Want to build your own vocabulary lists?

First you need to find the best ways to commit your German vocab lists to your memory.

And here are some tools that make it easier for learners to memorize new vocabulary.

1. Games

These games on the Digital Dialects website are simply great. They are nothing short of addictive. My favorites are the ones that give you four English words and prompt you to place the correct German words next to them. The good thing is that you may sometimes not know the word, but you can still match German and English words by discarding some of the options.

2. Flashcards

Memrise. Create your own personal flashcard decks here, and take advantage of the learning tools available. These digital flashcards present a word in German, give you time to think about its meaning and then allow you to uncover the translation when you think you know the answer. After memorizing your words, you can test what you have learned through tests and games.

3. Apps

Goethe Institut Vocabulary Trainer. This is a great app that allows users to upload and download multiple vocabulary lists. It uses a system by which a word is considered to be “learned” after you have marked it as “known” five times.

4. Books

“Wort für Wort.” This is a great book full of truly advanced vocabulary organized by themes, covering everything you need from menschliche Beziehungen (human relationships) and Freizeit und Sport (leisure and sport) to Kulturleben (cultural life) and Politik (politics). It begins by proposing a simple study technique that really worked for me: Just read the German words out loud twice, read the translations and then cover the English translation column on each page and try to remember the meanings of the new words.

5. Learning platform

FluentU is a multifunctional, multimedia, multi-device language learning platform. You can download it as an app or use the website on your computer (or any other device). What I love about FluentU is that it teaches you words in context using real-life videos and offers quizzes to assess your learning afterwards.

It will keep track of all the vocabulary you learn and let you know when it is time to brush up on certain words using a smart SRS (Spaced Repetition System). It will even show you what percentage of vocabulary you have learned and mastered in every video you watch.

However, it is the absolute best tool for memorizing German vocabulary lists because you can simply type all your German vocabulary into separate lists here, and FluentU will track down videos that show your vocabulary in action. Then you can practice them all with multimedia flashcards and more active learning tools. Wow!

Now, you’ve got all these great tools for picking up new vocabulary words, why even bother with vocabulary lists?

Why must you begin and end with lists?

How can lists make a difference?

Well, vocabulary lists are a great tool, and can serve as the basis of your learning. They allow you to keep track of what you are learning and the progress you have made. They give you a record of vocabulary you have learned to look back on, and welcome you to revisit and refresh your knowledge as you keep advancing. They give you a place to start before you even begin using one of your nifty memorization tools from the list of recommendations above.

So, with this in mind, I strongly encourage you to build and maintain your own lists on paper or in a document on your computer (or favorite device). After that, you can think about importing them into a digital tool.

To start creating these vocabulary lists, look to the Internet for inspiration. The web offers many great resources to find vocabularies organized by theme and language level, and you can tack these onto your existing lists or start new lists for different themes.

My favorite tool for viewing vocabularies are actually vocabulary lists taken from books, as they can make vocabulary come alive in a unique way. If you want to learn vocabulary and enjoy literature at the same time, check out these vocabularies for “Momo” by Michael Ende and “Der Vorleser” by Bernard Schlink, among many other fabulous books.

However, this is just my own personal suggestion. If literature is not your thing, blaze your own path.

No matter what, you should start building your own lists by deciding what kind of German vocabulary is most important to you and your life. For example, if you want to travel, you may opt for lists of vocabulary and advanced phrases for social interaction. If your goal is to be able to read great works by famous German authors, your vocabulary lists will be quite different.

So, without further ado, here are some recommendations for essential vocabulary lists that nearly everyone can find useful. Take these, learn from them and build on them—or, at the very least, use them as a guiding light for creating your own new lists.

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