I wrote previously about word lists vs. words in context, and said that I thought for a lot of words, context just wasn’t needed much. This is especially true of concrete nouns. A bakery is a bakery, whether you say “bakery” or “die Bäckerei,” a library is a library, whether you say “library” or “die Bibliothek.”
One aspect I didn’t really think about when I was writing that post was the issue of enjoyment during study. I checked out Using German Vocabulary, which consists almost entirely of thematic word lists, with some exercises / authentic German material after each unit, from the university library. I had the intent of systematically adding all of the words in it to my SRS application, Anki. The book has a huge number of everyday words, and so I figured learning all of them would be a good thing.
Except… I’m not doing it. The book has sat on the shelf for a while now, while I’ve continued yanking whole sentences from news articles and from my monolingual German dictionary. Why? Mostly because sitting and typing in word after word into Anki isn’t a great deal of fun, whereas reading articles and slowly increasing my understanding via learning new words, is.
Maybe a dual approach is needed – use the word lists in the book as a guide as to what to learn, but look up sentences for each word via Google or my dictionary. I’m hesitant to just toss out the book (or return it to the library, more specifically), because I’ve found that if I just read news articles and what not, I end up with large holes in my vocabulary, particularly words for everyday things. I’ve not read many articles which have dealt with bookshelves, shelves, sets of shelves, etc., which are all things I recently learned the German for, via the above-mentioned book.
Certainly, though, I don’t think just cramming word lists into Anki isn’t going to work for me, at least not as a long term learning practice. It’s effective – I could learn a lot of words in a short amount of time – but only if I can bring myself to do it, which I’ve failed at. Live and learn.