Hello, German learners. If you really want to speak a foreign language well, you have to learn a lot of words. But how can you memorize so many words? You can, of course, read, listen, see and speak a lot. Then you memorize the words and how you are supposed to use them. This is, of course, a good method. Today I am teaching you another method: word association.
5 Types of Word Association
There are 5 types of word association: synonym, antonym, coordinate, collocation, and subordinate. The two most common types are synonyms and antonyms. You probably already know them.
Synonyms are words with similar meanings. I say “with similar meanings”, because these words don’t mean exactly the same. There are very small differences between them. For example: The words “good” and “positive”. In some cases, you can simply switch them out. The result was good. The result was positive. But in other cases, you can’t switch them. The finding was good. The finding was positive.
How is that helpful, however? If you learn synonyms, you can also learn these small differences. I think it is best when you start with a verb and then find synonyms for that. Then you write how, when and why you would use one word or the other. For example:
herausfinden vs entdecken
You can translate both words with “to find out”.
Ich habe herausgefunden, wer meinen Kuli gestohlen hat. –
I found out, who stole my pen.
Ich habe entdeckt, wer meinen Kuli gestohlen hat. –
I found out, who stole my pen.
These sentences are similar, but not the same. In the first sentence, I probably searched, asked someone or did something similar. In the end, I collected the information and determined who stole the pen. In the second sentence, I saw something concrete. My brother is holding the pen in his hand. I found out, he stole it.
With these small differences, you can not only expand your vocabulary, but also improve your language level. If you would like to search for synonyms, there is a cool website openthesaurus.de/ for that.
Antonyms are opposites. They are especially helpful when you learn adjectives. hot-cold, high-shallow, big-small and so on. I would recommend that when you learn an adjective, you should also learn a minimum of one antonym for that. Then you are learning not only one word, but two, not just five words, but ten.
The other three types of word association are very helpful if you are searching for vocabulary. They are coordinates, collocations, and subordinates. We are starting with coordinates. These are words that are often combined with the word “and”. For example: salt and pepper, bread and butter, coffee and cake, and so on. These word combinations are mostly ungoogleable. You will often see two words together and should memorize these two words together.
I find collocations very helpful with regards to language learning. These are words that are somehow connected. The verb “scatter” for example is often connected with the words salt, flowers and cheese. You can scatter salt on the ground in order to melt ice. If you throw flower petals on the ground in front of a married couple, you are scattering flowers. You often scatter cheese on a salad or other food.
There is a fantastic website by the name of collocation dictionary. There you can search and find collocations. The collocations are then sorted by word type. If you put the pointer over a collocation, you see an example sentence with these words together. I searched for the verb “check”. If you put the cursor over the word “mistakes”, you see the sentence “He gave his text to the proofreader in order to check it for mistakes.”
The last type of word association is subordinates. These are categories that have subcategories under them. For example: under the word “animal” belongs multiple types of animals (mammals, reptiles, birds and so on). Under “mammals” belong multiple types of mammals (apes, bears, dogs and so on).
I find subordinates very helpful. You don’t have to learn all of the types of birds when you learn the word “bird”, but it is perhaps helpful to be able to name a few of them (goose, eagle, duck).
Mastering German Vocabulary: A Thematic Approach
Many years ago I bought this book. It is called “Mastering German Vocabulary: A Thematic Approach”. In this book there are many chapters. In these chapters, you find words that can be classified as subordinates, collocations or coordinates. There are also example sentences for all of the words. In the second chapter, you learn words that belong to the topic of “body”. (Nouns like skin, bones, head, hair and face. Verbs like see, smell, hear, touch and taste.)
I recommend this book for all German learners that really want to master the German language. Here is a link, which leads to this book on Amazon. This, of course, is an affiliate link. It doesn’t cost any more to use the link, but I receive a little from the profit when you make a purchase.