How to Keep a Language Journal and Why It Helps
Updated March 9, 2020
Do you love setting goals, taking ownership of your language learning, and building a following? If so, you will benefit from keeping a language journal. A basic record of your progress in Spanish class can be the difference between simply attending class to blowing it out of the water.
Even if the thought of a daily journal doesn’t appeal to you, there is a way to make this practice work for you. HSA wants to see you succeed, so here is a quick guide to help you set up and use your new language journal.
Designate, Decorate, and Design your Journal
Your journal practice should be easy and fun, so keep your habits in mind. Think of how you record items for yourself or your work and let that inform your journal. Don’t force yourself into something new; keep what you like at the forefront to help you stay active in your practice.
Here are three fun choices to think about:
Invest in a notebook with a beautiful cover and nice heavy paper that has bonus features like pre-written dates, space for images, and/or a calendar at the top. Get yourself a nice pen you love to write with and some good pencils for extra notes. If you live for office supplies, go for highlighters, organizational tabs or stickers to use as you like.
If you love to draw or paint, go for an unlined book or choose a large pad that can handle heavy ink, charcoal or paint. Turn your entries into comics, illustrated images or fun doodles to help you record what you want to save.
A Journal App
Note-taking apps have become more popular because they help people do more than write; they can add photos, audio, and video to what they want to remember. If you love music, you can record live performances in Spanish and notes about where you heard it, your favorite lyrics or what the song reminded you of as you listened. If you live on Instagram, you can recreate your posts in your journal and caption them in Spanish.
For phone journals, you can try several apps. Google Keep is good for lists and adding images. Penzu is an online, private diary you can access from your phone and can share with a teacher. Microsoft OneNote is a nice choice for longer entries with additional media attached.
Find one you like and keep it on your home screen to remind you to update it often.
A Published Blog
Set up a blog by writing articles in first-person about your real progress as a Spanish learner. It’s an interesting twist on a journal because with this option you can gain followers and get comments on your writing.
Not for the faint of heart, a blog can be a great tool, but only if you’re prepared for it. It requires maintenance, special tools to block spammers, and regular updates. Good bloggers post at least once a week and only fully-developed, polished pieces.
The benefit of publishing your journey is that you can interact with readers. You can ask for comments on a theme (in Spanish, even!), share it with a classmate, and use it to share other parts of your life. Be ready for the critics and enjoy the fans. If it’s your goal to improve as a writer, a blog is a great place to start.
What to Write and Why
You have your journal of choice. Now, you need to write something.
The more organized learner will want to create sections within their journal. Consider adding multiple items like
- reflections on your class experience
- your learning patterns and habits
- lists of new vocabulary
- personal progress and goals
If you aren’t much for organizing or subsections, use these ideas to get you started:
The reflections section is to help you cement in what you learned at your last lesson. The idea is to find a place to journal right after class and then note down things you remember. Get out your workbook or class notes to help you along. What joke did the teacher make about a certain phrase? If in a classroom setting, which classmate had the best pronunciation that day? Did you speak up in class or hide in the back?
Don’t judge yourself here. Record what happens so you can look for patterns in your learning habits. Maybe you’re more open to language lessons on Tuesdays rather than Fridays or you perform well in class if you switch out your morning coffee for water. It’s easier to notice these things if you keep a record of your own experience.
Vocabulary is where you can take note of words to ask your teacher about, words you’ve heard but don’t understand or confuse with similar words. This is also a great place to practice verb conjugations and tenses. Building words is a valid practice that many language experts recommend, so add it to your regular entries.
Track Your Progress
Personal progress is an important section. This is where you can set goals for yourself like
- Order an entire meal in Spanish
- Tell a joke to a Spanish-speaking friend
- Set an appointment in Spanish
- Speak Spanish for 10 minutes straight
If you write your goals down, you are much more likely to strive for them. When you achieve one, write about it. Show yourself that you can speak Spanish. Remember, confidence is half the battle—build it with your journal.
The beyond section is where you can go further than the learning in class. Translate a song to or from Spanish and record yourself singing it. Illustrate vocabulary words into a beautiful story. Do anything you like that helps you stay excited about Spanish.
The Benefits of a Language Journal
Journalling alone is great—it helps you keep a clear head, organize your thoughts, and develop ideas. Most importantly, a language journal has a laser focus that empowers you in your language acquisition. How does a language journal benefit you?
- It helps you remember new words to ask your teacher about or to look up later. This builds your vocabulary faster and easier.
- It gives you a record of your learning style. Notes on your favorite exercises, songs, and readings can be collected in the same place. When you analyze these reflections, you will know how to practice on your own and optimize your homework time.
- Your journal is a physical reminder of everything you learned in class. When you have off-days and feel frustrated, you can look back at all of your accomplishments. That’s enough to motivate you on any day.
- It provides a safe space to record your mistakes. An effective way to avoid repeating the same mistake over and over is to pay attention to it, make a note of it, and reflect on it in future use. If you throw an s into deporte or switch the number tres with trece, write it down. Once you record that mistake and see it on paper, you’re less likely to make that flub again.
No matter how you keep a language journal, the key is to use it in a way that feels natural and helpful. Make it fun, keep it personal, and let it grow into a true expression of your linguistic journey.
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