How to Learn a Foreign Language with Journal Prompts

Flatlay journal page of Chinese verbs

If you find yourself here, you’re already wondering how to learn a foreign language. Well, I have a rather unconventional solution for you that will engage your creative side beyond vocabulary memorization.

While living abroad in China, I was determined to not just “get by” with 5 phrases and a translation app. I wanted to be fully present there. I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and experience a tiny picture of what it would be like to move to America knowing very little English. 

In order to do this, I hired a Chinese student to be my language tutor 2 times every week for 8 months. But practicing with my tutor wasn’t enough to help me retain what I was learning.

One day, I started journaling my vocabulary and it stuck!

Here are just a couple of the guidelines I created in order to practice:

How to Learn a Foreign Language with 3 Simple Journal Prompts:

1. Draw Pictures

You don’t need to be Picasso in order to draw an apple. If you’re super nervous about what it will look like, you can go avant-garde and cut photos from magazines, use stickers, or make a new friend and have them draw.

Looking at the new word with a photo is another way to reinforce what you’re learning. Just like learning the alphabet in kindergarten.

You can practice this at any time, even before you go overseas. You can spend time using your journal prompts to learn a new language no matter where you are in the world.

Flatlay journal page of Chinese verbs

2. Create Your Own Simple Sentences

Use the vocabulary words you’ve gained and practice using your connection words like “of, and, to, from,” etc. Write them down in your journal for language learning.

This simple exercise in how to learn a foreign language will help you take the next step from simple word recognition to full cognition.

Use friends’ names and write a 3 sentence story something like this:

“Today, Bri went to the grocery store to buy pineapple. It cost 10 kuai. She ate all of it while walking home.”

journal chinese watercolor lawn

3. Write Down Your Conversations with Native Speakers

The best way to practice your conversation skills is by practicing with locals. When you get the chance to do this, more than likely, you’ll hear people use different words or patterns than you would expect from your books.

The organic nature of conversation encourages more realistic exchanges of questions and answers and shows you the structure of the language when used casually.

Take a minute when you’re back at home or settled in at a coffee shop to write down those exchanges. You could even open up your phone to quickly jot a note about what you noticed.

flatlay of Chinese sentences

As with learning any new language, give yourself time and grace but challenge yourself! Go beyond the limits of what you think you can do. Be open to correction and uncomfortable moments re-pronouncing a word 4 times before the shop keeper understands you. They will be so impressed that you even tried at all!

If you want to know how to learn a foreign language virtually, try the Duolingo app by practicing 10 minutes a day.

And don’t forget to use these prompts to further connect what your learn in the app!

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