Practice Makes Perfect: German Vocabulary

3-5 German, Books, Vocabulary

March 10, 2013

Author  Ed Swick
Series  Practice Makes Perfect
Publisher  McGraw-Hill
Publication Date  2007
Price  $14.00
Skill Level  Intermediate, Advanced

Practice Makes Perfect: German Vocabulary by Ed Swick is divided up into chapters such as “Animals,” “Holidays,” “Farms and gardens,” and “The human body.” It balances explanations, word lists, and examples with exercises.

While it is too advanced for a beginner, Practice Makes Perfect: German Vocabulary would be appropriate for intermediate and advanced students. And if you proceed, you will need to have a relaxed attitude about the goofy transitional sentences that lead from one vocabulary topic to the next.

For a section on “Wilde Tiere,” you are told, “Wild animals live everywhere in the world and can be found in lakes and oceans, deserts, mountains, forests, and jungles.” In the human body chapter, you are informed, “The body is not just a bunch of body parts linked together but rather a system of organs, limbs, tissues, and functions working in concert to perform the many acts that we call life.” In the chapter “Around the house,” I learned, “A German apartment or house has the same kinds of rooms as found in other European or American homes.”

For some reason this goofiness doesn’t bother me, and in fact, I find it—and some of the vocabulary—pretty funny. Die Schädlingsbekämpfung aus der Luft is “crop dusting,” Furchen pflügen means “to plow furrows,” and, most important, Durchfall is “diarrhea.”

Some of the exercises are kind of silly. For example, Exercise 14.4 asks you to identify at which of the three meals—breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner— you consume various beverages and foods: Milch, Wiener Schitzel, Blumenkohl (cauliflower), etc. That’s not a good use of my vocabulary-learning time.

Nonetheless, other exercises were often fun, and I loved the vocabulary lists. Many of the words were familiar to me from my past life studying German, but I am pretty sure that, as a New Yorker, I will not be retaining words such as Schuppen (shed for storing tools and equipment) or Viehstall (cowshed or cattle barn).

A second edition of Practice Makes Perfect: German Vocabulary came out in 2012. It appears to contain all the content of the 2007 edition reviewed here, along with a new chapter at the end, entitled “Germany in the twenty-first century,” that covers technology terms.

Lots of German Words in Here
Lots of German Words in Here
It's a Little Goofy, But I Did Like This Book
It's a Little Goofy, But I Did Like This Book

Comments (2)

Jim • Posted on Fri, December 23, 2016 - 1:20 pm EST

First let me say I am a long-time fan of yours.  At one time I totally agreed with you about Pimsleur being the best.  Now, I just see it as a good supplement to a beginning language routine.  After reading this review I realize where I part ways with your approach.  I appreciate your focus on grammar.  Grammar has its place, but it does not make one a polyglot or lead to fluency.  I study languages as a hobby and I have an ethnic German background.  I don’t find anything goofy about this book.  I talk to ethnic Germans from around the world and words like Schuppen, and Viehstall are common in our every day speech.  Historically, Germans emigrated to find agricultural lands.  Modern city-dwelling Germans rent plots in the country to grow gardens and they have Schuppen on them.  If I am in Munich on a Saturday, I know many of my neighbors will tell me they were out ploughing furrows that day.  Also, modern Germans all grow flowers in their window boxes etc.  Also, if a person is not a good housekeeper we will gossip about what a Viehstall their house is.  My point is that one is not fluent unless you can have this kind of every day conversation.  So I think this book is very relevant to the language.  I can go on about the traditional lay-out of German houses, or cold cuts for breakfast, but it is getting the vocabulary of the culture that makes one fluent. By the way, thanks for inspiring me to think about and comment on this.  Still a fan…

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, January 03, 2017 - 9:53 pm EST

Thank you, Jim, and happy New Year! I never do just Pimsleur if I am really trying to learn a language! I do everything I can get my hands on. ;) Including vocabulary books like this one.

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