Using a second language logbook, develop your own second language strategies
Welcome, aspiring polyglot! One of the reasons people struggle so greatly with learning a new language is they neglect to write things down. As great as it would be for an app on your phone to teach you a language, the fact of the matter is you are simply less likely to remember things if you are not physically writing things down. Writing things down is paramount, but beyond that you need to be doing things that are conducive to your individual success.
Everyone is different, what works for the person next to you may or may not work for you and it is your job to determine that which works best for you. As you are doing that, make sure you continue to track your wins in a physical book of some sort. This is important because every single person I have ever worked with has at one point or another said to themselves, "that was great, I need to do that again" and not remember what "that" was. When that happens you it can be discouraging because losing something that worked is never fun. By writing down the resources you are using and how they work for you there will be no worrying about when and where to go back.
Another aspect many miss is you should be writing all of the things down that did and do not work for you. That way you will not waste time going back and trying to work with resources that do not work for you. As often as people forget the things that work for them, they go back to things that they have tried and failed to excel with which is equally counter productive. By avoiding this mistake you will save yourself time and headaches. That is part of tracking it all.
Keeping track of patterns
Patterns are important when you are learning a language. Not everything you need to know will be found in a textbook, most of your learning will happen when you are actively learning the language, therefore improving upon your pattern recognition skills is going to be greatly beneficial. If you need some examples, I've compiled a few romance language patterns in the document you can get for FREE using this link.
This is far from an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will be enough to get you started. The best part about seeing patterns in language learning is that the more you see the more you will see. In the same way the more you read the easier it will be, the more you write the easier it will be, and the more you speak the easier it will be, so, too, will it be easier to recognize patterns the more often you do it. However, without writing them down you may find yourself bitterly disappointed at having done all the work only to forget it because you neglected to encode it into your memory.
Every time you uncover a new pattern that is a massive victory. You should be keeping track of each victory because when you are feeling stagnant you will need something that can breathe some life back into your language learning process. For all of human history, people have recorded their victories both large and small. You should be doing the same. Learning a language is a victory worth recording. That said, writing down your victories is likely not enough. You will, probably benefit more from writing down your mistakes than your victories.
Shortening the language learning process
The greatest benefit that comes from writing things down is that you will remember things better. As far as science goes there is not a small amount written on the benefits of writing in a physical book on the ability to remember and recall things. For example, researchers at the Norwegian Center for Learning Environment and Behavioural Research in Education found that reading handwritten text activates different parts of the brain than reading typed text. according to LifeSaavy.com.
This additional encoding, activation of different parts of the brain, will make it easier for you to recall things when the time comes that it is necessary. Have you ever found yourself looking up a word you are certain that you have looked up before? Words you know you have used and seen before? Well, in all likelihood simply writing those things down will help prevent this from happening so often. With that in mind, one of the things to keep in mind is that writing something physically with a pen on paper is more effective at memory encoding than writing something on a screen with your finger or a stylus.
Research from a team of Japanese researchers suggests handwriting on paper leads to greater brain activity and memory retention compared to handwriting with a stylus on a tablet. The researchers hypothesize the richer spatial details of writing on paper may explain why it could enhance the encoding of information in the brain. This means that having a second language logbook is going to be more beneficial than typing notes into your phone.
While you are taking the time to actually write everything down, there are other things you can be doing to shorten the duration of your language learning experience. The reason for this is because when you are simply reading that which is already written all you have to do is focus on pronunciation. There is no grammar to keep in mind, no searching for words, no being concerned about making mistakes.
All you have to do is think about and practice the pronunciation and flow. Start with one sentence, then two, then three, and challenge yourself to read longer and more complex texts as fluidly as possible. If you are writing your own sentences in a second language logbook you might just find it even more helpful. It is better to read aloud that which you are thinking and writing rather than the things other people write.
Do you need a second language logbook?
Yes. You need a logbook of some sort. Does it have to be ours? No, but it does need to be part of your language learning routine. A language learning logbook will provide additional encoding for your memory and it will also provide you with a written record of all the wins and losses you face. Tracking your progress can make an intangible thing a reality, or at least make it feel more real.
Defining your goals in your target language is important for this reason. It can be difficult to feel and see progress when approaching a new language, but by seeing how your abilities progress in a tangible way you can carry momentum through days on the plateau or against the wall.
Whether you choose our proprietary second language logbooks or you decide to start with blank paper and develop your own language logbook, writing things down is going to be absolutely necessary for long term success in learning a second language. Whether you are using it to improve upon previous sentences, to build long form content, or to keep track of all the progressing you do over time, a language logbook is nothing more than a tool. Without consistent, active, effort you will find that no number of tools is going to help you learn your target language. If you have been struggling to remain consistent, check out this article:
The honest truth is, most people do not enjoy writing. This is even more true when it comes to trying to write in a second language. That is where the second language logbook comes in to make things easier. Often times the worst part of writing is having to come up with everything yourself.
When there is only time to sit and study, there is no point in writing out a structure when one has already been made for you. If you do have the time to develop your own version of the second language logbook then you can absolutely do that and likely save money, though you may be trading it for time.
Having a place to organize your thoughts and a process in place for revisiting and revising your previous works will help you enhance and accelerate your language learning experience. That said, make sure you take time to reflect and adapt your process to your particular learning style so you can spend less time planning and more time doing.
Becoming bilingual is difficult, but you can do difficult things and be great. So go do difficult things and become great. Here I’ve given you some of the tools, but in the end, there is no comprehensive guide, no tips or tricks to carry anyone across the finish line. Language acquisition requires time, effort, and consistency. That said, it is something that anyone of any age is more than capable of accomplishing. I’ll be here rooting for you and watching your progress.
For more content find me on Twitter or Instagram. If you are learning Spanish and struggling to keep track of your progress, be sure to check out the first of many in our Language Learning Logbook series! I look forward to seeing everyone’s progress in the months and years to come.