I am trying to learn German, but I find memorizing vocabulary lists very boring, and would prefer to read a book and just look up the words I don't get. The problem is, I find it really frustrating to have to stop every ten minutes or so too look up a word in a dictionary, because it breaks my concentration and distracts from following the story. I could just guess the word from context, but I would really like to know for sure that I got the meaning right. So I was wondering, are there any books which have available a list of all the words used in them?

I would like to be able to flick through a couple of pages to find a word I don't know, rather than having to search through a dictionary or go to a computer to look it up. I have been able to find books which claim to have a limited vocabulary, but I have not been able to find a list of the words used in them.

To be clear: The problem I find is that the time it takes to look up a word breaks my focus on the text, making it easy to get distracted. I am hoping someone can recommend a publisher/book series that includes with each book (or makes available separately) a list of the German words used in the book, ideally broken down as much as possible to make lookups easy (e.g. "words in chapter 1" etc.) so I can quickly check what something means without breaking my chain of thought.

  • 2
    I don't know of any particular book, but such books exist. However, what I highly recommend: read the book first without looking up any single word you don't know. You will understand from context. It may sound hard, but you'll improve for sure.
    – Em1
    Apr 14, 2014 at 20:10
  • 1
    Let me just say that if you can go ten minutes without looking up a word, then from where I'm sitting you're approaching fluency. I'm proud if I can go several sentences of a news article without failing to understand a word. Ten minutes is amazing.
    – NL7
    Apr 14, 2014 at 20:48
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    How could such a book exist? If you can read 10 minutes without having to use a dictionary, that means you are advanced. When you begin German, the vocabulary you learn is standard: Haus, Mann, Frau, sein, haben, usw., but advanced users had already read a lot, random sources, and possess different vocabulary basis. Hence, which words would a publisher choose to be deemed as "unknown"?
    – c.p.
    Apr 15, 2014 at 2:55
  • 6
    How about an eReader with a (built-in or add-on) dictionary? You tap a word you don't know and up comes the translation.
    – elena
    Apr 15, 2014 at 6:45
  • @NL7 Haha, yeah, ten minutes would be pretty good. I probably shouldn't have used such a precise phrase - I just meant 'frequently', I don't actually know how long I can read for before looking up a word, just that it feels very often. I'm sure it's less than ten minutes.
    – Benubird
    Apr 15, 2014 at 8:50

8 Answers 8


There is a series of books that does what you're describing. The books are by Elisabeth May and are called the German Reader series; they are found in Amazon's Kindle section. The chapters start with a list of vocabulary words that will be used in that chapter. The author calls it the "ALARM" method (Approved Learning Automatic Remembering Method). Fair warning: the plot of the books gets kind of strange. I think they put more focus on trying to work the vocabulary words in. One of the books was about a policeman that over the course of the book gets involved in a prison break using an elephant.

You didn't mention your reading level, but these books start at probably the 6th grade level and go up to about 9th grade level. For books at a lower level, you could try Andre Klein's Kindle books. He puts his vocabulary at the end of the chapters, though. Truthfully I prefer Klein's books. His latest series involving an Italian who lives in a series of German cities is fairly well written and, I think, useful as it describes the everyday life of the main character. It's fairly short (40 pages or so) and cheap.


I do this too. I read German news sites and de.wiki articles, then I alt-tab to Google Translate (or your preferred translator, like LEO or babelfish or whatever) for the words I don't know.

I found a couple tricks helpful. First, you also need to do some vocabulary building directly if you are either very new to German or you are very rusty. Babbel has a free app with some free vocabulary builders, which I found helpful. It's more interactive than just a list of words and they group them by subject area. I'm sure there are others to fill this need.

Also, I found it useful to break down the compound words. Not all the German words are amenable to this deconstruction, but many are. It also makes it easier to see these patterns in later words.

The most important trick I've forced myself into is to stop less, even if I miss words. Eventually I absorb the meaning of sentences and I start to get words from context. It's tough at first having to guess, but immersion is effective.

  • The Babbel app seems to cost money after the first lesson, although it did look promising. Now I'm using Duolingo, which appears to be completely free.
    – blackappy
    Feb 23, 2015 at 19:16

Zum Lesen von Onlinematerial kann man den Chromium-Webbrowser verwenden. Für diesen gibt es eine Erweiterung, dict.cc, so dass man ein Wort markiert, rechts clickt, das Kontextmenü mit dem Eintrag dict.cc öffnet sich, click, und schon ist man beim Wörterbucheintrag mit diesem Wort.

Für Firefox gibt es eine Erweiterung, bei der man das Wort einfach markiert, links-doppelklickt, und ein Popup erscheint mit einem Übersetzungsvorschlag. Sehr komfortabel.

Texte in anderen Formaten kann man ohne weiteres in ein wenig Mindest-HTML packen, und dann auch im Browser derart konsumieren.

Bücher erst einzuscannen und mit OCR in Text zu wandeln ist aber vom Aufwwand kaum vertretbar, wenn man nur alle 10 Minuten eine Vokabel sucht.

Xubuntu hat auch einen Helfer für das Panel, um Wörter aus beliebigen Programmen zu übersetzen.

  • funktioniert eigentlich diese Erweiterung für Deutsch?
    – c.p.
    Apr 16, 2014 at 2:19
  • @c.p.: Auf der Website kann man aus über 20 Quell- und Zielsprachen wählen. Vielleicht wird als Zielsprache automatisch die Browsersprache angenommen, und als Quelle die Sprache laut HTML-Meta-Tags? Eine Konfiguration, um es umzustellen, habe ich jedenfalls nicht gefunden. Apr 17, 2014 at 1:58

You might be interested in an "Interlinear translation", where a translated English text is printed just beneath the German text. I found a self-published one of "Demian" by Hermann Hesse, which is a good read anyway.

Another good method is to find a German translation (or even better, a German original) of a book you know well in English, such as The Neverending Story. Children's literature is very good for this because it is explicitly designed to be engaging and easy to understand as it sneaks in new vocabulary.

This should, however, ideally be augmented with vocab and grammar work: flashcards are very good for expanding vocabulary. If you find it boring, change your strategy so that you are trying to go through your flashcards as quickly as possible - don't spend thirty seconds umming and ahing over a word you don't remember. Look at the answer, mark the card, and move on.


I would suggest another methode, buy an electronic dictionary. I use one and I must say it is the quickest way to look up a word.

  • I have an app on my phone that does that, but it is still really annoying to use, especially if the word is longer or I have to type special characters for it.
    – Benubird
    Apr 15, 2014 at 8:55

For Russian native speakers there are a nice book series by Ilya Frank. Text in these books are given like this:

Faust. Der Tragödie erster Teil
Фауст. Первая часть трагедии

Prolog im Himmel (пролог на небесах; der Himmel)

Der Herr (Господь). Die himmlischen Heerscharen (небесные воинства; das Heer — войско, воинство + die Schar — отряд, множество). Nachher Mephistopheles (затем Мефистофель). Die drei Erzengel treten vor (вперед выступают три архангела ; vortreten — выступать вперед; treten — ступать).

So you can easily read the book and learn new words. Very helpful technics. I think there should be similar books for other native speakers. Try to find it. Good luck.


A Kindle turns every book into a book where lookup of vocabulary is easy. You just have to put your finger on the word you want to look up and then you get the definition of the word that's in the dictionary.

  • What language is the dictionary in though? Does it do translations?
    – Benubird
    Apr 22, 2016 at 8:42
  • @Benubird : I personally use the Duden which is written in English but German-To-English is also easily accessible. If you aren't happy with the default dictionaries you can also add additional ones.
    – Christian
    Apr 22, 2016 at 16:35

In addition to some of the great resources already described, you may be interested in the Deutsch Perfekt series of magazines that are put out by the Zeit group. A lot of them are available on Amazon. They're not books, but they use graded language in their articles, with lists of vocabulary definitions in the margins of each page. I find them to be quite enjoyable to read.

(Full warning: While I often speak like a beginner, I read German at roughly an intermediate level. If you're looking for something easier than intermediate, you may need to look elsewhere, as the magazines only contain a few "easy" articles per copy.)

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