I’ve just gotten into LingQ and really enjoyed using it these past few days but I’m a bit confused on how to approach learning the genders of nouns, specifically for German but this could apply to other languages as well. In German, it’s vital to understand the genders of different nouns for grammar like adjective endings and articles. My problem is: I’m not sure whether to create a LingQ for words that I know the meaning of but haven’t memorized the gender. I’m interested to hear how others have approached this,
I would argue that the best approach to learning grammatical gender is not to bother at all at the beginning, and instead focus on getting as much input as possible. Before you become a fluent reader, there is simply too much to memorise, and you know too little to make the gender stick in your mind–you will be forgetting more than learning, and it will be frustrating. You will see no progress.
Instead, read as much as possible, become capable enough to read short stories and, eventually, popular novels in German, listen to news, podcasts, audiobooks. You will learn vocabulary and you will automatically memorise the gender, in the same way Germans memorise gender when they learn the language in childhood. You will soak it in, you won’t even notice, but you will know whether der, die, or das goes with a particular noun.
Once you have achieved a certain level of fluency, you can look at generalised rules for gender in German. If you are interested in getting a flavour of what this means, have a look at this article: German Gender and Big Data.
But, I would stress yet again, do not concern yourself with abstract rules if you are not at least capable of picking up a popular German novel and reading it without the aid of the dictionary.
When learning a word, the best thing to do is to learn the gender at the same time. If possible, make a link including the article, e.g er hat das Buch gekauft. Translation: the book. If the article is not directly before the word, you can join article plus word to to the translation. E.G. Er hat gestern ein Buch von Thomas Mann gekauft. Translation: das Buch - the book.
Vielen Dank! I’ve started attaching the gender to the translation but I won’t go too hard on memorizing it yet. You make a good point about engaging in the language before getting caught up in memorizing grammar like the articles. Though, I’ll definitely check out that blog post at some point since I’ve always thought there’s not much of a pattern to German grammatical gender minus some exceptions. If it’s not too much trouble, do you have any specific website or podcast recommendations after the mini stories? I’ve been searching for good German content for listening especially.
If you get a decent understanding of German grammar you will be able to automatically notice the gender when you encounter it. This will help a lot and you won’t have to do anything time consuming like adding genders to 25,000 saved unknown nouns.
Nice article. I think I’ll tattoo the tables on my arm =)
It’s definitely nice to see some of these percentages and to have the data based on word frequency is very helpful.
There’s a more comprehensive set of rules in Hammer’s German Grammar and Usage (cue Colin). For example, seasons, months, days of week, points of the compass, words referring to winds and kinds of weather are masculine. Typically rocks and minerals, alcoholic and plant-based drinks, makes of car are masculine.
On the feminine side…most airplane and ship names, German names of rivers, names of numerals.
Neutral - most metals and chemical elements, letters of the alphabet and musical notes
That’s just a smattering.
I agree with the sentiment not to really worry about it too much. Some of these rules though could be fairly easy to drill in and they have such a high percentage that it might be could to look them over from time to time. I just don’t think one needs to get obsessed with it though.
I might be wrong, and possibly I’ll get shot down by the Germans on this message board, but I have confirmed it with a couple of native Germans, I think in most cases, even if you get these wrong in speech, someone will understand you. They may look at you funny, but I think within context and clarifying questions they would understand what you are saying. There ARE some german words that have entirely different meaning depending on the gender…so those may be trickier, but probably again someone may understand you from context even if you got it wrong.
Ideally though, through a lot of input you’ll be able to get these right most of the time anyway with time. benscheelings idea to store the meaning with the article is good too, to have extra enforcement. Especially when much of the time the article isn’t there within the context of a sentence.
In answer to the specific question: Whether to create a LingQ for words you know the meaning of but haven’t memorized the gender…
In my opinion, mark it known. You’ll get the gender eventually if it’s a common word and even if you don’t…not a huge deal imo in most cases. You will be understood most likely.
I’m also learning German and I definitely agree with 1ndeed. As a native Italian speaker (we have genders, too) I think that at the beginning it’s not crucial to get the gender right. If you say a basic sentence with a gender mistake, I would still be able to perfectly understand you, and this is the same experience I’ve had with German. It becomes more important as you become proficient, because it kind of feels weird to say a complex sentence with perfect grammar and pronunciation but with the wrong genders. For now, though, I would also suggest focusing on getting as much input as possible without bothering about genders. In the future, there are rules that you can follow (the link posted by 1indeed is great) and you can just memorise the most relevant ones (e.g. there are many words ending in -ung, so knowing that basically all of them are feminine is really useful). Of course there are many exceptions – memorising the word together with its article may be useful in these cases, but I personally try and do this as little as possible.
Coming to podcast recommendations, I really like EasyGerman. The language is not oversimplified, they just speak more slowly compared to average German. The topics they discuss about are relevant and of interest at the present time, making it useful also to get some vocabulary that you can use immediately in you everyday conversations. In addition, they also make videos where they interview random people in the streets, so that you can get a feel for the real language (abbreviations, idioms, etc.) and the most common accents.
Here you can find a list of podcasts that may be of interest to you (most of these are podcasts that Germans listen to as well, with some more topic-specific vocabulary, more advanced language structure, etc. – unlike EasyGerman, they’re not made on purpose for learners) https://www.dw.com/de/podcasts/s-100976.
Hope this helps a bit, viel Spaß beim Deutsch lernen!
I wholeheartedly recommend the Dino lernt Deutsch series. If you order them directly from this site they are DRM free and you can import. The chapters/lessons are short enough, you might also just want to create a lesson for each chapter. There are audiobooks for these as well. The stories are interesting and well done and “adult”…i.e. not children’s books.
Easy German news with slow spoken audio. You can import the article and upload the audio. This was my bread and butter in the late beginner and intermediate levels.
Nico’s Weg -
There is a full blown “course” on the dw website, but I think also you can find that someone’s uploaded the course to LingQ somewhere. You can also find the transcript for each lesson and import for yourself.
You can also find additional material on dw’s site:
As someone mentioned, the Easy German YouTube channel is awesome. It’s above beginner level, but the videos are interesting and you can hear real street interviews. The ones labeled “Super Easy German” are easier and usually detail specific grammar topics. If you become a Patreon member you can get the transcripts and import them into LingQ. They also have a podcast which is excellent, but I’d wait on that until you’re late intermediate/advanced on LingQ.
Evgueny and Vera have good courses for Beginners on LingQ (look under guided courses I think and filter down to beginner 1-2). They also have some intermediate courses which are good too.
Slow German Podcast. She has different levels here so you might find something of interest in the beginner levels. I’m not sure if she has the transcripts somewhere? I seem to remember them being on the individual podcast notes, but don’t know if that’s changed:
atomabg, I’d also recommend the Easy German podcast. I started listening to them regularly when I barely understood anything and I still do now. The hosts are pleasant and easy going and have their endearing quirks, and the topics are varied and amusing. I would say the podcast should be enjoyable for upper beginners (who will be happy they understand quite a bit) as well as for the advanced (easy and relaxing listening). The show also has an impressive backlog. You will never run out of comprehensive German content.
As for reading, if I were start from scratch, I would look for graded readers or children’s stories first (I do this for Greek now). Find something that would interest you, in a digital format, and upload it to LingQ. The most important here would be that the stories are engaging for you–I’m sure you have a better idea what this could be than we do. Simple texts will take you in no time to more advanced ones, some teenage fiction in translation, short stories, and eventually German literature for the Germans by the Germans.