Open Book

Study tips

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Create your own dictionary.

When you learn a new noun relevant to your life, write it down in a small notebook divided into sections for nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and phrases.

Use flashcards.

On one side, write the German word (without gender); on the other side, write the abbreviation of the gender (M = masculine, F = feminine, and N = neuter) and the translation (if necessary; avoid if possible).

 

Colour coding for German genders.

Choose three contrasting colours for the masculine, feminine, and neuter. I use red, blue, and green. Write new nouns in your dictionary in the colour of the gender of the noun. For example, write "der Hund" in blue, "die Katze" in red, and "das Pferd" in green.

Alternatively, you can write words in the colour of the examples above and the translation, or better, a picture, on the back.

For each noun group, memorise a small selection of words.

Example: imagine BLUE mountains while reciting some mountain names (which are masculine): e.g. der Himalaja, der Taunus, der Mount Everest.

Example: imagine RED numbers while reciting numbers (which are feminine): e.g. the one, the two, the three.

Example: imagine GREEN letters as you recite the letters of the alphabet (which are neutral): e.g. the A, the B, the C.

To make this a useful visualisation exercise, you do not have to memorise the actual vocabulary. Just picture the different noun groups, e.g. rivers, hotels, transportation and see these items in the appropriate gender colour. For example, imagine walking down a street and seeing hotels, cafes, restaurants, and movie theatres that are all green because that noun group is neuter.

Memorize single-word examples of noun forms.

For each suffix or other noun form, memorize a word (that is useful to you or easier to recall for some other reason) that stands for that noun form. Then, when you come across another word with the same form, it is easier to know which gender to associate with it.

Think in pictures!

Several examples have already been given of why you should work with pictures and colours as much as possible.

Not only do colours stick better in your memory, but if you can train yourself to think in pictures instead of translating, you are well on your way to true fluency. E.g., associate the new German noun with a picture of the person/object in your head.

Example: When you learn "the table," you see a BLUE table in your head. Also, when you learn an abstract noun like "freedom", you can think in pictures - imagine you have been freed from prison. You are standing outside the gates (all in RED, of course), raising your arms in victory and shouting freedom!

If you think in pictures - a still image or a short movie clip - you can connect the German word directly to the concept and bypass the English altogether. By training yourself in this way, you develop a "German brain" that you can switch from your "English brain" as quickly as turning a lamp on or off. As your language skills become more advanced, you will not be slowed down by tedious translating in your head before you can produce the German you want. Trust me on this point!