The best way to learn German vocabulary (2023)

Perhaps you can already imagine this if you are just starting out and stressed about learning German vocabulary. But do not worry. EastThe German language is not that difficult..and one day you will reach the point where:

Your new language opens up new avenues of communication and understanding.
You know, the point at which you can read your first book in German.
Or watch a full movie in German and really know what it's about.

If you can follow German blogs, read German newspapers or sing your favorite German songs ("99 Luftballons", anyone?).

it's intoxicating!

This is what we are going to discuss:

  • To learn German vocabulary we need two things
  • The essential tools to help you learn German effortlessly
  • Structure of a 5-step system to learn German vocabulary

However, the road to get there can be long and arduous. Still, there are shortcuts, easy and silent shortcuts that will put your mind at ease.

At the most basic levelTo learn german(or any other language) boils down to this: acquiring and improving your vocabulary.

As arduous as it can be at first, this phase is incredibly important for speaking and establishing yourself in the language. Also, knowing a few words can help you start reading and understanding things around you.

To learn German vocabulary we need two things

1) Words that are useful to learn and
2) a system that allows us to acquire and store them in our mind.

But first, how much German vocabulary are we talking about? Let's be honest, you're not learning German just because it's fun (you know that), but also because you have one goal: to become fluent. You want to communicate and have real conversations naturally and freely in your new language.

To get here, how much German do you really need to know?

Do you need to memorize an entire dictionary and be able to recite it? Or is it enough to say that football, beer and sauerkraut shine in every German conversation?

The answer, of course, lies somewhere in between. You don't need the vocabulary of a young Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but you should still be able to say more than Schwarzenegger.

In short, it's amazing how few words you can use in everyday life.
It turns out that German, like any other language, has key words that speakers often use. Studying these sight words first opens up parts of the whole language.

In German, for example, the 100 most common words make up about 50% of the language. That's right, 100 words cover half of common German. However, since they are made up of many prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns, you will not be able to limit yourself to them.

To summarize, the research says that you need to know about 1,300 words to understand 85% of the German text. Not bad, right? quite doable. Also, by this point, you should know enough about learning German vocabulary to continue learning German virtually by osmosis.

But how do you get those 1,300 German words to stick in your head? We'll get to that now.

Indispensable tools to learn German vocabulary without stress

First, you need a set of tools that:
a) help you acquire new German vocabulary and
b) learn systematically. You are free to choose yours, but here are some ideas.


Always carry a small notebook with you. Whether you're meeting a language partner, watching a movie, or reading a book, make sure you have some sort of container to capture anything of note. If your phone works for you, that's fine. Personally, I'm faster with pen and paper.


The next item in your arsenal of tools is a good German dictionary. Preferred options include the Oxford German Dictionary and the Langenscheidt Standard German Dictionary. If you don't want to be burdened with a thick paper version, there are some great German dictionary app options out there.

learning tool

Finally, you need a way to practice your new German vocabulary through quizzes and assessments. This is how you remember the German vocabulary so that it sticks with you. Paper flashcards are a tried and true method; Personally, however, I prefer spatially repeating memory applications, such asAnkimiMemrise.

Another great option isfluenteU, an immersive online platform that transforms real-world videos such as music videos, movie trailers, news stories and inspirational talks into personalized language learning lessons. With contextual definitions, interactive captions, repeatable quizzes, and flashcards, everything you need to learn in record time is at your fingertips.

Plus, with FluentU you can learn real German the way it's spoken: watch a funny video but have trouble understanding it? FluentU puts native video at your fingertips with interactive transcripts. You can touch any word to look it up instantly.

Each definition has written examples to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word that you don't know, you can add it to a vocabulary list. And FluentU isn't just for watching videos. It is a complete learning platform. It is designed to effectively teach all the vocabulary from any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you're on.

Best of all, FluentU tracks the vocabulary you're learning and recommends examples and videos based on the words you've already learned.

This is a level of customization that has never been done before. Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet, or better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.

Structure of a 5-step system to learn German vocabulary

Now that you've gathered your tools, it's time to use them. Our goal is to create a framework that allows you to constantly expand your vocabulary with German words and that, if you stick to it, will inevitably lead you to success.

As you probably guessed from the list of tools, the process consists of the following five steps:

  • collection
  • Translation
  • processing
  • Succeed
  • repetition

Let's go through them one by one.

1. Collect unknown vocabulary

The first step in expanding your vocabulary is to find German words that you can significantly add to your repertoire. At first, of course, these are the majority of words. You can find relevant vocabulary by using existing German vocabulary lists or by exposing yourself to content and opportunities where something new is likely to emerge (more on this below).

It is important that you write down all the words that you do not know or everything that occurs to you in your native language that you would like to know or need to say in German.
That's what the notebook is for.

Make it your one-stop tool for learning German vocabulary. Don't make the mistake of collecting new words in random places or on different pieces of paper.

It makes it much harder to be disciplined.
Bring everything together in one place so you can process everything together.

2. Look up the meaning of unknown words

If you're a struggling learner (which you certainly are), you should be able to put together a long list of German vocabulary in no time.

Now you have to find translations for the words (both in German and in your own language) to memorize their meaning. This is my favorite way to memorize German vocabulary.

What I like to do is create a big list of words in a word processor and batch type them into Google Translate. This allows me to have a large number of words translated instantly and I can copy and paste both versions into an Excel file for easy import into my educational software.

However, the problem with Google Translate is that its translations are not very reliable. He spits out wrong meanings as often as he says the right ones. The solution here is to optimize your list before importing it and saving it in memory.

You can do this by clicking on Google translate to see the alternatives. Seeing other possibilities will give you a better idea of ​​the actual meaning. If it is not clear to you, look it up in another dictionary, for🇧🇷 However, I found that by checking the alternate translations, I can usually pick the right word (and some synonyms).

If you prefer a different method of looking up German vocabulary (for example, by hand), you can continue with the method that best suits your needs. I've just found the above method to be the most efficient for my purposes.

3. Insert them into your study tools

Now that you have your language pairs, they should be part of your study system. Depending on what you're using, this could mean writing cards or importing a file into your memory app. For example, Anki allows you to import a .

CSV file with German words in one column and their equivalents in the other. From there, the software automatically creates tabs with language pairs on the front and back. Just enter your word pairs in a table and select "CSV Text" as the file format when saving.

Choose UTF-8 as the character set and take note of the text and field dividers. You need to adjust the settings in Anki for the software to handle your word pairs correctly. Whichever method you choose, just make sure it all adds up to your learning system (not a word is forgotten!).

4. Practice regularly

The most important part of achieving your goal of speaking fluently is learning the words you collect. What good are the best tools in the world if you don't use them? To ensure constant learning, it is best to make it a habit. Find time in your day to study your vocabulary and make it a routine.

Early in the morning, just before lunch, when it suits you.
Ten minutes consistently every day is better than an hour once a week on Friday. Also, I highly recommend that you use mnemonics to maximize your retention rate.

5. Rinse and repeat

The rest of the German vocabulary memorization method is just repetition. If you manage to write the vocabulary words in your notepad every day, the vocabulary count will increase over time. Finding five extra words a day (effectively found in a 5 minute podcast) adds up to 150 additions to your German lexicon in a month.

At that rate, we would reach our goal of 1,300 words in just 8.5 months. To make it less boring, I've found it's best to set aside a day at the end of the week for interpretation and word manipulation.
Sunday night works fine.

This way you can collect modern words every day for a full week and enter them into the system after this part. It allows you to focus on learning vocabulary even during the week and find fewer excuses not to.

In any case, it is important to follow this plan consistently. If you do, getting a great German lexicon shouldn't be a problem. Force yourself to see obsolete words, pick them up, discover their meaning and use them. Simple and easy!


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Velia Krajcik

Last Updated: 10/12/2023

Views: 6357

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Velia Krajcik

Birthday: 1996-07-27

Address: 520 Balistreri Mount, South Armand, OR 60528

Phone: +466880739437

Job: Future Retail Associate

Hobby: Polo, Scouting, Worldbuilding, Cosplaying, Photography, Rowing, Nordic skating

Introduction: My name is Velia Krajcik, I am a handsome, clean, lucky, gleaming, magnificent, proud, glorious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.