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Hey fellow language learner! If you’re here, then I take it you’re pretty smart. You realized the benefits of keeping a language notebook and now your ready to take your study game to the next level.

Though some of your language learning peers may totally sleep on the idea of keeping notes on paper (*gasp*), it’s no secret that writing your notes will forever be more memory retaining than typing them. But let’s face it– traditional note-taking is boring.

A ton of gray writing on a lined notebook page is literally an eye-sore. Conventional notes are boring to write and read. You won’t even want to read them later– which kinda defeats the purpose of even taking them.

But don’t worry; there are so many ways to make the note-taking process more engaging and fun. Like color coding for example. Not only is color coding an invigorating task in itself, but it totally makes your notes more organized, visually pleasing, and memorable.

So yes, the benefits of color coding goes beyond aesthetics alone. A study conducted by Cleveland Clinic proved that:

  • Color increases recognition and recall of objects and words
  • Color stimulates more of the brain than black and white
  • The four focal colors (red, green, blue, yellow) enforce memory

So now you have an excuse to take pretty notes!

To write down anything though, first you’ll need a quality notebook or journal.

A language journal is a great way to hold yourself accountable for reaching your language goals. Speaking from personal experience! I consider it to be the ultimate upgrade to any language study routine.

So be sure to check out my self-designed language journals with multilingual covers and strong boss babes depicted. Latin languages, European languages, African languages, and more represented.

Available as both spiral notebooks and hardcover journals!

You can also grab some matching stickers to really make your language study sessions fun.

handmade stickers for your language learning bullet journal

All those designs plus more are also available as printables on Etsy! So get excited. Now on to the list.

Make sure you grab some markers if you don’t have enough already, and lets get into the list.


This color coding method is only for vocabulary obviously. This is about the most basic method of color coding that there is. Vocabulary categorization can get very in-depth if you so desire to narrow down to the specifics.

But this form of categorization is time-efficient, beginner-friendly, and only needs 4 colors. And I’m sure most of us already have 4 colors at home.

I find this method to be especially effective for self-study– as it allows you to quickly assess what kind of vocabulary you’ve been focusing on. Learners of all levels would do best to have a well-rounded approach to vocabulary acquisition. A good combination of all 4 types of words.

So all you have to do is choose one color for nouns, one color for adjectives, one color for adverbs, and one color for verbs. Pretty self-explanatory. The key here is consistency.

Once you choose your color associations, you have to stick with them. You don’t want to confuse yourself later on.

Why is this method so efficient? Because many words in the English language double as both verbs and adjectives, and possibly even a noun. Take “clean” for example; you can use it as a adjective, saying “the room is clean,” or as a verb, saying “I clean the room.”

And then there are words like “dress”; used as a verb in “I dress myself” and as a noun in “I wear a dress.” When used in the past tense, it could even be used as an adjective, like “you’re so dressed up.” At least for me, not making the distinction between the verb forms, adjective forms, and noun forms can make for lots of difficulties later on.

So definitely consider trying out this method of color coding.


Here’s another color coding system specifically for vocabulary. But in this method, we add another level of color– ink. Mixing both your different ink colors and highlighter/marker colors allows for you to get even more specific in your word classifications.

If you forgot this from your elementary Language Arts class; verbs, adjectives, nouns, and adjectives all have multiple types. This color coding system doesn’t even completely do the extensiveness of the classification system justice.

As you’ll see, adjectives is the only category I didn’t further break down into multiple types. Interestingly enough, there seems to be some debate as to how many different adjectives types there are and what they are.

Some sites list 10, some list 11, others list 8, and still others claim there’s only 5 you actually have to know. If you’d like to add a deeper level of categorization to adjectives that would reasonably fit into your color coding system, then I’d suggest classifying by the 2 “general” types– Descriptive adjectives and Limiting adjectives.

But if you ever read any of my downloadable language journal guides, you’ll see that I prefer to categorize adjectives by…. other factors. Fortunately, both nouns and verbs are easy to broadly categorize.

Though nouns are said to have 8 different types, nouns can be more simply divided as “concrete” and “abstract.” So all you have to do is choose a different color for concrete nouns and abstract nouns.

Verbs can be divided as either “action verbs” or “non-action verbs.” Choose a different color for both. Simple enough.

It’s seems to be pretty uniformly agreed on that there are 5 types of Adverbs: Manner, Time, Place, Frequency, and Degree. That’s where ink colors come into play.

If you’d prefer though, you could leave adverbs as simply “adverbs” and further divide up adjectives instead. Like I said, there are also said to be 5 different general types of adjectives. My only fear here is when you run into adjectives that don’t fit into these “general” categories.

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I color code my notes based upon the subject that I'm working on ...

While this whole list is very useful, we’ll be focusing on the “Language” section for this article. If you prefer to focus more on phrases and language rules over vocabulary, then this method is for you.

All vocabulary is one color. Conjugations are another color. Grammar is another color. Idioms are yet another. And corrections are reserved for your 5th color.

This one is a pretty color-efficient system, as you only need 5 different colors. Ink colors or highlighter colors work here. I find that this method more closely reflects what one would learn in an actual foreign language class.

As someone who studies by myself, I focus quite a lot on vocabulary, but I know fully well that in the classroom setting, all these other categories are focused on quite often as well.

I fully get that some languages don’t have conjugations though– like Vietnamese for example. If that’s true for your target language, then consider changing the category into something like “questions.”

Skillshare course on how to create a language journal


color coding | Tumblr

All the tips offered in that image are quite useful for color coding newbies– but I’ll be focusing on the example she provided. If you’re more of a curriculum-style learner, then “titles and headlines” are typically provided with whatever unit you’re currently studying.

Or if you’re someone who likes to learn vocabulary in your own make-shift topics like “weather” or “food,” then this method is also perfect for you. It allows you to easily distinguish between different units and quickly pick out the “most important” terms.

Then you’d have a different color to indicate both vocabulary and terminology. A 3rd color would indicate definitions and explanations.

I appreciate the fact that this creator included “explanations” instead of just “definitions,” as often times levels of clarification are needed that go beyond the word’s denotation alone.

When explanations are the same color as vocabulary, it’s pretty easy for your page to look messy and disorganized. By using colors you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at right when you start looking at it.

The 4th color would indicate examples of the words in use– a crucial asset to grasping the context behind a word. This’ll help make sure you fully understood whether the word is the translation of the English verb, noun, or adjective of the word. (Like “clean” or “dress” for example.)

Example sentences are great for adding an extra level of detail to your notes, and should be included whenever possible. The last color is for everything else— suitable for something as sizely as a whole language.

When you add miscellaneous notes that don’t quite fit into any of your categories, you won’t have to worry about breaking your color scheme. You’ll still be able to keep your notes neat and organized while adding in the information you need to include.

This category could include side notes like words that have similar meanings or similar sounds. Plus tons of other things, of course.

And as the image shows, this method is incredibly easy to apply to text as well. So my textbook readers and bookworms can rejoice.


This color-coding method is best for students in a physical classroom setting. Particularly if your main form of learning is through lectures and textbooks.

Notes would include vocabulary and grammar— making this method the most friendly for students crunched on time. You won’t have to switch between colors but so often.

The creator of this list actually writes her notes in black, making this perfect for students who have colorful pens that either don’t have much ink or that they don’t want to use up too quickly.

Additional/ aside info would include extra points like conjugations, gender, and written pronunciations. Allowing for some nice bursts of colorful distinction in your writing.

Discussion/ key points/ textbook allows for you to easily incorporate outside input into your notes. If your learning setting is quite collaborative, then this is a crucial section for your notes. This even applies to learners who frequently use Italki and other language exchange applications.

Quotes can be really useful for adding an extra interesting flair to typical sentences. Any kind of phrase demonstrates the words used in their proper context– which is again, insanely important for learners of all levels.

Putting corrections in a different color allows for your notes to continue looking organized and visually appealing– even if they’re filled with mistakes. This is just like taking a page out of your Elementary English class when you’d write revisions in a different color from the original piece.

Definitely consider adding in this section if your notes typically come straight out of your head or reflect your own attempts at constructing sentences.

Make sure to snag your copy of the Masterguide to color coding for maximum foreign language memory retention!

A full guide to efficiently color-coding your foreign language notes and language journal. Guides you in how to color code different kinds of adjectives, nouns, phrases, and more. The guide addresses both ink colors and highlighter colors and provides science-backed research on which colors are most effective for memory retention. These color-based memory hacks will translate over into all kinds of note-taking. You’ll never go into blindly highlighting your notes again and you’ll be the smartest note-taker in your class. Impress your friends and upgrade your whole self-study routine with just one guide. Priced at less than 1 cup of coffee for a lifetime of colorful knowledge. The questions this guide answers include:

  • What colors are the most effective?
  • How can you ensure optimum contrast in your notes?
  • What are the emotional arousing affects of different colors?
  • Black vs. Colored Ink. Which is more effective?
  • What are the benefits of different colors?
    • Green vs. Red vs. Blue
  • How to properly integrate color into your language journal/note-taking routine?
    • The SMART way to label adjectives
    • The SMART way to label nouns
The Masterguide to Color Coding for maximum foreign language retention

Before you’re off on your creative journey

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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 blog.

Keep learning languages my friend! And I look forward to seeing you again real soon.

Not too late to pin for later!


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