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Curate specialized vocabularies

[Deutscher Text | German text] Language skills open up access to education and income, social contacts and social recognition.

The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) currently lists 324 recognized training occupations: https://www.bibb.de/dienst/veroeffentlichungen/de/publication/show/17944.

In every occupational field there is technical jargon, which must be learned as quickly as possible by people with German as a foreign language.
The following article explains the project to build and provide specialized vocabulary for immigrants and natives. An interesting side goal is to get to know the sophisticated ice-setting possibilities of Word and Excel.

Table of Contents

Personal experience as a trigger
Self-organized learning and digital neighborhood assistance
On-the-job training for advanced users
Technical requirements
Professional requirements
Video conferences
Live events and explanatory videos
How many participants can be admitted?
Why is participation free of charge?
Where and how will the results be published?
Registration and contact


The most important technical vocabulary can be extracted from examination and learning objective schedules as well as reference books. Without the use of digitization, extraction would be a laborious task that would not be implemented, or only to a limited extent.

Those who are familiar with the basic functionality of Excel can use the solutions outlined below to build a collection based on personal needs and then manage it. One’s own collection can easily be combined and extended with other collections.

Of essential importance is on the one hand the knowledge of how to sort word lists and create uniques in order to avoid multiple entries of the same expression and on the other hand the knowledge of how to compare collections of new literature with one’s own collection in order to separate the already known from the unknown by highlighting. Both can be easily implemented with Excel and comparable apps. I will explain this in detail so that it is easy to follow.

Anyone who would like not only to acquire the knowledge of the functionality of the tools described in the picture, but also to develop it together with other teachers, trainers and coaches, can register for the workshops “Curating specialized vocabularies” on the platform https://rennert.moodlecloud.com. Participation is free of charge.

Personal experience as a trigger

As a long-standing IT trainer and online lecturer for the Computer Driving License modules, one not only expands one’s specialist knowledge, but one also gains experience with the understanding of specialist language among different groups of participants. One is permanently engaged in didactics to improve the comprehension of participants who speak German as a foreign language. But also many native speakers need digital handouts to understand the technical jargon in the digital workplace.

As an online instructor, my clients assign me to learning groups in which 20 to 50 percent of the participants do not speak German as their native language. They are referred to as DaF participants in the following. At the end of each IT continuing education module I supervise, there is a certification. The written exam contains up to 40 questions, each with a maximum of 4 possible multiple-choice answer options. Although the DaF participants have hardly any problems in the exercises and in the practical application because they have already worked with the software in their home country, they fail the first text-based module exams more often than German native speakers. The DaF participants agree with my observation that the failure is due to their lack of language skills, although they usually have a language certificate at level B2 or C1. Knowing their own German language deficits and the technical language, they gladly use my offer of a vocabulary list to the written course materials of the Herdt-Verlag, which I have developed for years. Because the participants receive the material as an eBook, they can copy passages they do not understand and have them translated into their native language using DEEPL or Google Translate. Thus, my teaching for DaF participants is incidental language teaching with a subject matter that is not covered in the usual DaF courses.

I am not a trained DaF specialist, but use the language with the feeling for the language, as I have acquired it since my birth, in school, study and profession on the side. I never had to learn the rules for using correct grammar and just formulate according to my feeling and the suggestions of the text apps for spelling and grammar.

In order to offer vocabularies and aids for understanding foreign language texts based on the possibilities currently available, I use the software installed almost everywhere to provide my electronic handouts. The knowledge of its advanced use is part of my everyday professional life. In the further development of my offer of specialized vocabulary, language teachers and trainers could provide me with valuable tips on technical and didactic aspects: Therefore, I am happy to exchange my IT know-how for know-how in language teaching and certification of language levels including technical language.

The name for our joint project could also be: Building vocabulary collections to expand training-related language competence using information technology OR Expanding, promoting and certifying job-related language competence using digital options.

Self-organized learning and digital neighborhood assistance.

Using the explanatory videos in the playlist, you can learn the skills you need on your own. More inspiring is the exchange with like-minded people to work together on the continuous improvement of the offerings. Language is the means of communication in cross-disciplinary collaboration. The common platform is used to organize our communication. Anyone who wants to participate in the joint construction of subject-specific vocabulary collections should sign up. Neighborly help is based on providing a service in return instead of a fee. The purpose of the common platform is to organize digital neighborly help in the form of “give and take”. Before signing up, each participant should therefore consider what she or he can contribute if services in the form of know-how transfer were offered by others.

We know from physics that chain reactions start when a critical mass of reactive material is exceeded and the necessary framework conditions are in place.

At the start, a minimum amount of material must exist for a chain reaction to begin. In the case of the project on technical vocabulary, material from the entire language area can be fed in permanently thanks to the technical framework conditions.

In order for a creative chain reaction to start interacting, the initiator supplies the initial material. In addition to the aforementioned playlist, this includes the functional case studies for the 2nd video as well as the offer for collaboration on a common platform.

The playlist videos on YouTube:

  1. Curating Expert Vocabularies – Kickoff Video.
  2. Download, explain and modify case studies
  3. Use Word macro to remove punctuation and control characters
  4. Use Excel macro to reduce to word uniqueness and sort
  5. Alternative unique-item production with pivot tables and the additional option to create frequency distributions
  6. Understanding cell addressing in formulas with the HYPERLINK function
  7. Understanding cell addressing in formulas with the LOOKUP function
  8. Using truth values and conditional formatting to mark and select new words
  9. Configure self-tests with hidden solutions based on DEEPL or Google Translate

In the 2nd video with the case study, the initiator explains, based on his numerous eBooks from Herdt Publishing, how to extract technical vocabulary in a largely automated way and then link it to suitable explanations on the Internet.

For the translation of thousands of vocabulary words, he uses the online translator DEEPL, which was developed in Germany. The free dictionary Wiktionary explains almost all vocabulary with a click on the link to the word: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiktionary.

In case this is insufficient in rare cases, there are still links to three search engines where something suitable can always be found.

To speed up recurring processes, macro programming is not only used, but also explained in videos 3 and 4.

Word prepares any text in such a way that one word at a time can be included in an Excel column or a database field. It is essential that punctuation and special characters are replaced by paragraph marks. The order of the words is not changed and multiple entries do not play a role yet.

Excel takes over the complete content of Word and exchanges all multiple entries for uniques. These are sorted in ascending order and linked to suitable explanations, online dictionaries and translations by using various functions.

Vocabulary lists contain vocabulary already mastered and vocabulary not yet mastered.

A suitable basis for all DaF participants and native speakers is the word list for the Goethe-Zertifikat B1 with several thousand words.

Words from new documents are either assigned to the known and stored vocabulary of the word list in the workbook and can be sorted out immediately, or they are not yet included in the list. In this case, it is necessary to investigate whether the word is known and immediately used to expand the word list, or whether it is temporarily moved to the list of words to be learned.

In another case study, it is shown that the expansion of the reference vocabulary permanently decreases both the proportion of words to be tested and the proportion of words to be learned.

Expanding the reference vocabulary is a gradual and approximate process that does not yield any new words until all books have already been examined beforehand.

Excel and similar apps are ideal for managing, sorting, and filtering personal word lists if you are familiar with the basic functions and have followed the case studies with your own professional literature.

On-the-job training for advanced users

Participants need text files to prepare their own word lists. Syllabi, exam syllabi, and articles from Wikipedia may be considered, along with reference books.

Advanced Word Training:

  • Understanding of the Find and Replace function for all punctuation and special characters that are not used as word components in documents.
  • Macro creation or VBA programming to automate the aforementioned cleanup of all text prior to transfer to Excel

Further training in Excel

  • Removal of word duplicates for sorted list from unicates
  • Comparison of solution with macro with solution based on pivot table
  • Understanding of hyperlink function for configuration of search engine hit lists
  • Understanding of reference functions for matching with reference list
  • Understanding of truth values, for selection “NEW” or “NOT NEW”
  • Understanding of conditional formatting for list configuration
  • Understanding of formulas with relative and absolute cell addresses
  • Understanding of formulas for linking constant and variable texts
  • Configuration of self-tests with hidden translations based on DEEPL or Google Translate
  • Optional: frequency distributions based on pivot tables
  • Technical requirements

Participants need terminals with Internet access and the ability to actively participate in video conferences. Without webcam and microphone there is no access. In addition, a current version of Word and Excel is required.

Professional requirements

Basic knowledge in the use of a browser, video conferencing and the handling of Word and Excel are assumed.


During videoconferences, the faces of all participants should be visible. This allows the reactions of the other participants to be observed similar to real seminar rooms. The microphone is only switched on when one makes one’s own contributions.

Recording of video conference sessions is prohibited.

Otherwise, the rules apply as they do in the workplace.

A participant profile on the shared platform is essential. Profile information is important to facilitate contacting and organizing group work.

If, while studying the profiles, one recognizes that collaboration could be useful, one uses the internal messages of the platform. Details are best discussed in a video or telephone conference.

In addition to the name by which you would like to be addressed, interests and skills should also be included in the profile. Postal and e-mail addresses should remain invisible for data protection reasons. If you wish, you can make your own website or social media channels known in your profile.

Video conferences

The administration uses Zoom exclusively for weekly meetings and provides an access link for this on the platform. If you want to video conference with others in between, you can also use the BigBlueButton platform integrated in the MoodleCloud. However, the upper limit for the number of participants per session is limited to 10. By arrangement, the video platform can be used for group collaboration, which is accepted by all. Zoom is the most popular and there is a free introductory version: https://explore.zoom.us/de/products/meetings/

Live events and explanatory videos

The administrator and course instructor will present the complete know-how in ZOOM meetings as live lessons. Those who missed the lectures or want to repeat them can access the recorded explainer videos via YouTube.

How many participants can be admitted?

The MoodleCloud platform used allows for a maximum of 50 enrollments. A larger Moodle platform involves significant cost and administrative effort and will only be considered if sponsors can be found.

If demand exceeds supply, enrollment of passive participants ends after prior notice. The associated profile is deleted so that a new one can be created. Thus, prolonged passivity saves the trouble of a personal deregistration.

Why is participation free of charge?

The initiator worked as an IT trainer until receiving a pension and enjoys recognition from course participants and visitors to his YouTube channel. As an e-learning trainer, he has years of experience with learning platforms, video conferencing and project work.

Now he wants to share his knowledge with people who think and volunteer similarly. The acquisition of language skills, incorporating the technical possibilities offered by digitalization, should be made possible for everyone, even if no personal budget is available.

Where and how will the results be published?

The jointly created materials are to be distributed in the public domain or, in the case of adaptations with a sufficient level of creation, with a CC BY-SA license. This license is familiar to the general public from Wikipedia. It allows works to be copied, modified and used for one’s own purposes. It does not matter whether the use is commercial or not. However, the authors must be credited. If the original is modified, the modified version must be licensed under the same conditions.

A mere collection of words is always in the public domain. Copyrights arise when own intellectual performance with a sufficient level of creation is added. Self-taken or drawn pictures and personally created texts are granted this level of creation.

Hyperlinks form a copyright minefield, which can be navigated with the help of tools and suitable software: https://verfassungsblog.de/hyperlinks-ein-urheberrechtliches-minenfeld/.

The vocabularies published in the project can be provided unlinked. Their usefulness unfolds when end users double-click to trigger the linking process by making copies of the necessary formulas, thus enabling them to be made usable.

In this way, each end user can automatically compare the newly provided vocabulary with their own vocabulary list or a vocabulary list created jointly with others, e.g. the word list for the Goethe-Zertifikat B1: https://www.goethe.de/pro/relaunch/prf/de/Goethe-Zertifikat_B1_Wortliste.pdf.

Registration and contact