One of the best things about working on the joy of languages blog is that our readers are always sharing smart ideas about how to learn a language. This week’s post is inspired by Anne, Ken and Vanessa, who suggested keeping a journal as a way to improve your speaking skills in a foreign language.
I loved this idea and wanted to get as many people involved as possible, so I’ve decided to set up a language diary challenge on Instagram, together with a little giveaway (more on this later).
First, let’s talk a little about how keeping a language diary can boost your speaking skills.
Writing to improve speaking
Writing to improve your speaking may seem counterintuitive at first. But writing actually helps develop a lot of the skills that we need to communicate more fluently. To improve your speaking skills, you need to:
- practice organising your thoughts into sentences
- learn vocabulary to talk about everyday events
- identify gaps in your knowledge
A language diary helps with all of these things on a daily basis. It’s a powerful way to improve your vocabulary, grammar and ability to express your ideas – all essential for speaking.
When you keep a language diary, you’ll:
1. Learn useful things
By writing about your day, you’ll be practicing using the vocabulary and grammatical structures that you need to talk about day to day stuff. You’ll learn how to communicate about things that are important to you and the people around you, which is much more useful than the random word lists most language courses give you.
2. Remember faster
Humans are hardwired to remember stories better than other types of information. The little snippets in your diary act like mini stories, which make the grammar and vocabulary easier to remember and reuse. You’re also likely to repeat a lot of the same words and structures, which naturally makes them more memorable.
3. Use the language
When we learn a language, most of us focus on “passive activities” like reading and listening. But if we want to use the language to communicate, we should focus more on activities that help us produce the language. A language diary helps you draw from the vocabulary and grammar you’ve been learning to build sentences you can use in real conversations.
4. Learn consistently
Keeping a diary is a great way to add consistency to your language learning and make sure that you practice using the language you’re learning in some way every day.
I started the language diary challenge on Instagram so that we can work together to help each other learn a foreign language. Research shows that people are more likely to achieve their goals when they work together as a team, so I thought it would be great way to get a community of language learners together.
And Instagram is the perfect place to write a little something in the language you’re learning each day.
- It’s based around photos, which makes it visual and fun
- Pictures facilitate memory
- You can connect with the language learning community on Instagram, which includes support and corrections from native speakers.
To join in, all you have to do is post a photo or video to Instagram, write a word or phrase about it in the language you’re learning and use the hashtags #mylanguagediary and #joyoflanguages.
What level do I have to be?
You can join in at any level. If you’re a complete beginner, you could use the challenge to learn simple sentences, or individual words. For example, you could post a picture of a beer and write the word “beer” in the language you’re learning. If you’re advanced, you can write sentences with sophisticated vocabulary and a variety of tenses. The important thing is to write a little something in the language you’re learning.
The best pictures or videos will get a free pack of FlashSticks. If you’re new to FlashSticks, they’re foreign language post-it notes that you can stick around the house to help you remember vocabulary in context. They come with an app so you can take a picture of the post-it and a pronunciation video pops up. And they’ve got a cool object recognition thingy so you can take a picture of an object and it’ll tell you the name in the language you’re learning. You can choose from Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, German, Mandarin Chinese or BSL.
I hope you’re feeling inspired to join us for the language diary challenge! To recap, there are 2 steps to join in:
1. Post your picture or video on Instagram and write a word or sentence about it in the language you’re learning.
2. Use the hashtags #mylanguagediary and #joyoflanguages.
That’s it! I’m looking forward to seeing them over on Instagram.
Now I’d like to hear from you: Do you keep a language diary? What do you write about? Let us know in the comments below!
p.s. Joy of languages readers get a 10% discount on FlashSticks. Just use this code over on the FlashSticks website: JOYOFLANGUAGES10