Increasing German vocabulary

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
flabbergasted
White Belt
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:53 am
x 19

Increasing German vocabulary

Postby flabbergasted » Fri Mar 10, 2017 7:37 pm

I would welcome any advice on how to solve the problem of enlarging my vocabulary so that I can read books in German with relative ease. I've never had a similar problem with Romance languages, which is understandable considering the staggering number of cognates. With German things are tough: 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. I am past reading graded texts as I understand most of the words there and it's just boring, but reading an authentic text is a completely different ball game. Have you experienced a similar problem? How did you break through?
0 x

User avatar
tiia
Orange Belt
Posts: 216
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2016 11:52 pm
Languages: German (N), English (?), Finnish (~B2), Spanish (B1)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?t=2374
x 235

Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby tiia » Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:08 pm

What unadapted books did you try? There are easier and harder ones.
It also depends what kind of vocabulary you learned before. In general books often use more detailled descriptions of e.g. the surroundings and then you end up with lots of adjectives or other types of words you might not know, because they are not important in normal speech. Maybe those words are not so important as long as you get the overall impression of the scenery.
0 x
Reading books in Finnish 2016: 6 / 6
Project 30before30: 21 / 30

User avatar
blaurebell
Blue Belt
Posts: 667
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 1:24 pm
Location: Spain
Languages: German (N), English (C2), Spanish (B2-C1), French (B2+ passive), Italian (A2), Russian (Beginner)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3235
x 1574

Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby blaurebell » Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:24 pm

Russian seems similar to me right now. I'm trying to employ the same strategy as I have used for French: 5000 pages worth of intensive reading with Learning with Texts. With French my LWT database went from a ratio of 65-70% known vs unknown words through cognates to ~87% known words after those 5000 pages, which means that now I can just read extensively without really feeling that I'm missing any details. I can even listen to audiobooks, no problem. Russian is quite a lot more difficult and I'm starting with 45% known. It just means that I will probably have to read more to reach 90%, maybe 7000-9000? In any case, this only works if you take every unknown word as a prompt to remember and type in every new word form into the database - preferably with the infinitive or nominative.

Don't make the mistake of putting those words into anki, it will slow you down and there is no need to have 100% recall on any of the isolated words. You just have to remember them enough so that you understand them in context. On some days you might input 400 words and of course only a fraction will stick - Imagine having to do reviews for 400 new cards a day! With reading the reviews happen automatically because frequent words are repeated often. There is also no need to remember the infrequent ones accurately. Those will start to stick once you've got the frequent words out of the way. So, I'm sorry, my silly answer is: You just need to read more ...! I find it rather encouraging that LWT is enough though, no flashcards needed.

Also, try some narrow reading like a long series of 1000-4000 pages. Those go over always the same vocabulary rather than having to get used to new writing styles and vocabulary every 200 pages. My first 4000 pages in French were Harry Potter and in Russian I'm reading the Belgariad Saga by David Eddings.
7 x
: 14 / 100 Дэвид Эддингс - Владычица магии
: 8144 / 35000 LWT Known

: 17 / 55 FSI Spanish Basic
: 29 / 116 GdUdE B

flabbergasted
White Belt
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:53 am
x 19

Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby flabbergasted » Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:44 pm

tiia wrote:What unadapted books did you try? There are easier and harder ones.
It also depends what kind of vocabulary you learned before. In general books often use more detailled descriptions of e.g. the surroundings and then you end up with lots of adjectives or other types of words you might not know, because they are not important in normal speech. Maybe those words are not so important as long as you get the overall impression of the scenery.



Unfortunately, I am a sucker for flamboyant prose, so no Der kleine Prinz for me. I read authors like Thomas Mann, W. G. Sebald, Arno Schmidt.
1 x

User avatar
blaurebell
Blue Belt
Posts: 667
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 1:24 pm
Location: Spain
Languages: German (N), English (C2), Spanish (B2-C1), French (B2+ passive), Italian (A2), Russian (Beginner)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3235
x 1574

Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby blaurebell » Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:46 pm

flabbergasted wrote:Unfortunately, I am a sucker for flamboyant prose, so no Der kleine Prinz for me. I read authors like Thomas Mann, W. G. Sebald, Arno Schmidt.


In that case just keep going with a couple of long Thomas Mann books - Der Zauberberg is one of my favourites! And all of Sebald. I read those just a few years ago and already feel like reading them again. I also just finished the collected letters of Walter Benjamin last year which are quite nice - the later ones from his years in exile are the most interesting ones in my opinion. Reading letters from that time kinda make me feel like a trained monkey, these people were so educated! :roll: Also, Hesse! Those are not long, but there are quite a few of them and they all seem to be a variation on the same melody. I enjoyed the Glasperlenspiel particularly because it was different from the rest. Kafka, but those are short apart from his unfinished ones. So, just keep going :)
0 x
: 14 / 100 Дэвид Эддингс - Владычица магии
: 8144 / 35000 LWT Known

: 17 / 55 FSI Spanish Basic
: 29 / 116 GdUdE B

flabbergasted
White Belt
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:53 am
x 19

Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby flabbergasted » Sat Mar 11, 2017 6:17 pm

blaurebell wrote:
flabbergasted wrote:Unfortunately, I am a sucker for flamboyant prose, so no Der kleine Prinz for me. I read authors like Thomas Mann, W. G. Sebald, Arno Schmidt.


In that case just keep going with a couple of long Thomas Mann books - Der Zauberberg is one of my favourites! And all of Sebald. I read those just a few years ago and already feel like reading them again. I also just finished the collected letters of Walter Benjamin last year which are quite nice - the later ones from his years in exile are the most interesting ones in my opinion. Reading letters from that time kinda make me feel like a trained monkey, these people were so educated! :roll: Also, Hesse! Those are not long, but there are quite a few of them and they all seem to be a variation on the same melody. I enjoyed the Glasperlenspiel particularly because it was different from the rest. Kafka, but those are short apart from his unfinished ones. So, just keep going :)


Thanks for the advice and encouragement! It's obvious that there's no short cuts, and the best solution is just reading more, just sometimes the absence of sufficient progress is too dispiriting. I think knowledge of another Germanic language like Dutch would be of great help, but things are what they are. And also I know I wouldn't be able to bring myself to read some easier books that I'm not interested in.
1 x

User avatar
Brun Ugle
Brown Belt
Posts: 1334
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2015 12:48 pm
Location: Steinkjer, Norway
Languages: English (N), Norwegian (~C1/C2), Spanish (B1/B2), Esperanto (A2?), German (A2/B1?), Japanese (very rusty), Finnish (just started)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=5170
x 2423
Contact:

Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby Brun Ugle » Sat Mar 11, 2017 6:55 pm

Read what you're interested in, but try e-books if you have a tablet. Reading e-books means that it is very easy to look up words. I read much more intensively with e-books than with paper books. Sometimes I highlight every word I look up, just to have a kind of record or measure of my progress. The first chapter might end up with dozens of highlighted words on each page, but authors tend to use the same words over and over, so the last chapter usually ends up with only a few words highlighted.
7 x
(aka Easily Distracted Tortoise)

: 13811 / 50000 words - Output Challenge Spanish Writing
: 477 / 3000 minutes - Output Challenge Spanish Speaking

User avatar
MorkTheFiddle
Green Belt
Posts: 374
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:59 pm
Location: Texas, USA
Languages: English (N), French (read fluently), Spanish (read fluently). Studying Ancient Greek and Latin. Once studied Old Norse.
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=5680&p=70021#p70021
x 457

Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:22 pm

Brun Ugle wrote:Read what you're interested in, but try e-books if you have a tablet. Reading e-books means that it is very easy to look up words. I read much more intensively with e-books than with paper books. Sometimes I highlight every word I look up, just to have a kind of record or measure of my progress. The first chapter might end up with dozens of highlighted words on each page, but authors tend to use the same words over and over, so the last chapter usually ends up with only a few words highlighted.

I can speak only for Kindle here. You can access Kindle books on an iPod (and so I assume an iPhone, too). So if you do not have a tablet but you do have an iPod (or iPhone) you can still make use of the vocabulary look-up and save (and highlighting) function. (I prefer in fact the iPod to my (now dead) Kindle for reading books, notwithstanding the smaller screen). Nooks and Android devices may have this functionality, too?
0 x
ἐς Τροίαν πειρώμενοι ἦνθον ᾿Αχαιοί,
καλλίστα παίδων: πείρᾳ θην πάντα τελεῖται.
Theocritus, Idyll 15

User avatar
Brun Ugle
Brown Belt
Posts: 1334
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2015 12:48 pm
Location: Steinkjer, Norway
Languages: English (N), Norwegian (~C1/C2), Spanish (B1/B2), Esperanto (A2?), German (A2/B1?), Japanese (very rusty), Finnish (just started)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=5170
x 2423
Contact:

Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby Brun Ugle » Sun Mar 12, 2017 6:39 am

I don't actually even use the flashcards function. I just highlight the words so I can easily see how much I'm looking up. The book itself serves as a kind of natural SRS since words tend to be repeated. I might look up the same word several times, but eventually it sticks. I also use Memrise for random vocabulary learning. For some reason I always get excited when I see a word in my book that I just learned on Memrise and that excitement makes it stick forever.

Another thing I'd recommend is etymology and learning prefixes and suffixes. I find that makes it easier to guess at an unknown word and it also makes it easier to remember. I sometimes like learning words as groups of related words. One base word might have a noun form, an adjective form, a few variations with different prefixes, etc. If you learn several of them at once, they kind of reinforce each other. For the same effort of memorizing one word, you get a bunch. I suspect some people might find it confusing to do it that way though, so for them it might have the opposite effect. So, you'd have to give it a try and see which way it goes for you.
4 x
(aka Easily Distracted Tortoise)

: 13811 / 50000 words - Output Challenge Spanish Writing
: 477 / 3000 minutes - Output Challenge Spanish Speaking

LinguaLingvoSprache
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:45 am
Languages: English(N), German(Not Yet Begun)

Re: Increasing German vocabulary

Postby LinguaLingvoSprache » Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:51 am

In some way or another, compile of a list of non-conversational descriptive words - presuming descriptive words are your main troubles. With the meanings of these words in mind, try to think using them in your every day life, or imagine a way to use/think using them - possibly in a way that books normally would not, such as making it personal to you.

Does that make any sense?
0 x


Return to “Practical Questions and Advice”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest