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Hey beautiful! Trying to get some control over your language learning routine? You and me both sister.
Keeping a journal is one of the most efficient, fun, and analog ways to interact with your target language. You can use it to plan out a self-curriculum, track your progress, or write down new terms.
It’s a triple threat tool and something I encourage all language learners to own regardless of where they are in their journey.
My bullet journal is definitely my main means of output practice. I’m sure you know by now that writing and speaking are the two forms of output practice language learners need.
And unless you’re consistently using Italki or language exchange applications, I’ll bet you’re significantly more comfortable writing than speaking. But that being said, if you’re not using a journal already, chances are you’re not actually writing that much.
Most language teaching platforms are set up for you to listen a lot and click. Or even if they do have writing activities, they often cover narrow segments of vocabulary and are very specific in what they allow you to output.
Just think about the slow pace Duolingo takes you on when learning a language. Sure, writing “the boy eats bread” is better than nothing– but you’ll be taking yourself down a turtle-like path to fluency.
With a journal, or even better, a bullet journal you’re taking full control over how much of the language you’re retaining. A bullet journal is like the mother of all things self-teaching.
But you’ve clicked on this article, so you probably already know that. You know how much of a powerful tool your bullet journal could be but you don’t exactly know how to make it into that tool. Or even worse, you aren’t even sure how to get started.
Don’t worry– that was me in January of 2019. Nearly a year and a half later I feel like I’ve really got a hang of this whole “creative journaling” thing. When I first heard of bullet journals, the first thing that came to mind was the journal I used to write in about once a month.
I’d recount my month’s experiences… and that was it. But that’s the difference between a journal and a bullet journal. Bullet journals have dotted pages so they literally have no structure that confines you to simply writing.
You can doodle as much as you want. Design as much as you want. Highlight as much as you want. Add as many stickers as you want. And you have the general ability to travel with the coolest planner/tracker/diary ever.
So take a free-spirited approach to your bullet journal endeavors. The sources I’ll be listing for you today are there to serve as inspiration. They’re there to guide you on and make sure you’re using your journal to its full language learning potential.
Before I get into the tips, I want to make sure you have the resources you’ll need for a top-notch learning experience.
- Bullet Journal: I sell hand-designed bullet journals on Amazon for just $9.99, so grab one of those if you don’t already have a bullet journal!
- (Fluorescent) Highlighters: Bold Sharpie Colors or Pastel Bic Colors (Smear-proof or Smear Guard highlighters are preferable!)
- Mildliners: Double-ended markers with quick drying ink in soft colors
- Gel pens: Papermate’s colorful reduced smear pens
- Smooth Ballpoint black pen: Zebra Z-Grip Retractable Ballpoint Pen
- Sticky notes: Mini colorful sticky notes or Traditional Colorful sticky notes (Sticky notes are more specific to students and language learners, which is why you may not see them used on that many bullet journals shared online!)
- Stickers: Self-Designed Stickers showcasing Latin languages, European languages, African languages, Central American Languages, and more! Buy 3 and get 25% off.
Alright, so now that you’ve got your equipment– time to get creating! Here are the 10 ways I never run out of bullet journal ideas for my language learning journey.
I mean this one was kinda obvious. Of course, the most visually-based social media platform would also be a gold-mine for bullet journal spreads. Aesthetics is literally Instagram’s whole mantra.
But what may surprise you, especially if you’re a newer foreign language learner, is that the language learning community is vast and very forthcoming with notes and journaling in general.
Bullet journal pictures are already huge on Instagram– largely because so many people own bullet journals of their own. So it’s no surprise that the multi-lingual has taken their own spin on their trend and started hashtags specifically for language journals.
If you search the hashtag #languagejournal, you’ll get instant access to 1000+ spreads that language learners all over the world use. #languagestudygram also has 1000+ absolutely inspirational journal spreads just waiting for you to try out.
And for an even more personal touch, you can even search #[your target language]studygram to see what spreads learners of your target language are using.
All mainstream languages like Korean, Chinese (Mandarin), French, Spanish, Japanese, German, and Russian all have plenty of “studygrams” dedicated to them.
You can even check out my page here and some of the accounts I follow for some regular language learning spread ideas.
Or you can head over to 10+ Instagram Pages that actually get what language learning is all about!
Of course, the inspiration powerhouse of the internet would be included in this list. If you’re not already using Pinterest in some form to further your language learning studies, then you need to start today.
Beyond the plethora of boards solely dedicated to educating you on how to learn a language, bullet journal content is regularly shared by language bloggers (aka myself!)
Most aspiring polyglots have already recognized the power of journals in general when it comes to acquiring languages. Meaning they’ve created posts and blog articles covering exactly how you can set up your own journal for success.
Personally, I prefer Pinterest over Instagram for inspo since the platform is a search engine that’ll deliver results regardless of what you search. Granted, you lost some of the “community” vibes you get with Instagram– so it just depends on what you motivates you the most.
As the title of this post indicates though, using a combination of both is the key to never running out of your own ideas.
Just as a few searches to get you started:
- language learning bullet journal
- language journal
- language journal spreads
- bullet journal ideas for language learning
- language learning bullet journal ideas
Out of every resource on this list, Pinterest takes the crown for providing the most constant supply of high-quality bullet journal spreads. Check my page out for more language learning inspiration and future bullet journal posts.
Quora is an American question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, followed, and edited by Internet users, either factually or in the form of opinions. (Wikipedia)
So there’s no shocker that there’s a thriving language learning community active on the forum as well. The question pictured above is just one of thousands that have to do with language learning or bullet journals.
Contrasting with social media platforms, Quora lets you follow topics. The topic of “Learning Languages” is extremely popular with 435k followers. There you’ll find a regular feed of language learning material and online content recommended by other users.
You can also follow pages, such as Everything Language; a space dedicated answers, insights and anecdotes about all things language. You’re able to add your own questions, comments, or answers within any forum page. Quora is more text-based than the former 2, so you’ll be receiving more information through comments shared by other users than physical images shared by other users.
Some Quora members are extremely knowledgable about certain topics. So you’ll be getting some “insider” insight to writing methods that polyglots swear by. Just to illustrate how useful Quora can be, Rick Stark, a consistent responder within the topic of language learning shared this tidbit about bullet journals:
“If you’re motivated by a language bullet journal, it could doubtless be a useful supplement to stronger methods:
- Tracking those stronger methods: Hours of (quality) input matter, and a bullet journal is a great place to track them.
- Practice writing: I hope this is self-explanatory
- Summarizing learning: I’m a huge proponent of the idea that you need to learn the language to an extent, especially when your target language differs significantly from your native one. Writing verb charts, tracking distinctions, informally diagramming sentences, etc. But again, if this is your primary method, you will never acquire the language and learn to speak it fluently.
- Tracking trouble vocab words: We all have words we can never remember no matter the method; a bullet journal could be a good place to summarize and target them.
- Tracking interesting observations: Languages are ridiculous revel in it here.
- Reflect on questions: Write down phrases and idioms and other things you can’t make sense of to look up later.
- Tracking progress on “closed sets”: Languages tend to have finite groups of things that can be tracked. Japanese Kanji come to mind. There are 2000 of those guys. There are all sorts of fun ways to represent how many of them you’ve gotten down. Esperanto has many closed sets (adverbs ending in aŭ, grammatical endings, tablovortoj, and prepositions.)”
So Quora users clearly share answers you wouldn’t be able to access anywhere else.
Reddit is an American social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website. Registered members submit content to the site such as links, text posts, and images, which are then voted up or down by other members. (Wikipedia)
Similar to Quora, Reddit too is more text-based when it comes to sharing content. You’ll find some images like the one displayed above, but typically users directly ask questions that other users answer.
For example, one member of the language learning subreddit, a page for anybody interested in the pursuit of languages asked:
“I was wondering if any of you guys make/use a notebook or journal of any kind to help with studying/learning the language? If you do, how do you set yours up? What kind of layout do you use? What do you chose to write down/exclude?”
Sound anything like the questions you ask yourself from time to time? Probably so. Only difference? She actually got answers.
Her thread got 22 different responses from fellow language learners excited to help out! One user shared a response that I thought you could even benefit from:
“I don’t have a journal, but I’ve been writing a diary in German for the past three weeks. It’s amazing for learning how to think in your target language, and after a while it becomes natural. I definitely recommend it to spice things up, it’s super interesting to do. I write every entry down with a pencil and use a red pen to circle new nouns/verbs/phrases. It’s really helped me :)”
Another user shared: “I try to write in it every night. Normally just about whatever I did that day/random thoughts that I may have. Because of this, there’s often a few new words I have to look up, so I’ll underline the new words and make flashcards for them using Anki (this lets me practice their kanji as well). Then, for the next days journal, I’ll write a practice sentence with each new word I learned from the previous day.”
So give Reddit a try, and engage with the language learning subreddit in particular. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised with some of the new ideas you’ll get for your own journal.
You don’t actually have to spend any money if you don’t want to. You can simply search “Language Learning” within the platform, and garner inspiration from the workbooks Etsy sellers share.
Etsy members sell tons of language learning printables, worksheets, and planning pages– but you could make all these yourself if you’re willing to put in the time. You’re seriously missing out on a gold mine if you don’t view the language listing on this platform.
While digitally replicating their work would be entirely unethical, copying some of their ideas using pen and paper within your own bullet journal is totally fine.
You’ll see that their digital planners include spreads like irregular verbs, conjugation, opposites, Pomodoro planners, lettering pages, and more. If the pages are high enough quality to sell, then surely they’re ideas you too could be using in your language learning journey.
Just don’t try and re-sell them and you shouldn’t have any issues!
I even sell language printables if you’re interested! You can check them out in my shop here. But I’ll warn you– only use them if you’re entirely prepared to 100% upgrade your language study routine.
View some of the goods in the image below!
Surprise? Eh, not really. There’s a reason “Google it” is such a common response to literally any question.
Don’t know how to start a bullet journal? Google it. Don’t know what weekly spread would be most effective for learning Japanese? Google it. Need to know the most effective color-coding system? Google it.
Trust me– there’s someone out there who’s answered your question. Not only will you have a multitude of blog results at your hands, but you’ll also see YouTube results, images, and suggested queries.
Looking for a spread to copy exactly? Then Google Images will be your best friend. Any image that has ever been publicly shared on the web can be accessed through google images.
So you’ll have visuals shared through Pinterest, YouTube, blogs, company pages, selling sites, and more all in one area. You will literally never run out of spreads to copy.
Skillshare is an online learning community with thousands of classes for creative and curious people, on topics including illustration, design, photography, video, freelancing, and more. Millions of members come together to find inspiration and take the next step in their creative journey.
So no surprise that bullet journals are a big focus on the platform. While bullet journaling for language learning isn’t a popularly taught subject at all, there are quite a few courses dedicated to bullet journals in general.
Some of the spread ideas shared are truly amazing, so all you’ll need to do is switch around some of the words to make it suitable for language tracking.
While the other resources are a bit more “short-term” geared, Skillshare will actually teach you how to come up with creative spreads yourself. And once you learn how, theoretically, you shouldn’t ever struggle to come with an idea again.
You’ll even learn how to take the digital route to bullet journaling if you’re ever so inclined. Something that most other platforms don’t directly address how to go about doing.
3 courses definitely worth a watch?
- Using Your Bullet Journal: logs, habit tracking, and being productive!
- Bullet Journaling YOUR way, A Tailored to You Planner! Beginner’s Set Up
- Bullet journal Weekly Spread: Tips & Process to Make A Fresh Design
And you can watch all these courses 100% free for the next 2 months when you sign up with Skillshare using any of the links on this page.
If you haven’t already referenced YouTube for your language learning endeavors, then you’re seriously missing out. There are so many results that have to with “Bullet journal for language learning” that you may even want to go and hit your head against a wall.
These content creators will literally walk you through the steps they use to set up their journals. They’ll tell you exactly how they structure their language studies without expecting any form of compensation. Unless you choose to subscribe or something.
Polyglot Progress stated in her bullet journal video’s description “I wanted to worry less about showing you the perfect spread and more about showing you how a bullet journal or similar planning system can help you study languages without creating a very rigid routine!”
At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want as language learners? Aesthetics mean nothing if the set-up isn’t effective. Personally, I really like this study planner layout designed by the YouTuber, Strawblondie.
The spreads she shares, and that other YouTubers share are amazing inspiration. Plus you’ll be able to even find videos catering to different bujo themes like minimalist or watercolor.
Visual notetaking is the perfect skill for journaling, class lectures, conferences, and any other time that retaining information is key. In The Art of Visual Notetaking, aspiring sketchnoters and journalers will find helpful “Getting Started” pages of icons and badges for common note-taking purposes, with tips and encouragement for creating you own unique icons.
Taking notes is such a critical part of the learning process. Emily’s book makes it easy to get the information permanently fixated in your brain through the use of sketching. She makes it easy to start – which can be intimidating for most.
She addresses the “I’m not an artist” and “I can’t draw” attitudes (which I’m sure many of you can relate to) and gently pushes you to just create.
When learning a language, visuals are even more important than most learners realize. They’re what we all used as toddlers learning our mother tongue and they enforce memory retention even as adults.
Once you learn how to take creative notes for yourself, you won’t even have to rely on these outside sources of inspiration. New ideas for effective journaling will just start coming to you. It’ll be like flipping a switch in your mind.
The Kindle version of this book is only $2.99; a small price to pay for a lifetime of creativity. And I’m not sponsored by Emily Mills, I just genuinely love this guide.
Going beyond basic tools, this book offers tips, tricks and creative ways to transform your notebook into a treasured life companion, including:
There are ideas for pretty much every possible type of planner- weekly, monthly, different types of trackers, etc etc. Basically, the book is exactly what it says it is — creative ideas to customize your own planner, no matter what sort of planner you are using.
I think this is my favorite book on the BUJO process. The author describes how to think about laying out a journal and describes the pros and cons of different layouts.
Overall, this is just a fantastic book. Flexible format suggestions, creative ideas, and inspirational layouts. Clean and clear instructions make journaling habits accessible and achievable.
Again, I am not sponsored by Megan Rutell, but it wouln’t be fair of me to hold back such a useful resource.
But wait… there’s more!
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- Exclusively for learners of Japanese, Russian, and Hebrew. For just a few months, you can score 25% a subscription off using the code courage.
No worries if you’re learning another language though! Rocket Languages offers online language courses that are simple, powerful, and effective. Devised using the strategies polyglots use, their award-winning courses are designed to get you using your new language quickly, correctly, and confidently.
The languages that they offer courses in include:
For other languages, I strongly recommend Innovative Languages. Native taught courses & podcasts available for both free and paid subscriptions.
But before you head off on your language learning 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 or 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.
Aside from that fun, if you’re still here then I want to make sure you don’t miss out on your free language learning toolkit.
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Equipped with a 4-week checklist, 100 fun learning ideas, the keys to a “naturally simple” approach, and a rapid acquisition 2-week plan. All straight to your inbox. And trust me– I never spam.
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Keep learning languages my friend! And I look forward to seeing you again real soon.