Despite the plethora of free printable language trackers out there, tracking language learning is not that simple. You can track how many days you study and how many hours you study, but that doesn’t actually MEAN anything if you aren’t studying efficiently and retaining information. It’s less important how LONG you study and more important HOW you study. Now, I’ve probably pissed some people off. “So how the hell do I actually track where I am and what I’ve learned?” you’re probably asking. Well, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?! So many people think they aren’t improving in their language study because they can’t see their progress. So, they quit. BUT I do have the answer, so don’t touch that dial!
As humans we love to see exactly how our hard work has paid off. Basically, if you put work into something you will find that you tend to want to see exactly how much closer that hard work has brought you to your goals. That isn’t as simple in language learning but it is possible if you set the right goals and know how to track your progress in them.
How To Set Goals?
DON’T SCROLL PAST THIS PART. I know that it’s easy to roll your eyes and say, “Dude, I know how to set goals…” but hear this, you may be setting goals incorrectly. (DUN DUN DUN).
People often don’t know how to set goals in language learning and that is one of their BIGGEST set backs. Because people see lots of flim-flam around about “how to learn a language in three months” or “how to learn a language super duper uber fast”, they set HUGE goals like “be fluent in X months” or “speak fluently to people in X amount of weeks”. Why? Because they have been told that those goals are realistic! Those, my good friend, are not a good language learning goals and will set you up for disappointment and failure.
The correct way to set goals is to be VERY specific. However, there are two types of goals you should have: main goals and smaller goals.
Obviously, the overall goal is to be fluent, but that’s too big a goal to include on your list. Instead, first write down main goals. Main goals are goals that are used to track your overall progress in a language that are based on topics or situations. When making main goals, make only goals for that month, then add new ones for the next month or continue with last months if you didn’t finish. To explain the concept more clearly, I have posted a picture of my main goals for Chinese. However, it doesn’t matter if you’re learning French, Japanese, Korean, Polish or Spanish. You can use this template for learning any language.
As you can see, I have the month at the top, then on the left I have a tracker for how many days I have been studying. As you can see, there is a gap around the week of the 9th because that was my birthday! Then on the left, you’ll see the key. There I assigned colors to the different components of my language study I needed to complete:
Vocabulary means I study at least 10 vocabulary words within the topic during that week.
Speaking means I practice what I learned with a native speaker (usually via iTalki)
Reading means I read something within the monthly topic within that week
Writing means I write a few sentences within the topic that week
Below all this you see the topic of each week. For one topic I chose Art, so that week I focused on learning about Art (using lists on Tumblr, random materials online and random Youtube videos I found). The next week I learned about politics (specifically how to talk about American politics) and then week three I will do fashion and week four I will do idols (as in celebrities in Korea and China).
Below all that, you can see exactly what I’ve learned. You can see how my language capabilities have grown and exactly what I can now express! Isn’t that cool!!! You should track exactly what you’ve learned to express and then at the end of the month, compare that to what you were able to express last month. But the difference is, you can see exactly what you can and cannot express and maybe identify holes in your knowledge. So one month, you can repeat a topic to fill holes in your knowledge or expand deeper on the topic.
Small goals are little things you’d really like to learn that are outside of your main goals. You can set small goals like finishing a certain book, learning a new song or understanding an entire movie. These goals you can also interweave into your main goals to make it easier to accomplish them.
Learn Topic by Topic
This is the best way I know how to track language learning progress is to learn topic by topic. The more topics you are able to talk about, the more fluent you will become, right? Well, tracking your progress in topics is MUCH easier than tracking every single thing you learn arbitrarily! Each week, pick a topic you’d like to study and find materials related to the topic to help you get as much done as possible.
Topics Are Endless and So is Language Learning
Now keep in mind that there are SO many topics to learn because language is VAST and there are many things in the world you can talk about. So the more topics you are able to learn, the more fluent you will become. This absolutely doesn’t happen overnight and I don’t believe it will happen in three months either. But if you just keep going and are consistent, you will find yourself able to speak more and more and more. And that’s what language learning is all about, a continual language learning process where the goal is just to keep improving, because there is always room!
While you’re here, check these posts out: