How to keep a language learning notebook

Whether you call it a language learning journal, diary, planner, or notebook, it can be one of the most useful tools in your quest for fluency. We’ll look at several reasons to try a language learning notebook, as well as ideas on how to fill and organize it.

Why keep a language notebook?

In our world of devices and apps, using a simple paper notebook might seem quaint. Even so, it can keep you focused and organized in multiple ways.

Plan your learning path

The blank pages in your language notebook are the perfect canvas for declaring your learning goals, then structuring your path to success with realistic study schedules.

Keep focused

Your language notebook can bring together everything you’re learning, all in one place – especially if you’re combining different apps and learning tools.

A self-contained language learning notebook also detaches you from the multi-tasking mindset of our digital world and focuses you solely on your language lessons (If you’re trying to learn more than one language at once, you’ll probably want to create one notebook per language).

Enhance learning

Writing your language notes by hand can strengthen your retention of the information you’re learning in a way that typing cannot. If you’re a visual learner, write in bold colors and paste in a few pictures to stimulate learning.

Track your progress

When you feel like you haven’t made any real progress, you can look back over everything you’ve learned and realize just how far you’ve already come.

Review what you’ve learned

Based on the principles of spaced repetition that are often used in the most effective flashcard-based vocabulary apps, systematically review the vocabulary and grammar you’ve recorded in your language learning notebook so you never forget what you’ve learned.

Experiment and have fun with the language!

Use your language notebook to explore the target language through creative writing. Even if you make mistakes, you will become more comfortable with the language.

How can you organize a foreign language notebook?

There are two primary ways to organize a language learning notebook, depending on what makes the most sense to you.


You can divide up your notebook into sections like Vocabulary, Grammar, Cultural Notes, Examples, and Exercises.

The Vocabulary section might be further divided up into specific topics (such as Colors, Days of the Week, Weather, or Work Words). You might organize the Grammar section into categories like verb conjugations, prepositions, or word order. The Examples section might cover conversational phrases, dialogues, and idiomatic expressions.


Another way you can arrange your notebook is by sequentially recording what you learn each day, as if you were taking notes in a classroom.

Language learning planner

Image source

What should you keep in your language learning notebook?

Choose from among these suggestions, or let them inspire your own unique approach.

A table of contents

You can use a table of contents or an index to help you quickly locate information by page number.

For a quicker, more flexible way to organize your notebook, try removable, brightly colored sticky tabs.

A language planner

Reserve a section of your notebook for a daily or weekly study schedule, as well as a reminder of your learning goals – along with any deadlines you might have, such as an upcoming standardized language exam.

A habit tracker

Copy a classic bullet journal hack and include a habit tracker in your language notebook to record study times and topics.

You can use the patterns you see to figure out your best times for uninterrupted study, as well as to avoid study times that are doomed by distraction.

A resource list

Make a running list of language resources to explore, such as YouTube channels, MeetUp groups, language apps, books, or blogs. Don’t forget about music, television shows, and movies in your target language, which can also be valuable learning tools.

Word lists

Take time to write out the new words you learn, along with their dictionary definitions and notes on how to use them.

Verb conjugations

These can be sorted by verb tenses or groups of verbs, such as -ER or -IR verbs in French or Spanish.

Dictation exercises

Use a section of your notebook to practice your spelling and sharpen your listening skills with impromptu dictation opportunities, such as transcribing song lyrics or the dialogue from a podcast.

Sample dialogues

Speaking of dialogues, consider copying some by hand from your lessons, especially if you’re a beginner. As you reach the intermediate and advanced phases of your learning, you might make up your own dialogues. Using your vocabulary words in these conversational contexts will make them feel more natural to you.

Grammar tips

If you find yourself struggling with certain grammar points, you might address them in a dedicated section of your language notebook. Don’t forget to include mnemonics, or memory devices, that can help cement trickier concepts.

Cultural notes

Language and culture are closely intertwined. Jot down what you learn about appropriate forms of address or how language is used in different registers, such as casual or formal.

Writing system reference

If your target language uses an unfamiliar writing system, you can practice writing out its alphabet letters, characters, or scripts.

A language learning notebook to grow with your knowledge

Each learner’s journey is unique, and your language notebook will reflect that. Customize your notebook to make it work for you. Record and celebrate your progress – and keep yourself on track for successful language learning.

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