. What’s really great is you can sign up to have the word sent to your email address daily. That way you get a reminder to study.
Each word of the day comes with a “mini-lesson” that includes the word used in various sentences and a quiz so you can practice it yourself. You can even go back and do the lessons with past words of the day.
With Transparent Language, you can get words of the day in your email inbox, through Facebook, through Twitter or in an RSS feed. Better yet, subscribe with them all so it’s impossible to forget.
Like many word of the day resources, Transparent Language includes example sentences and translations. However, its coolest feature is the “Find this word on Twitter” button. This resource pulls up recent tweets in German that include the word of the day so you can it in modern, everyday contexts.
Memrise is a service specialized for learning vocabulary. Their philosophy involves “mems,” or specific flashcards that help you remember the words. Mems might be pictures related to the word, example sentences or mnemonic devices. You can choose from the mems other users have created or make your own.
Memrise actually has options for how much new vocabulary you think you can handle. You can do a word a day, or you can do ten words a day. Either way, there’s both the website and an easy-to-use app that’ll remind you to study.
German word of the day App (available for Android)
Here’s an app specifically for learning the word of the day.
Do you want your word of the day in the morning, like me? Or right before you go to bed? Whatever your learning style, this app has you covered: you can set it to send you a notification at a specific time every day, so you can study whenever it’s convenient.
It also has example sentences along with audio recordings that help you learn good pronunciation and usage.
Deutsch perfekt Wort des Tages (iOS | Android)
Deutsch Perfekt has a series of apps for German learners. This one is devoted entirely to words of the day.
Along with definitions and example sentences, Deutsch Perfekt provides audio recordings from many different native speakers and grammatical usage notes.
Together, these help you apply new vocabulary in real life.
Now that you’ve hopefully found the right resource, get out there and use your new vocabulary!
It can’t be overstated: studying vocabulary doesn’t do you any good unless you use the words you learn.
With words of the day, you have constant opportunities. Don’t let that go to waste. Whether it’s on the street, at home or online, toss these words into your everyday speech. Day by day, you’ll get closer to fluency.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.