1000-word German flashcard deck

My corona lockdown insanity could now be your flashcard deck

After finishing Duolingo German, I started making digital flashcards so that I’d have something to keep my iThumbs occupied through corona lockdown better than scrolling through the reams of international and domestic horrors served up by my newsfeed. I ended up spending months of experimenting with Anki and looking into popular German vocabulary sets online, and this 1000-word flashcard deck of core German vocabulary is the result.

I put a lot of thought into my deck and drew a lot from my experience learning German to inform what words to include and how to build the cards.

For instance, every word in my deck is taught along with its important grammatical properties such as gender and plural for nouns and conjugations for verbs. Noun articles are even automatically color-coded by gender using a bit of JavaScript and CSS. And the cards attempt to strike a nice balance between hitting critical basic vocabulary (der Mann, sprechen, blau, etc.) and not wasting time with words like articles and pronouns that are really best left to grammar lessons and immersion.

Deck Features
  • Thoughtful vocabulary choice

    • Balance1 between nouns (499) and other parts of speech: 230 verbs, 212 adjectives and adverbs, 59 prepositions and conjunctions
    • 100 most frequently used and dozens I encountered often as I learned to read German books and news
    • Abstract nouns important for comprehension in addition to the usual concrete noun categories (animals, foods, jobs, etc.)
    • Expands core noun, verb, and adjective vocabulary from the popular Fluent Forever 625 Base Vocabulary Word List
    • Omits pronouns, articles, most numbers, and other words that you probably already know and which are anyways better learned by immersion or focused grammar study
  • Example sentences pulled from real German sentences for every word

    • Sources included Linguee, Reverso Context, and the Goethe Institut A1-B1 word list
    • Base form of verbs and nouns (or identical form) consistently used to avoid ambuguity, especially if you use the examples to make your own close deletion cards
  • Card types with consistent design for easy import of new cards. See this Google Drive sheet for an example of how you could format an excel spreadsheet for easy import.

  • Cards teach important grammatical properties of words

    • Noun articles highlighted in blue, pink, or gold according to gender using JavaScript and CSS that will work for cards you add yourself as well
    • Distinct card types for nouns, verbs, prepositions, and other
    • Special cards generated to teach noun plural and verb conjugation

  1. Nouns are important, but I tend to think that they overshadow other parts of speech (especially verbs) in vocabulary lists for learners in a way that hinders expression and fluency. The beginning of this blog post from The Language Gym sums up how I feel pretty well. ↩︎

My deck is available for anyone to use for free on Anki

For those who don’t know, Anki is a free, open-source digital flashcard program mostly known for its use of the spaced repetition method.

Spaced repetition has been shown to improve memory retention under some circumstances, and based on my experience digging around on Anki enthusiast forums and blogs, it seems that Anki’s core (or at least most vocal) demographic is a combination of med students and quiz bowl types, a crowd united in its need to absorb and retain heaps of minutea.

Language learners also need to absorb and retain heaps of minutea, and there are plenty of spaced repetition softwares out there made specificaly with language learners in mind. The famous Pimsleur Language Programs are based on spaced repetition, as are Memrise, Quizlet, and Wanikan

Anki isn’t specifically targeted at anyone, and comes with a lot of customizability and control that allow users to shape their own experiences and tailor the app to their own needs. It is also media-rich, allowing images, embedded audio, and even video and GIFs. If you know a bit of HTML, CSS, and/or JavaScript, you can take card customization pretty far and implement things like conditional formatting based on the content of your cards, which is something I’ll post about later.

The main reason I like Anki is that it allows me to make my own cards and sync them across my devices for free—which is something anyone can enjoy even if you’re not interested in getting into the Anki-optimization weeds.

Get the cards and vocabulary list

Get the flashcard deck from AnkiWeb

My deck is available for download from AnkiWeb.

If you haven’t used Anki before, you’ll first need to make an AnkiWeb account and download Anki for your desktop or phone. Once you’re logged into AnkiWeb, you can simply click the “Download” button on my deck’s page to access it through Anki. You can then either use the flashcards in your browser through AnkiWeb or sync your phone/desktop app to your AnkiWeb account to use the cards wherever you go. I recommend using the phone app!Google Drive vocabulary list

Get the vocabulary list from Google Drive
If you’d rather not use Anki, my 1000-word vocabulary list is available as a spreadsheet on Google Drive along with all example sentences, conjugations, noun genders, plurals, etc. The sheet is organized so as to make it easy for importing into Anki or whatever flashcard program you might use.

These cards are still a work in progress, and I’ll be updating the Google Drive spreadsheet and Anki deck as I make corrections and fix errors/bugs. I’m also working to neaten the HTML/CSS and JavaScript that controls conditional formatting on the noun cards and am looking into conditional formatting for irregular verbs as well.

I’m currently also playing around with the idea of making “expansion packs” of vocabulary built around certain themes (food, high fantasy, politics, etc.) that work with my card formats. If that ends up happnening I will of course also make the Google Sheets available as well for anyone who prefers to make their own cards.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you notice an error in the cards or want to help with improving them. I hope they’re useful!