This paper consists of six sections. In Sections 1, 2, and 3, we discuss two representative approaches for building up a basic German vocabulary list useable in German education in Japanese universities. The first is a communicative approach, where words are selected according to their pragmatic importance in communicative situations, and the other is a frequency approach, where words are selected according to their frequency order in some representative German corpora. Because of its scientifically strict selection procedure, the frequency approach is apparently more reliable, but in truth it functions only if the vocabulary size to be made is large enough. If the vocabulary size, however, remains smaller than 1,000 words, which is usual in German education in Japan, where teaching beginner-level learners plays a main role, it contains mainly function words and verbs but it lacks most of the nouns needed for everyday situations. Therefore, educators must also adopt the communicative approach, even if they start originally from a frequency approach. On the other hand, the communicative approach, based only on the judgment of one or a few experts with wide experience, lacks the verification criteria in selection procedures. Therefore, a project must undergo the empirical check from the viewpoint of frequency approaches.
In Section 4, the ranges of vocabulary such as self-introductions, descriptions of personal belongings, and reports on student life were set from the curricular viewpoint for beginner-level learners in Japanese universities. And, in such concretely-defined situations, some representative words to be learnt are selected and checked to see if they are contained in the high frequency words of Tschirner (2008), a basic German vocabulary list made by a Herder/BY-Korpus, a medium sized balanced corpus in the German language area (4.2 millions words). This comparison showed how catastrophic it would be when the 1,000 highest-frequency words of a so-called balanced corpus are to be identified as the basic German vocabulary list for beginner-level learners in Japan.
In sections 5 and 6, on the basis of four small inquiries conducted by the author for showing productive abilities in writing nouns and verbs, and for showing receptive abilities in reading adjectives/adverbs and nouns, respectively, it was found that the approach proposed in Section 4 could also contribute to effective vocabulary learning.