I wanted to add a little bit more to my previous post about words in context vs. word lists. I said in my last post that going through and adding word lists to your SRS application, like Anki, could be effective, if only you could bring yourself to do it. At this point, however, I’m thinking words without context are perhaps more trouble than they’re worth, even if you can bring yourself to adding them to your SRS program.
Before I became dreadfully bored with the process, I had added 40 or 50 German words from Using German Vocabulary to my Anki deck. They’ve been in my deck for a few weeks now, and I’ve noticed a rather blatant trend: I keep outright forgetting these words, or getting them completely wrong, whereas with words that are in context, I rarely forget them completely, and only very occasionally will I make a mistake in remembering them. Some of the words that I’ve added without context, I’ve forgotten completely 3 or 4 times.
Die Kommode is one example of one of the words I’ve “lost” repeatedly. It means “chest of drawers”, something rather simple, but everytime die Kommode would pop up in Anki, I’d blank on it, or think of something similar – a coatrack, a closet, etc.
A couple of days ago I added some context to the card, changing it to die Schubladen der Kommode aufziehen (essentially “to open the drawers of the chest [of drawers]”), and the word seems to be sticking well now. It hasn’t been long enough to see if the context makes a long-term change, but I expect it will.
So, I have to reiterate something that I’ve seen elsewhere many times: while it may take a bit more time to find example sentences / phrases for the words you’re trying to learn, they really do seem to make a difference.