Can't keep track of new words

So. I just passed the 2500 German known words mark but to be honest, I only know with heart around 500 I guess.
Whenever I see a word, I do recognize I saw this word somewhere but don’t really get. I probably see hundred words so it is difficult to keep track of each word and its meaning in one session.

Does this comprehensive input process work this way or is it supposed to be this way?

I am learning by different techniques and one of the way I found I learnt best is by writing the complete phase in Google translate and going over all the phrases in once a week. Or you can say, spaced repetition works for me.

Thanks for the constructive comments in advance!


Yes, it’s just a matter of enough repetitions in the right context. Often words can just click in one single sentence. Most of the time it takes several repetitions before you can even spell that word out, but once you can distinguish that word from others it usually is quite easy to start to put meaning to it. Where you are at the moment it’s still a bit slower as you don’t have as many words that you can get context from, but it will get easier once you have the core words and are familiar with the structure. At this point using sentence view helps to fill in the gaps.

Writing is a good way to remember, but there might be limited extra benefit compared to comprehensive input as the words you are trying to acquire are the most frequent. Possibly writing down phrasal verbs and phrases might be a better use of time as they often aren’t that commonly used even if they are fairly common.


I have the same problem in German, I am supposedly A2, or B2 as LingQ calls it. I have found two possible solutions which I use. The first is to put phrases into Anki, which demonstrate the use of words and grammar I wish to remember. The second is to do as much basic CI as possible. Thus I am scouring YouTube for simple input which I then import. I don’t care if the level is a bit low, or a bit high, it’s the quantity I aim for.

German is for English speakers harder than romance languages because so little vocabulary is shared, and the grammar is so different. However, as Jessei says, I am finding it a bit easier now, as it is somewhat of a Lego language.

Unfortunately LingQ rewards doing new lessons, and punishes revising lessons, so it will take me 4 years or more to reach B1, or I1 in LingQ terminology. Never mind, it’s the actual progress that counts.

English is actually lexically a lot closer to German than any of the Romance languages. It’s possible that English and Romance languages have more more recent (relatively) loan words that are less changed together with German conjugation and grammar that make it seem like there is less common than there actually is. Especially at the start it can be a bit more difficult to see the patterns how words are comprised and it’s not always clear even if something should be obviuos. I remember just recently making the connection that is so obvious between two words in my native language and it only took me nearly 40 years :sweat_smile:

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I simply do not believe that. Various sources indicate that modern English words come to us from the following sources:

~60% French and Latin.
~25% German, Norse and Dutch.
The rest from other languges such as Greek, Hindi, Celtic etc.

In practice, as a learner of the German language, most of the German words I bump into are impenetrable. Thus Gegend, Teil, Übung, Gemeinschaft, Spazieren, Reden, Bewerbung, Einstellung, Spielen, Himmel, Ehnarung and so on. Whereas French seems almost like a dialect of English. Of course the meaning in French of a word will have a slightly different meaning, but that understanding comes from practice.

Someone online wrote that French is Latin spoken by Germans, and English is French spoken by Norsemen, which has a hint of truth to it. In practice both English and French went through a similar linguistic simplification of their root languages, which is why the grammar is similar. And we thieved a large part of their vocabulary and much of their land. Sadly we later lost the land.

It is conceivable that from an abstract academic viewpoint, English and German are close, but in practice, no. Fortunately, as I said earlier, German is a Lego language, thus after a while one can guess the meaning of die Ausstellung and das Vorstellungsgespräch.

Sorry, can you elaborate on this statement a bit? I don’t know what u mean by CI.

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Comprehensible Input

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I call French and English kissing cousins. :slight_smile: Not to gross anyone out.

They’re not from the same nuclear family, but they share so much.

That’s etymology, not lexical similarity. It doesn’t give you much information about lexical similarity in languages where origin of words is varied because there is so much overlap. German also has a lot of loan words from Latin, Greek and Romance langueges that English has also adapted. Also Romance langueges don’t have that many loan words from Germanic languages. Lexical similarity between English and Latin is just over 50% and for for German and Latin just under 50%. That’s not the same as having that much Latin origin, but it gives idea how much connection those have one way or other. Because German and English have still lot of shared vocabulary of Germanic origen lexical similarity between them is around 70% whereas between English and Romance languages it’s between 40-60%. But like I said, there might be a difference in how much there are words that have changed little/much. In my native Finnish there are quite a bit loan words of latin origin through English and you could say those have been butchered to fit the Finnish language. Must be similar with German. English and Romance languages on the other hand have had puritanism regarding words of Latin origin. Once you know the languege those changes make sense. When it comes to words of common Germanic origin, those have most likely split long time ago and might need a bit of imagination to find connections. Not all make sense.

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You missed out the following part of my post:

It is conceivable that from an abstract academic viewpoint, English and German are close, but in practice, no.

I can only speak from the point of view of an English speaking learner of French and German, and my experience is that it is much easier to learn French words because so many are shared with English. German words are rarely similar to English words. I still struggle to remember basic German words because of the lack of English cognates. That is why I spend so much time on fairly simple comprehensive input.

They do are similar, and more so than English to French, but in ways that you aren’t used to. I take it that you started learning French a long time ago? Then it’s very likely that you have already forgot some of the troubles you had with it. I certainly have forgot troubles I had with Spanish in just 5 months. Now when I started Swedish it hit like a brickwall and I’m sure it was just like that when i started Spanish. There are a lot of easy pick-ups from English or other languages through English (about 70% lexical similarity between Swedish and English), but there are lots of words that are hard to get grip of just because I don’t know enough of the languege. Spanish seemed to open up somewhere in lingqs intermediate 1/2 and I expect similarly it to get easier at that point.

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From a native German-speaker’s point of view, English is a LOT more familiar than any Romance language. But I can see how the same might not be true in reverse!

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You seem not to have read a word I said. I don’t care about academic similarities. I only care about what I can understand.

You only have to look at French and German news sites to see that French is far more approachable. This is the first story I happened to see at

An English speaker with no French knowledge could guess most of the meaning of the title and first sentence. Many words are even spelt the same as English equivalents.

Here is a random one from a German online newspaper:

It’s meaningless to a polyglot English speaker. I can get the gist for obvious reasons, but I can’t guess unknown words.

I can see that English would for you be more familiar than French. Perhaps it seems to you like a baby German with some French words thrown in to confuse you.

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It might feel like it, but it doesn’t seem likely that it’s because of the reason you think. It’s not just academic, but also real world similarities. If you have learnt French a long time ago, you can’t look at it from the outside. French will always have an advantage in your brain. Obviuosly you can’t guess unknown words when you aren’t far enough. For someone who has only learned German for a couple courses 20 years ago and has good English plus fairly good Spanish vocabulary, both texts have fairly even amount of strange looking words. I reckon it’s just matter of getting more familiar with the language. 3000 words still isn’t much. Once you get closer to where your French is, you will already have forgot that at some point it felt more difficult.

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Better mark more words in yellow than less. Don’t look too much at the known words count. Your passive word count will always be much higher than the active one. Aquiring words though listening and reading is not predictable: some words simply don’t like to enter your brain. Suddenly they might be there.


I am at a loss to understand your posts, and honestly wonder if you are trolling.

Let’s take the first example, and for simplicity consider only words visible in this post i.e. not all words on the external page:

Words with a one to one mapping to English:

dialogues, inaudibles, films, passages, trouble, fabrication, fiction

Words that are so close they are easy to guess:

chaîne, spectateurs, activer.

Now let’s take the German example:

Words with a one to one mapping to English:

There aren’t any !

Words that are so close they are easy to guess:

Faktor, perfekten


As a native english speaker I have a very good impression of what is obvious to an English speaker in a foreign language. In addition English is a two tier language, we often have two words for the same object or concept, thus build (Germanic) and construct (latinate), clear (Germanic) and limpid (latinate). The latinate words are seen as more educated and sophisticated. A native English speaker will know the latinate words, which gives access to a huge number of French words such as élucider, rébarbatif, limpide, infraction and so on.

Well of course, but my point is that I find it very hard to remember German vocabulary because it is so alien. There appears to be widespread agreement that German is initially much harder to learn than French, for a native English speaker, but later it becomes easier.

Unfortunately LingQ rewards doing new lessons, and punishes revising lessons,’

I think your post is encouraging. Just keep going.

German was a language I dabbled in for a bit, and it was really fun; the grammar was a bit tough, as you say, but at the core of the language I found it very similar to English. (Reading German seems a lot like reading Jabberwocky. It feels essentially understandable, if it weren’t for all the pesky vocabulary. LOL!) I heard once that English and German share a common origin, despite the huge number of borrowed words from French and Latin (and everywhere else).

I have to keep reminding myself that revising (US:reviewing) lessons is helping, regardless of whether or not new LingQ’s are being created or un-created (in the case of a word not being as “known” as I thought it was…) and whether or not the streak keeps getting lost every day or so.

Never mind, it’s the actual progress that counts.

Exactly! :slight_smile:

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Definitely not trying to troll. Based on what you wrote there you are limiting yourself by looking at the most obvious by writing. Even those words that you wrote aren’t pronounced the same in both languages, and in some cases, not even close, right? What you should look out for is related sounds. It’s fairly irrelevant whether they are spelled similarly or not. Words can be spelled the same, but the meaning is different. Or all letters are different, but it’s obvious what it reminds of at least from the context.

I can’t say if being non-native bilingual helps pick out similarities because of being used to different pronunciations, but I could find 15 that should be obvious to a native English speaker. Either directly from the context or the connection is clear once you look up the meaning. These should become more obvious when you are more familiar with the language and know typical endings or how certain sounds are adapted to the language.

Warten, diese gibt, antwort, in, zweiten, faktor, über, perfekten, senken, wiegt, grafik, für, alle, Szenerien.

Then there are some that have half the word as German tends to stick words together. What I like to do is actively try to find some connection to languages I know. If I can find a connection, it often becomes known very fast. Sometimes connection might be to a word that in other language is a bit antiquated. Even if the connection is very small it helps to remember. Like a couple of days ago I ran into Spanish tregue that in English is truce, both with the same etymology. There is enough common to make a mental note to look for a word that has similar features. At times similar looks might be just a coincidence, but it helps nonetheless. Often with languages that have a high amount of words with common origin, those similarities are from shared etymology.

What you might be missing is the German pronunciation. English spelling is a mess and doesn’t help much in trying to visualize words and knowing French doesn’t help much either, I would think. Finnish on the other hand is much more consistent with the pronunciation of many European languages, besides English, French and possibly some others.

Take all this as an encouragement. It’s possible to see those connections once you get further along in the language. Written French might look similar to English, but pronunciation must have cost you a lot of trouble. What if French had been written differently to correspond to pronunciation? It would be more difficult to see the connection to English in written form, but pronunciation might become easier. With German maybe you have the struggles in a different order. It’s a bit too early to make a judgment.


You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said, you’ve ignored the experiences of a native English speaker who is currently learning several languages including German, dismissing everything that I have said as incorrect. You clearly think you know everything and the actual experience of a learner is wrong. You come across as exceptionally arrogant and opinionated,

You didn’t read what I wrote. Go back and read it.

They’re not, with the exception of two I listed.

Things usually do become clear once you look up the meaning. As for context, there is no context when you understand almost no words.

You didn’t read what I wrote. I didn’t say “Here are the words you will recognise after six months study.“ If I had, almost the entire French paragraph would have been obvious. Go back and read what I actually wrote,

No. I’ve been learning for a year, German pronunciation is comparatively easy for an English speaker. Several people have been surprised at how well I pronounce German probably due to experience with Welsh and French. Long before I started studying the language, I asked German colleagues how to say something, they were surprised at my pronunciation, and thought I had studied it. Your comment is superficial and plain wrong.

You talk utter nonsense. The fact that you dismiss everything I say when I describe my actual experience, suggests an astonishing degree of arrogance on your part. Who the hell are you to tell a learner that their experiences are wrong?

Here are a few German words I struggle to remember: mieten, bieten, entscheiden, auswählen, aufhören, erschlagen, bewerbung, ausstellung, einstellung, abschließen, anforderung, wechseln, Windeln, Baum, Stirn, Löffel, Gabel. I could throw in pages more, all totally alien. I now know most of those listed, but it’s a very slow process.

German has advantages, it is almost written as it is spoken, it uses stress based timing, the phonemes are not that different from English, the verb conjugations are not that hard, the case system is tricky but not too complex, there are some words in common, and societal norms are not that different. However. the vocabulary is very different, unlike French which has massive overlap with English. Even after one year studying German, I am forgetting words I learnt six months ago. I have gone back to simpler comprehensible input, and more of it, to try and get words into my memory.

French is relatively simple in terms of vocabulary and grammar but the spelling is a nightmare, and comprehension can be very hard, due to enchaînement and syllable based timing.

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