PM Life: Learning German Vocabulary

Whew. I love getting back into the swing of things. Sorry it took a bit to get PM back into the same schedule and structure as in the summer. It seems that the days go by so fast while here. The purpose of this blog is to remain clear: give students a personal look into the ins and outs of study abroad. To learn how to make it work for you, control your finances, overcome personal, overcome language, cultural barriers and so on.

Vocabulary is a bit of a specialty of mine. Here in Germany, I have proved fairly consistent in my ability to remember and use the long list of vocabulary inside my Kopf (head). I wanted to share my tips and tricks to help you learn vocabulary for whatever language you may be learning. A few of these are adapted from a NY Times article on memory, which have been trialed and altered based on experience.

1. Where do you study? When? Are you someone who has to have complete silence without distraction to buckle down and study? Stop that. Stop that right now. While studying make sure you at least have a little distraction for your brain to hold on to. Every time you study, you are 'training' your brain. Your brain should not be trained to remember that the German word traurig means sad only when silence is in the air. It needs to be tricked. TIP: Study in open air (oh the possibilities of procrastination! You'll have to work through it) This confuses the brain, so that when someone asks "Bist du traurig? (Are you sad--but actually written this way implies a 'sad person')" you don't misunderstand and say "Ja, klar! (Yes, sure!)" with a big smile on your face. Not that I know from prior experience or anything.

***Truth told, I am the biggest procrastinator, mostly because I'd like to believe my work is better when written a day or a couple hours before. I've recently had to throw that idea by the wayside. Why yes, this theory has proved fruitful in many assignments, in the long run it's horrible.

2. If you are someone who enjoys working with flashcards, stop moving that card you keep missing towards the back! Put it about 4 spaces behind, that way you get back to it quicker, and the answer is sharp in your mind. Gives a double dose of training.
 3. Flashcards: Keep it moving and changing! Never have all your flashcards in the same style. For one, it's boring and can bring you over into procrastination's dark side. For two, I like to think my brain enjoys the excitement of not knowing what kind of card is coming up next. Keeps the brain guessing which is good training for conversational speech in another language. You can't plan for it! People are people and there is no manual for that.
some of my own personal cards for example
3. More on flashcards: if you use them, keep them close. Try keeping them in a ziploc, complete with extra cards and pens in case you learn something new. That way you won't forget, and you can study if for some reason you find a couple extra moments in the day.

4. What's that tune? I am really into music, so sometimes--well, all times I study with audio on. Sometimes it isn't even music. Right now, I'm enjoying studying while listening to German AudioBooks (Harry Potter and Mein Deutsches Dsungelbuch.) It's not important in these study moments to understand what you are hearing while studying other things. Your brain is deciphering and listening even if you have 'tuned out' because it what it is programmed to do! It's important to listen to 45 minutes of audio in the language you are studying EVERY DAY. You will be exposed to new vocabulary and may have the meaning understood just by context.
oh hello, German Harry Potter audio.

Hopefully some of these tips prove of use to you as you study languages and gain vocabulary! Let me know if you try any of these tips!


  1. Hi Angela,

    Danielle here from the OIP office in Long Beach. Great job on your blog. Awesome tips for learning vocab.

    Reading your entries takes me back to my year abroad in Germany! Hope you make the most of your year! And I look forward to follow you on your adventures abroad. :)

  2. Thank you so much! I'm trying my hardest to make the most of every opportunity!