How to Keep a Journal to Speed Up Your Language Learning

We’re more focused when we’re organized.

When we create an organized system for our activities, we can better manage our time and energy. If you’re trying to master a foreign language, organizing the process is the first thing you should do! That’s why all courses contain modules and lessons. It’s structure. As a learner, however, you have to create your own structure. That’s where the language journal comes in.

Through a journal, you can set goals and keep track of your progress. If you decide to write the journal by hand, even better, as that will make you more focused on the words you write.                     

Why You Need a Language Journal

  • To set achievable goals. For example, you can set a goal to go through an entire module this week. Or to write a 5-paragraph essay next week. When you set specific goals, you’ll be much more committed to the process of language learning.

  • To take notes on the way you make progress, and compare that progress to the goals you had. It’s a self-reviewing system that pushes you forward.

  • To note down all new words and phrases to look up later on.

  • To write short texts that help you implement the words you learn in a logical flow and practice various styles of writing. For example, you can take notes of daily events in the journal, but you can also write more complex content.

  • You can track your mistakes. As you keep learning, you’ll be able to review your previous writings more effectively. When you catch a mistake, it’s less likely that you’ll repeat it in future.

  • It’s only natural for a language learner to come to the very edge of giving up. You have other responsibilities that consume your focus. The journal will remind you that you have already made a lot of progress. It will give you confidence and the will to carry on.

How to Keep a Language Journal

You could just take a notebook and start writing whatever came to mind. That’s okay, but it’s not the most effective way to keep a language journal. Remember: the key is organization. When you write something, you should be able to find it later.

We suggest dividing the journal into sections. You can use post-its in different colors to mark them. Here are a few ideas on the sections you may create:

1. Goals

This will be the most important section of your journal, so leave a big chunk of the notebook for it. You’ll be noting down specific goals regarding the grammar rules and word groups you want to learn. You’ll set a timeframe, too. Try to create daily schedules that help you reach your goals.

2. Fresh Words and Phrases

Here, you’ll be writing all new words and phrases you learn. When you write down a new word, try to define it in the language you’re learning. Add synonyms and antonyms, so you’ll understand the meaning better and you’ll learn a few new words along the way and it is really effective to learn words in pairs. Then, put that word or phrase in a logical sentence, so you’ll remember how it’s used in context.

3. Building Words

Word building means changing the form of the word from a noun to a verb, adjective, and adverb. If you tried to memorize the suffixes, you’d still be confused. You can only master word building through practice. Divide the pages into four columns, and start building your words. Here’s an example:









 4. Grammar: Perfective and Progressive

In this section of your journal, you’ll focus on aspect practice. English language learners often neglect this concept, but it’s the foundation of all grammar you’ll be learning. Add relevant aspects in example sentences. Whenever you write an essay or example sentences, rewrite some of the work in this section and identify the aspects, sentence by sentence.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice!

You have to write new words several times to get used to the spelling. Don’t limit your practice to single words. Write short poems and essays to combine your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar in context.

6. My Common Mistakes

We all have habitual mistakes and we often don’t keep track of them, so they keep cropping up, sometimes for years. When you do notice such a mistake or your instructor warns you about it, note it down in this section. Keeping track of your mistakes prevents you from repeating them.

7. The Real Diary

Here’s where you’ll write an actual journal. You’ll write daily entries, describing the events and feelings you went through. This is a private journal. Your instructor won’t review it, so it’s okay to be honest with yourself.

Why is this part necessary? Jenny Richards, a grammar tutor, explains: “When you’re processing memories and emotions, that’s when you can tell you know a language. Try to find equivalents to the phrases you would normally use in your native language. If you had important conversations, translate the dialogues. It will take less than 10 minutes for you to write an entry before going to bed, but this practice will help you use the language in a natural way. I’ve seen noticeable progress in my students since I recommended this practice.”

8. Social Norms and Useful Expressions

It’s easy to learn how to use a language when you focus on themes. If, for example, you’re travelling for business, write expressions and phrases you’ll need when introducing yourself to potential business partners. If you’re traveling as a tourist, allocate 1-2 pages to each of these themes:

  • Using public transport and asking for directions

  • At the restaurant

  • Meeting new people

  • At the bar

  • At a hospital

  • At the hotel

Feel free to visualize these concepts. You can draw mind maps and highlight essential expressions. Add your own examples, and write formal and informal variations of the same expression.

9. Helpful Notes

Let’s say you just understood a grammar rule thanks to a connection you made with your own language. For example, you realized when and how you use the passive voice. This is where you’ll write those aha moments.

Speech patterns, related words, words that remind you of another word from your language… you can have many subsections in this category.

10. Feedback

This section is for the feedback you get from your instructor on tests and during classes. If you’re talking to a native, write down what they say about your mastery of the language.

You can always connect with native speakers through relevant Facebook groups or language exchange sites. Ask them what you could improve or correct and write down the comments you get. Never be offended by feedback. It will push you to learn and practice more!


These were just a few examples of how a structured language journal could be organised. Feel free to think of your own sections and label them as you prefer. Be creative with it! Make it visual with stickers, colors, and sketches. Do whatever works for you; just keep doing it!

Author Bio

Sophia Anderson is an associate educator, blogger and freelance writer with UK Essayontime. She is passionate about covering topics on learning, writing, business, careers, self-improvement, motivation and others. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development. Talk to her on Facebook or Twitter