Do you love setting goals, taking ownership of your language learning and building a following? You need to keep a language journal. A simple record of your progress in Spanish class can be the difference between attending class and rocking it.
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:
Invest in a notebook with a beautiful cover, nice heavy paper and maybe even a bonus like pre-written dates, room for images 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 live 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
A blog is a set of articles written 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), share it with a classmate and even 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. They can Reflections on class, Vocabulary, Progress and Beyond. 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 happened so you can look for patterns. 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 or Joke to José over the phone. 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, develop ideas. However, a language journal has a laser focus that empowers you in your language acquisition.
- It helps you remember new words to ask your teacher about or to look up later. This builds your vocabulary faster and easier.
- Take notes on what kind of exercises are your favorites and help you remember. When you analyze these reflections you will see a record of your learning style. Once you have a written record of what works best for you; songs, readings or something else – you 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.
- Record your mistakes. This sounds negative, but it’s an effective way to avoid repeating the same mistake over and over. 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 a true expression of your linguistic journey.
Do you have a great language journal? Please comment below and tell us how it’s helped you in your journey to learn a foreign language.Read More
We all dream of speaking Spanish at full-speed and hope that all of the studying will result in new friends, exciting travels, and maybe even job opportunities. Many students spend the bulk of their time learning a new language just reading and writing it in hopes of fluency. Unfortunately, this is not the most effective way to learn Spanish or any language. We all have to gulp down our fears, open our mouths and speak.
Passive Versus Active Learning
Speaking Spanish fluently involves four areas of learning: listening, speaking, reading and writing. The first two, when you pay attention and respond, are the active parts of the language. The other two sections are important but fall under the passive subheading.
Passive study techniques have their place and they are absolutely necessary to master a new language. As we learn new vocabulary, the list of new words can overwhelm us. As we read, we can take our time, look up and double-check meanings, take notes, etc. It’s a comfortable, slow-paced way to absorb new vocabulary.
The same goes for writing. We can relax a little more, help ourselves out with a dictionary or a tutor if desired. This is also a good chance to practice accents, spelling and sentence structure.
What happens when we’re in conversation? First, we have to navigate around words we don’t know, which is frustrating. That ignorant feeling can raise a student’s stress level and keep him or her from speaking at all. When we do know a word, it doesn’t always make it out in time. A new Spanish speaker may experience that tip-of-my-tongue sensation. The “I know the word, but I can’t put my finger on it…” feeling.
These are all stages of language learning known as Going Public. Students fear speaking out loud because they might accidentally say the wrong word, offending someone or embarrassing themselves. However, making mistakes in Spanish is just part of the learning process and essential for mastering the language.
Say it Wrong, then Say it Right
Teachers know the best learning opportunities exist within student mistakes. A falter in a sentence, a missed part of speech or an incorrect conjugation are all good opportunities for students to reflect and learn from these mistakes.
Staring at a dictionary or writing a sentence one hundred times to memorize it can appeal to a language learner who will give anything to avoid speaking. However, working through that fear is what will seal the correct phrase in their mind. This emotional journey, while scary and intimidating, is what students need behind the language. Good teachers know pushing past a mistake and through the embarrassment means something as simple as the Spanish word for bread can internalize the lesson and make it part of a student’s permanent bank of knowledge.
What to Look for in a Class
A good Spanish class will have a balance of active and passive learning activities. The teacher needs to encourage individual students to speak to him or her and to classmates. One-on-one lessons should also be a lot of speaking and listening, but texts should be a part of the lesson.
If you feel your child is spending too much time in a textbook or watching movies in Spanish and not enough in conversation, consider looking for a program that offers a more immersive, conversational curriculum where actually speaking Spanish is at the core.
Sign up for a FREE TRIAL class today and see why HSA is the best way to learn Spanish for students of all ages. Click here.Read More
You’re learning Spanish – well done! Now it’s time to plan out how and when to study. Let’s take a moment to go over some good practices for studying your new Spanish vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension.
Students use flashcards for a reason; they work. Physical cards let you add notes, organize and practice like a pro. If you have good flashcards, (like these) for your new Spanish words, all you need is a regular study habit.
First, make them early. After you finish a chapter or section of class, sit down and make your new set right away.
Separate the cards into five groups and number them 1 through 5. They can be sorted by theme, type of verb or conjugation into boxes or pouches. Start with pile one and go through your cards. Every definition or conjugation you get right goes into pile two. An incorrect answer stays in pile one. Then move on to pile 2 and continue to put correct answers into the next pile while incorrect answers move back to one.
Keep going until you get to the bottom of pile five. Start again with the cards from pile one only and continue until you’re all out of flashcards.
Play a Vocabulary Game
Games are a great way to make studying fun! Take advantage of your goofy side with a great word game like ¡Basta! or Stop! This takes a little practice but it’s a great way to practice your new words and push yourself to learn new ones.
Here’s how to play. Print up a ¡Basta! Board for each player, (easy or hard, depending on students’ levels). Then, designate a game master to be in charge of how the game starts. The master says, “I’m thinking of the alphabet…” then goes through their ABC’s until the players yell ¡Basta! The master lets the group know what letter he or she stopped at. Players then use that letter to start each word in each category and write as fast as they can.
After a minute, the Master yells ¡Basta! and everyone puts their pen down. Players then read what they wrote. If another player wrote the same word, they have to cross it out. Go through each player to make sure final answers are original and not repeats. Each unique word gets 100 points. Use the final column to add up their points and the next round begins. The player with the most by the end of the game is the winner.
Listen to Spanish
Listening to Spanish is important for various reasons. It allows students to pick up on accents and pronunciations, but also offers another means of learning. If your child is an a strong auditory learner, listening to Spanish is a plus. Students have a few choices – they can make an audio recording of their lesson for review, record themselves speaking or find a radio show designed for Spanish learners.
A popular site with Spanish podcasts is Audiria. The site is free and designed to promote the Spanish language and culture. They post a new podcast each day and tag each with a level and a theme so students can easily navigate to the podcast that best suits them.
Take Advantage of Technology
If your child uses Facebook, Instagram or any other fun site, try changing their account settings so it functions in Spanish. This way they will see their second language every time they log in, even if they don’t type in Spanish. Students can also use their Instagram account to make short, digital stories to review new vocabulary or to show their comprehension from the latest lesson. Many other devices allow for this too. Have an iPhone or use Alexa around your home? Try changing the settings on your devices so practicing Spanish becomes inevitable.
Sing a Song
Have a learner in your house who can’t sit still or loves music? You’re in luck – there are tons of Spanish songs that work well for learners of all levels.
For a song with direct commands and tons of encouragement to dance, try Te Mueves Tú by Ha*ash, Reik and David Bisbal. This song has a lot of repetition, is kid-friendly and tells you how to dance along.
There are tons of songs about family that can aide your studying. Most of them are for young learners, (like this one from Peppa Pig), but some are more grown up. Try Mi Familia by Basho & Friends for older kids.
Songs are wonderful for more advanced review. Check out ¿Con Quién se Queda el Perro? by Jesse and Joy. The song looks at a couple’s tough decision of who gets their beloved dog once they break up. This version shows the lyrics to help you sing along.
Have some additional tips and tricks for effective studying? Share them with the HSA community in the comments below.
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