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Journaling has long been regarded as a means for practicing a foreign language.
And there’s got to be some truth to it’s method since so many multilinguists swear by writing every day to retain what they know.
But with bullet journaling being all the rage nowadays, and arguably more fun than traditional journaling, it’s totally possible to both layout your gameplan and practice your writing skills all in the same place.
For me, I bullet journal weekly anyway to organize my life– so it only made sense for me to begin documenting my language journey. Just check out my Instagram page below to see all my (doodle-heavy) spreads!
Now, I’d be lying if I said I’ve been tracking my language goals since day 1. Or even since day 80 for that matter.
But today is day 81 and I hereby swear to begin measuring my process by the goals I set for myself.
My bullet journal spread for this upcoming week may seem a bit… rigorous for everyday life, but since I’m following this self-quarantine thing my state’s got going on, I expect to have alot of free time.
So 3 hours a day is my goal. Find out how you can fit in 3 hours of language learning daily too!
I don’t plan to change the methods I’ve been using though. They’ve worked far too well for me to switch now.
I just plan to now track the time I spend on said methods. So consider this weekly spread my way of also showing you how I’ve learned more in 4 months of Vietnamese than in 3 years of Spanish.
And it’s more than possible for you to rapidly acquire your target language as well.
But you can’t cheat time– you just have to find a way to utilize it most efficiently. Plus the more hours you put in on a daily basis, the closer you’ll be to fluency in the language by the end of each week, month, and ultimately, year.
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Table of Contents:
- How to structure your week
- Set a daily time goal
- Write as many of your weekly bujo entries in your target language as you can
- Leave space for you to *attempt* to briefly daily journal in your target language
- Write down all the new words you were able to memorize each day
- But wait, there’s more!
How to structure your week
Understandably, our brains naturally like variety in the things that we do. It’s much too easy to get bored when following the same daily language routine.
Plus you totally miss out on the benefits of well-rounded learning– those that offer regular unique insights on all 4 foundations of language learning. (speech, writing, listening, & reading)
So to keep things interesting, my weekly spreads for reaching goals tend to operate on an ‘A-B schedule.’
So I’ll basically take the most efficient resources I’ve used and alternate which ones to focus on depending on the day.
For me personally, those resources include a language exchange app, Ankidroid’s spaced-repetition flashcards, and videos.
So on Day A (Monday), I plan to voice call a native speaker using the application HelloTalk (which typically lasts a little over 2 hours) and review my flashcards.
Then I’ll round out the day by writing down a few sentences in Vietnamese directly into my bullet journal to practice my writing skills.
On Day B (Tuesday), I plan to send text messages to multiple native speakers, again using a language exchange app, review my flashcards, and watch some Vietnamese YouTube videos.
Again I’ll write some sentences in Vietnamese to document the orocess in my bullet journal.
Then for the next 7 days, these routines will more or less alternate. And from what I know about my own attention span’s fatigue-ability, I’d strongly encourage you to do the same.
Set a daily time goal
Time isn’t everything when it comes to acquiring a language; but it’s definitely one of the more important aspects.
Just going off of what the Foreign Service Institute has defined for the hours needed for English speakers to learn certain languages (scroll down to read the full list), you should approach your language goals with some at least relative time stamps in mind.
I already know that a category 4 language like Vietnamese usually takes English speakers around 1100 hours to learn.
If I devote 3 hours a day to its acquisition, then mathematically speaking I should be near fluency in just one year.
So my bullet journal is laid out to specifically hold myself accountable of reaching that daily minimum.
As basically all polyglots will tell you– don’t measure your progress by how many days since you’ve started the language, measure by how many hours you’ve spent studying it.
Write as many of your weekly bujo entries in your target language as you can
Now I know that the bullet journal spread I display on this page above is written in alot of English.
But that’s just for demonstration purposes.
I wanted my readers to at least be able to understand the way in which I was setting up my week to be successful.
Normally though, and from here on out, I would write the month, days, and numbers in my target language, and as much of the goals that I’d be setting for myself in the language too.
Plus with a little extra time and some aid from a reliable resource, you could even try writing every thing in the foreign language. (LanguagePod has the most reliable translation dictionary I’ve found! And it’s free.)
As you do this day over day, or week over week, the goals and plans you repeat will really become ingrained in your mind.
Retention at it’s finest. If you have a bit of a vivid imagination, you could even pretend that you’re a native speaker who doesn’t know English– if that would maybe serve as a little more motivation to learn the words you want to write in your target language.
Now, since you’re definitely going to want to use some words that you’ve yet to learn in the language, I’d suggest looking for either bullet journaling YouTube videos, social media posts, or even blog posts in your target language.
And they’re not nearly as hard to find as you may think.
All I had to type in was “Vietnamese Bullet Journal” into YouTube’s search engine and I instantly found some content produced by native speakers.
And even the description and viewers’ comments were in the language! Plus you can see on the sidebar, that there are even related Vietnamese videos to watch.
But why does engaging content like this matter? Because chances are that the goals these micro-influencers write down will often be similar to yours.
Then you can use the visuals they provide context, and the words you do know to try and figure out how to write the terms yourself.
I find this to be at least a little bit more fun and retention-inducing than direct translation platforms.
Leave space for you to *attempt* to briefly daily journal in your target language
After all a bullet journal is supposed to serve as form of actual journaling as well.
And since lots of established second-language learners practice daily writing themselves, this definitely wouldn’t hurt in your acquisition process as well.
If you find squeezing in a little time everyday to write a micro-journal entry in the language, then at least try every other day.
This is a great way to make the language feel personal to you.
If you’re not careful when self-teaching, you may fall prey to the imbalanced approach most students fall victim to.
That of spending the majority of your time listening and reading over it’s arguably more important counterparts: writing and speaking.
Writing in your bullet journal daily will at least gradually strengthen your writing skills.
For at least the beginning, I’d suggest just keeping the sentences simple, and a bit elementary in stature.
After all, how else are you going to actually remember what you’ve already learned?
This will at least help deter any initial feelings of de-motivation if you realize your language application skills are a bit weaker than you expected.
But I’d also suggest sometimes going just a bit out of your way to use newly acquired words (even if they seem a bit like a stretch) and keep some variety in your entries.
Saying something along the lines of “I woke up, ate, worked, and slept” everyday isn’t going to help you utilize the language’s more…. advanced vocabulary.
Write down all the new words you were able to memorize each day
I haven’t done this nearly as much as I should have in the past, but it’s genuinely such a good way to track your progress and engage your short-term memory.
It doesn’t even matter if you didn’t first hear the word that day per-say. Just write it down on the day that you’re finally able to remember it.
And I’d suggest doing this little ritual at the end of the day, with at least a little time gap from the time you actually spent learning the foreign language.
This could be extremely useful in the future as you flip through your bullet journal to find a word you maybe forgot or to simply observe your memory skills grow stronger.
There’s nothing more encouraging than going from one word memorized each day to ten.
Plus it engraves the word(s) in your mind beyond just seeing it in your flashcard deck.
At the end of each week, I think you should then try your hardest to write down all the words you write down for your daily entries.
That way you’ll know if you’ve really acquired the terms or just happened to have stored them in your short term memory.
Don’t allow less words remembered on any given day to discourage you though!
A language is much more than just its vocabulary, and it’s okay to take days dedicated solely to grammar or practicing words you’ve already acquired.
Since long-term memory will always prove more important when acquiring a foreign language.
But wait… there’s more!
For some extra tips on effectively using a bullet journal for language learning, check out 10 ways to NEVER run out of ideas for your language learning bullet journal and 10 things you NEED to include in your Language Journal (for maximum memory!).
I’m always super excited to meet other people who are passionate about learning languages. It can be a tough– yet thoroughly enjoyable process depending on how you approach its acquisition.
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Before you head off on your language journey– I want us to stay in contact with one another. Us language learners have to stick together right?
My language craziness expands to multiple platforms so you can also find me cranking out polyglot inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t hesitate to direct message me or comment on one of my posts! I’d love to get to know you beyond this screen.
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Keep learning languages my friend! And I look forward to seeing you again real soon.
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