2 things you should do to build your German vocabulary

The vocabulary you should learn to become fluent in German

My friend ended up in jail, in a foreign country. He didn’t do something really bad, something really shocking, but he did something that wasn’t allowed in this country. When he was released, he was fluent in that foreign language.

To get some guidance and to improve his at first unwanted language skills further, he started to see a private tutor. The tutor, he found, was a little confused: the new student spoke the language fluently, but every now and then, he dropped some words your mom most likely wouldn’t use. Apart from this, the student seemed to be well educated, but those expressions that he mainly used in everyday phrases made her startle.

Why am I telling this story? To give you an idea what vocabulary you need to learn to become fluent in German. First of all, learn the vocabulary that you need when talking in German. Secondly, learn the vocabulary that fits your personality. Or not.


Necessary German Vocabulary

The vocabulary you need when speaking German simply are the words and expressions you use when talking about your favourite topics, your hobbies or your other interests.

The necessary German vocabulary is also about the topics you HAVE to use. The topic for being able to converse in a German office, you will find under the topic “Business German”. Words and expressions that you usually use in a specific profession or specific vocabulary for an upcoming exam are also a good idea to learn.

If you love riding your bike, you want to learn the bike related vocabulary. You want to be able to talk about the cool frame you just bought or the amazing bike ride in the Ardennes where you almost died.

When you feel like you are more the book kind of guy I recommend learning the vocabulary you need to speak about things you talk about when you are that kind of guy. Do you get my point? Practice those words.


German vocabulary as a personality fit

In general, you want to find the equivalents of the vocabulary you use in your mother tongue. You want to find a way to transfer this vocabulary into the second language.

The key to becoming fluent in another language is also based on how comfortable you feel speaking it. The more comfortable you feel with a language, the less difficult it will be to become fluent.

Finding the right words, getting the German grammar right, building a sentence the right way, putting all those clauses in the right order, using the right intonation, understanding what others are shouting in while you are still trying to get it all together, is difficult enough.

It will be easier to do so if you don’t have to be another person on top of that.

Well, writing this, I just spoke to one of my students. She said, she felt so pleb in her mother tongue, with her weird accent. At least when she speaks German, she wants to sound sophisticated. Fair enough. She will also be working in a field in Germany, where it might help to come across a little bit classy. I guess, it is just up to you. Be aware of it, that’s all.


How do I build up the German vocabulary you need?

It would be good if you just kept doing what you do at home, at your work and with your friends.

Do the same things, just in German. Keep reading the newspaper, in German. Keep watching your favourite movies, in German (if you can’t do dubbed movies, there are lots of very good German ones, too). Keep listening to the radio, in German. Try to talk to someone about your hobbies and interests, in German.

It also helps to have a dictionary or thesaurus handy that is divided into topics like “Sport and Health”, “Law and Order” or “Talking about emotions” and even provides basic and advanced vocabulary.

This might have given you an idea what to do to become fluent in German, in terms of vocabulary.


Here is what you can do:

  • Learn the words of the topics that interest you.
  • Decide yourself how much of your own personality you want to transfer into your other life, the German life.

You could be the same or completely start out new.

We are curious to learn about the way you expand your vocabulary. Do you think you are still the same person in your German life? We would love to hear about it in the comments.

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