Increasing German vocabulary

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smallwhite
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Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby smallwhite » Tue Mar 21, 2017 11:29 am

flabbergasted wrote:I've been reading things in German for more than five years, and it is frustrating to see that the number of unknown words per page of any unadapted book I take never seems to diminish.


What's your current percentage of unknown words? Words that you can't translate into English/L1 if there were no context.
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Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby outcast » Tue Mar 21, 2017 3:10 pm

While I recently have done a quickie vocabulary acquisition experiment with Korean (with mixed to positive results), that is only for the top 1000-1500 most common words, which one will see over and over and over again. So sucking it up and memorizing them cold and rote as quick as possible to jump to reading in theory seems like a decent idea.

For the road from A2-B1 (2000 words) and up... I don't think there is any secret formula. B1 and higher in any language means you are in it for the long-haul. Think how hard it is to learn just 2000 words. On paper the number doesn't look too scary, but then when you analyze this number: 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100... and then take 100 and do 10 + 10 + 10... you see what this really involves, and the amazing feat every single member of this forum performs when reaching a new language level. Forget cognates: yes it makes things much easier when reading, but I really believe that for production cognate discount diminishes by 75%, because of the recall effect (but that 25% does help! I know what you mean because when I speak French and I don't know a word I have a near 50/50 of using a Spanish word, "frenchify" it, and escape undetected. With German the odds fall to maybe 1 in 4 or 1 in 5).

So then imagine going from 2000 (see above), to FOUR times 2000...10,000 words to have a somewhat comfortable C1 reading level.

You can't cheat time, but time is also your best friend. Just take the long view and do something with the language for months and months to come. One day, you will have a moment of realization. (I just had one this morning with Mandarin Chinese) :mrgreen:

But following the advice from members above doesn't hurt either, and with good exercises and techniques you can shove months of that journey. But discipline is the key above all else.
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Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby flabbergasted » Thu Mar 23, 2017 12:30 pm

smallwhite wrote:
flabbergasted wrote:I've been reading things in German for more than five years, and it is frustrating to see that the number of unknown words per page of any unadapted book I take never seems to diminish.


What's your current percentage of unknown words? Words that you can't translate into English/L1 if there were no context.



I'm not sure how to count this percentage, but I think I can give some concrete data. I've just started reading Kafka's short story Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer. I am writing down each word I don't know. So far I've read six pages (each page is 37 lines), and there are 66 words I don't know. So, roughly, that's 11 unknown words per page.
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Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby smallwhite » Thu Mar 23, 2017 2:13 pm

Sorry, by percentage of unknown words I mean unknown words divided by total words. There are probably 10 words per line, so 11/370 = 3%. Just to get a rough idea where you're at - you're way ahead of me!

I also find German vocabulary frustrating to learn. Here's what I do, which doesn't work fast enough for my liking but does at least work noticeably:

I look up around 100 to 200 words in every book I read to really understand those words, SRS them to really remember them, and then I continue to read the book without a dictionary OR I start another book (mostly the latter). The idea is to solidly learn 100~200 new words from each story - and thus each genre or field or part of life - as opposed to just extensively reading all sorts of books and end up just vaguely knowing all sorts of words. The idea is similar to using thematic vocabulary books which can't teach you every word in the language but does at least concretely teach you 10 colour names, 10 fruit names, 10 country names, etc.

There are still too many unknown words in every book, but at the same time, I'm reading harder and harder books. And I think I've read no more than 400 pages in total, so like I said, improvement has been noticeable this way.
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Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby tarvos » Thu Mar 23, 2017 2:48 pm

Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer,
Gab es einen Chinesischen Bauer.
Alle andere waren nur Zuschauer,
Dann war er erst richtig sauer.

I could not resist. I know it has nothing to do with Kafka.

In all seriousness, just read silly poetry. It helps. And it's very silly.
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Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby zaneisdayton » Tue Mar 28, 2017 9:40 pm

I am almost finished with a degree in German and vocabulary, of course is a large part of this (numerous vocabulary quizzes). Pure memorization is sometimes difficult, but one thing I have learned is that you must first learn the basic verbs and pronouns, such as: sein, haben, gehen, bekommen, ich, du, er/sie/es and etc. Similar to most comments below, find things you're interested in, and then create your own sentences with those nouns, verbs and such. There's a website, tagesschau.de, which is free German television, which helped with new vocabulary and listening comprehension. It is one thing to memorize new vocabulary, but knowing how to use and conjugate verbs accordingly is a trick of its own. Instead of the inaccurate "Google Translate," I use an app called "Linguee" to help find words that I need. To help learn new words and vocab I also listen to German music and look up the lyrics, as well as German films with subtitles, or vice versa, English films with German subtitles. I also create quizlets with flashcards, and I look over them occasionally. My main point is to use and abuse these vocabulary words so they stick in your brain. Learn a couple new words a day and write a sentence with those words, when you put pen and paper together it helps your brain retain the information better.
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Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:10 pm

tarvos wrote:Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer,
Gab es einen Chinesischen Bauer.
Alle andere waren nur Zuschauer,
Dann war er erst richtig sauer.

I could not resist. I know it has nothing to do with Kafka.

In all seriousness, just read silly poetry. It helps. And it's very silly.


Your poem reminds me of English limericks. They can be serious, but most are quite silly and even nonsensical. Here is one by Edward Lear:

“There was an Old Man with a beard
Who said, 'It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’”

Some limericks are rather naughty, but I'll leave without an example of that kind.
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Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby Atinkoriko » Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:58 pm

Not remotely as experienced as any of you here but allow me to be a wordlists fanboy here. For German, I've been concentrating on learning verbs and adjectives and I'm experiencing a snowball effect where I can deduce unknown words because I literally went through a massive list of 1,500 German verbs and 750 words and put all of the unknown ones in a wordlist. The rest of the words are just words I find I lack when I try to think in German.

Texts became quite transparent and my listening comprehension rather shot up dramatically [combined with the SC] from a weak B1 at best to I'd say a solid B2, judging from Goethe Institut sample materials.

http://www.byki.com/lists/german/greg%2 ... tives.html

That's the website I used, you can also find the verbs there. I also went through a 5000 word frequency list and took out all unknown verbs and adjectives from there too
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Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby mcthulhu » Sun Apr 02, 2017 5:36 pm

Another thing I might suggest is to read German translations of books you love and know well. Already being familiar with a story makes it a lot easier to deduce the meanings of unknown words from context, and it makes extensive reading easier and faster. You can always check back with the original if you get stuck. Translations aren't "authentic" material, obviously, but more reading is always better than less reading. Parallel texts are good, too, though it's harder to avoid the trap of looking at the English.

Of course translations aren't necessarily one-to-one cribs, which is probably just as well from a literary standpoint, but it does make it harder to use a translation as a dictionary. You may notice things from the original that have been omitted or glossed over; I've also occasionally come across places where a translator clearly misunderstood the original. Those may be amusing but translation differences and mistakes are often instructive if you take the time to think about them.

I had a teacher once who firmly believed in building vocabulary by graduating from a translation dictionary to a monolingual dictionary as soon as possible. It may be slower and harder, especially if you then need to look up the words in the definition, but you'll acquire more vocabulary this way, and you'll stay within your L2.

Another teacher suggested that once you reach a certain level you invest time in reading the monolingual dictionary for its own sake and exploring words. I admit that I've never done this myself (too many other things in the queue). If you have time to explore, I do like
http://corpora.uni-leipzig.de/en?corpus ... crawl_2011. Looking at synonyms and related words may help to connect new words to ones you already know. In one language class I used to have vocabulary quizzes where I had to list not only the meaning but as many synonyms as I could come up with for a given word; I actually enjoyed that.

That Leipzig site also tells you how relatively common a word is, which helps you judge how essential it is to memorize it.
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