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Hello lovelies! As a language learner of any level, I’m sure you’ve wondered exactly how you can track your language learning progress at some point in your journey.
It’s no easy task to assess one’s proficiency or progress in another language. Foreign languages are skills that aren’t necessarily measurable. But fortunately do have general progress categories.
What it means to “track” language progress is quite dependent to the learner. Tracking could mean:
- How much time you’re dedicating to the language
- Which skills you’re focusing on
- How many new words you’ve learned
- How increasingly comfortable you are conversing in that language
- Figuring out where you fall on a proficiency scale
- The percentage of words you’re able to understand when reading
- The percentage of words you’re able to understand when listening
- Or something else
This is just to say that some of the methods listed below won’t be for the form of tracking you’re interested in. Each tracker method has it’s own benefits and features.
They’re all notably different but will most definitely provide you with some insight as to where you stand in your language journey. For top results, I recommend combining some of the tracking methods and using them conjunctively to measure your progress.
1. Keep a language study journal
Study journals are becoming huge among students. Bullet Journals are becoming huge among…. everyone. So why not mash those together, add a linguistics element, and create your own language journal?
A “language journal,” otherwise known as a “language learning journal” is, in essence, a notebook for foreign language acquisition. A notebook dedicated to new words, forgotten words, vocabulary rules, verb conjugations, irregular verbs– you name it.
If it has to do with a foreign language, then you can 100% write it down in your language journal. Meaning that goal setting and progress tracking spreads can definitely have spots in yours.
When you set these progress tracking spreads up yourself, your progress “milestones” are fully individualized to you. You can measure your progress overall, instead of focusing on growth caused by one resource.
You can definitely try using the spread pictured above for inspiration. I’ll admit though that dividing your progress by percentages is extremely difficult.
Since you’ve never really learned a language 100%. But tracking how many words you have to translate while reading or how many videos you needed to turn the subtitles on are definitely trackable measures.
I’d suggest looking for a few different tracking spreads shared online and trying to cater them towards your language growth. Check out 20 Amazing Language Learning Bullet Journal Spread Ideas for inspiration for your whole language journal.
Grab a hand-designed inspirational quote bullet journal here! Created specifically for language learners.
2. Take periodic online tests
This may or may not surprise you, but there are quite a lot of language proficiency exams offered online. If I’m being transparent though, certain sites are much more reliable at actually providing true-to-scale results.
One of the most comprehensive and commonly used language exams in the United States is the ACTFL Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages. AAPPL is a web-based proficiency and performance assessment of K-12 standards-based language learning.
The ACTFL has five main levels (novice, intermediate, advanced, superior and distinguished), and the first four levels are each split into low, medium and high sub-levels, allowing for a very specific proficiency evaluation. At least during Covid19, tests are currently being offered remotely.
But let’s be real, for tracking progress, free tests you can take repeatedly are a lot more practical. So when looking for one offered in your target language, search for those that offer results according to the ACTFL or CEFR scale.
The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) is a 6-point scale divided into A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2. For tracking purposes, you should retake the proficiency exam(s) you find semi-regularly. Monthly is a good starting point, but your progress ultimately comes down to how many hours you devote to the language each week.
If you’re learning for 25 hours per week, then bi-weekly proficiency exams may be better for tracking progress.
For a few different online proficiency exam sources, you can try:
- Transparent Language (14-day free trial, & then requires payment)
- Cactus Language (Provides results in both CEFR & ACTFL)
- Language Trainers (100% free. Also offers exclusively listening tests)
3. Use a digital flashcard system
Anki and Fluent Forever are both amazing spaced repetition flashcard systems that allow you to personalize the process for yourself. Anki is entirely structured by you, while Fluent Forever is more of a full language learning app.
Spaced repetition flashcard systems are honestly some of the best ways of tracking your ongoing language progress. Whenever you review your flashcards, you’re shown how much of the language you’ve successfully retained.
So in essence, you’re able to assess your language progress every single day. Plus since the flashcards are already part of your study routine, you don’t have to go out of your way to analyze your growth.
For example, take a look at the statistics dashboard available to Anki users daily.
It literally shows you how many words you learned, reviewed, and relearned. That’s basically the most effective manner of categorizing any vocabulary.
Plus the bars and colors allow me to view my anticipated growth in the coming month. Showing me how many words I’m still “young” in and when I should expect to be “mature” in all of my vocabulary.
They’ll also show your expected growth for the next year. Which can actually be quite motivating as you realize that required reviews will one day be extremely spaced apart.
And while I’m not familiar with other Spaced repetition flashcard systems, I’m sure they all have relatively similar features.
4. Periodically check how long you can hold a conversation with a native speaker
This is even better if you have one native speaker willing to hold regular conversations with you. “Periodically” is just a broad term for some form of consistent frequency.
If that’s once a week, bi-weekly, or monthly, each time will ultimately demonstrate how much farther you’ve come in your understanding of the language.
Most of the time, conversations start out vaguely similar– with a “how are you,” and “how’s the family.” The real measure of your progress comes in how long you’re able to carry the conversation with your partner.
Hopefully, each time you’ll be able to converse even just a little longer than previously. The more topics you’re able to discuss should pretty accurately reflect your growing proficiency.
Even text-based conversations can be pretty useful for measuring progress. Check out 5 Language Exchange apps to use when you’re too broke to travel, for some reliable places to find exchange partners.
Measuring your progress in this manner won’t provide super concrete results you can physically view, but you’ll at least be able to assess your growing level of comfort in conversing.
5. Duolingo’s Checkpoint Quizzes
I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with Duolingo if you’ve even briefly learned a foreign language. I won’t lie– I actually prefer some other applications to Duolingo but it’s checkpoint quizzes can be quite enlightening.
Unlike other exams you’ll find online, Duolingo’s quizzes are all varying levels of difficulty that build on the vocabulary of all former modules.
Even more obscure languages have at least 5 checkpoints that one can test into. I know for a fact that Spanish has 7, French has 8, Arabic has 5, and Vietnamese has 5.
So the best way to take advantage of these quizzes is to divide up how long you plan to rigorously study the language by the number of checkpoints. Even if you won’t be using Duolingo to study the language.
So if you’re going to actively study a language for 6 months, putting in the required weekly hours to reach fluency by the end of that time period, then divide up those 6 months by the quizzes offered in your target language to find out when you should take each checkpoint quiz. For French at least, that would mean one checkpoint quiz at the end of each month.
Or if you’re actively studying for a year, then one checkpoint quiz every two months. Keep in mind that your results may not fully reflect your actual proficiency in the language, as most quizzes test you for the vocabulary you were meant to have learned in previous lessons.
So this method of tracking is best if you’re learning the language starting at the “elementary basics” and gradually progressing upon that.
6. Goal Tracking Apps
Strides, Coach.me, and HabitBull are all totally legit options for tracking goals digitally. No, these apps are not designed for language learning specifically, but goals are goals, no matter what kind.
Even though you may not be physically measuring your proficiency, you will be tracking subjects you’ve learned, and learning milestones you’ve reached.
If you stay consistent with inputting new goals, and checking off old ones, you’ll have a pretty true-to-life depiction of your language progress.
Each goal tracking app brings different features and benefits, so I encourage you to do a bit of research before committing.
With Stride, each tracker has its own charts so you can appreciate the progress you’re making. Here’s a snapshot of the 4 unique tracker types the app offers:
With Coach.Me, you’re able to set targets and reminders for how many times you want to do your habit each week to hold yourself responsible. Here’s a snapshot of the different kinds of habits they let you track:
HabitBull is quite literally a powerhouse for goal tracking, including a streak counter and percentage successful for each habit. This is a literal snapshot they share with consumers, proving the app is definitely useful for language learners:
7. Use a digital tracking spread / template
This suggestion is quite similar to the language journal option listed above but it’s entirely digital. You’ll have a handy tracker spread you can carry around on your phone or laptop.
It’s an idea that encourages you to focus more on how and what you’re learning than explicit “proficiency” per say. Though not pictured, I’d also suggest you track how much time you spend daily on each of these tasks, instead of just necessarily coloring them in.
The creator of the spread above shared that it was designed to tell which core areas of her languages she was neglecting. Something that all language learners could stand to track.
The spread pictured specifically tracks vocabulary, listening, grammar, reading, writing, and speaking. You’re free to add in categories as you see fit.
You can create your own digital spreads in Canva or Adobe Illustrator. Being sure to copy a new one for each month.
8. Regular Verbal Fluency Tests
I won’t even pretend like I’ve ever done this before. But Wikipedia describes these as a kind of psychological test in which participants have to produce as many words as possible from a category in a given time (usually 60 seconds).
So this is basically the only way of language tracking that focuses solely on speech.
The category can be semantic, including objects such as animals or fruits, or phonemic, including words beginning with a specified letter, such as p, for example.
These test were not designed to assess proficiency in a foreign language, but can be used as such. How fast you’re able to blurt out consecutive terms in your target language can be quite indicative of how familiar your brain is becoming with the language.
Choosing a specific subject, like family, weather, or marketing, will make for the most structured tests.
And hey– you might even have fun!
Before you’re off on your tracking journey
If you benefited from this article, then you’ll love 8 steps to creating a Language study routine that you LOVE! We’re on this journey to transform your language study together!
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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.
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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Keep learning languages my friend! And I look forward to seeing you again real soon.