Do you ever wonder how your language learning is going?
As in, are you making progress?
Or are you stalled—stuck on a plateau, or even faceplanted into a brick wall?
Actually, if you’ve hit a wall, you’re probably aware of it.
Otherwise, it can be hard to gauge just how well your language program is working.
That said, it’s all fairly simple to figure out…if you use a language learning tracker.
That’s right, there are tools out there that you can use to track your learning.
And regardless of which one or ones you use, there’s a similar idea behind all of them.
It all has to do with measuring what you’re putting in and getting out—measuring the time you invest and seeing just where you are on your language journey.
The 2 Big Benefits of Tracking Your Language Learning
Language tracking can involve two main components, with each part having its own benefit.
- Periodically checking language progress reduces the “am I learning?” issue. It’s a motivational method that’s perfect for anyone but is especially helpful to solo learners who may not have the standard progress reports generated in a classroom setting.
- Keeping track of daily language learning, on the other hand, encourages showing up to whatever the day’s lessons are, even if you might not feel like doing it. It’s okay, we’ve all had those days where we’d rather do something other than grammar drills or study vocabulary lists. It happens. But really, if you’ve got a three-week “streak” going on, it’s not likely you’ll ditch the day’s lessons, is it?
Ideally, you should use tracking tools for both your time and your progress, but even if you use a language tracker just to keep you focused on your goal and committed to daily lessons, it’s worth using one.
The Best Language Learning Trackers and How to Use ‘Em
Language Learning Tracker Tools to Consider
Language learners, their personalities, habits and target languages are so diverse that it would be difficult to find a one-size-fits-all tracker to accommodate everyone. Impossible, even.
The good news is that there are lots of different tracking tool options so there really is something for every learner. You may decide to use one or more of these depending on your needs, and most of them are highly customizable.
Language trackers don’t need to be complicated to work well. Going “old school” with a notebook, colored pencils and a checklist is a simple, personalized method to track your progress.
A few columns to show your lesson schedule and the areas you’re working on is more than enough for a first tracker.
For example, if you have lessons five days a week, write the dates in a column. Next to that, note what specific activities you’ll accomplish. Maybe learning with FluentU videos (see below), reading dual-language books and vocabulary building are your core language focal points, so you’ll write those down in this second column. You can make a similar column for whether you’ve achieved certain learning goals.
Every day that you accomplish a goal, whether related to study (completing a lesson) or progress (learning a set of vocab words) check it off, give yourself a sticker or color in the column. Whatever you need to do to make you feel good about actively participating in your language program is fine. You’ll feel great watching the evidence of your time spent with your target language grow.
An even more basic language tracking tool is a calendar.
Whether it’s on your phone or on a wall, as long as you can mark off the days you work on your target language, a calendar can track learning.
Unless you pencil in the different facets of study (vocabulary, writing, reading, speaking, etc.) you won’t really know how you’re doing—you’ll just know that you’re actually working. That’s still something good. Even if you just show up day after day and work consistently toward your language goal, it’s a pretty safe bet that your skills are improving.
If you’re all about technology, then you’re in luck. There are lots of tracker options to suit the technological language learner!
Built-in Language Tracking
Many language learning apps have a tracking feature already built into their program and in many cases, there are ways to track both daily study time and progress.
Think Duolingo, with its lingots and streak count. The little owl does more than make things fun; he actually rewards your progress and motivates learners to make time for study. I have to admit, I’ve had a long Duolingo streak with a language simply because I didn’t want to disappoint the owl or break the streak count!
FluentU has a similar streak feature to encourage daily study that you can adjust depending on your goals, and on top of that, it keeps track of every single vocab word you learn. It remembers words you already know, and marks words for study just around the time you’re beginning to forget them.
Since it’s a complete learning program built around real-world videos—think movie trailers, music videos, news clips, etc.—and equipped with learning material for all levels, you can use it as a primary course, daily language tracker, progress tracker and immersion method all in one and throughout your learning journey.
LingQ is a flexible app that offers vocab tracking. You can also use it to track the amount of time you devote to different skills. It focuses on learning naturally with imported content from the web, so it’s a great way to get in extra practice to supplement a more formal learning course and to watch your word bank grow while you’re at it.
A Habit Tracker App
Your phone can work as a language learning tracker if you download one of the habit trackers designed specifically to increase productivity by creating new habits, focusing energy on goals and showing just how well you’re doing.
A great one to try is called Habit List. It’s a free app with a clean interface that allows for flexible scheduling of up to three habits with no extra purchases. So if you’re working on more than one language, this is the go-to app. If you’re concerned with only one language, you can use this to also track your gym days or any other practice that’s important to you.
There are even trackers that gamify your habit. Habitica turns any life activity into a game. It’s easy to set the game up by listing the habits you want to cultivate or strengthen. Every time you check in to the game, you get credit for doing so. It mounts up to a point where you’re challenged to go on quests, accomplish tasks and even have pets.
If you’re a gamer, turning tracking language into a game might be the best way for you to stay motivated and watch your progress. I know it sounds impossible—or too good to be true—but “game on” with this one!
A Bullet Journal
To round out the options, I saved the one I personally use and consider the best tool for language tracking, the bullet journal, for last. A bullet journal is a completely customizable option but most language bullet journals include basic pages for tasks, goals and progress trackers to show what’s been completed.
It’s usually a small notebook, so it’s portable, which I like. It’s also as creative or minimalist as its owner wants it to be. My progress trackers are color coded, but that’s just me. Someone else’s might be a pencil line graph, and that’s fine, too. The point is to track!
How to Start Using Your Language Learning Tracker(s)
So now that you’ve chosen or are considering a language tracking tool or tools, you’ll want to focus on the best way to utilize your method. If you’re not using built-in tracking, you might be wondering how exactly to track your progress. We’ll get into all of that here.
- First, decide what aspects of your language program you want to track. Do you want to monitor vocabulary acquisition, reading proficiency, writing skills or conversational skills? Maybe you’ve got a combination of all of those in mind. Actually, they should all be part of your program, so it makes sense to keep an eye on each of them if you can.
- Assess where you are in your language learning. If you know where you are, proficiency-wise, you’ll be able to determine where you want to go and set goals accordingly. These downloadable language tracking sheets are used in classroom settings to gauge English proficiency, but they can be modified to suit any language. While these are intended to be used by teachers, with a little tweaking, they can give you a good idea of what your goals should be and they can also help you note your progress at any given point. They’re also a great way to see just where you fall on the proficiency scale.
One of the essential aspects of these sheets is that they offer measurable guides to assess language. Beginning learners would benefit from downloading the Kindergarten sheets, which place 500 words as the first linguistic vocabulary benchmark for a Level 1 learner. The scale on each tracking sheet increases until the Grades 10-12 sheets, which put linguistic learning in the 5000-word range.
You can also use Dialang to test different language skills.
Having resources like these on hand allows you to note progress and make gauging proficiency clear-cut, even if you’re using a lower-tech or non-language-specific tool as a tracker.
- Start tracking study time/tasks. One of the best features of any language tracker is that it gives you the ability to track your study time. Do you want to devote one hour a day to learning? Two? Whatever fits your program and schedule, factor that in when you use your tracker. You’ll be able to see just how much time you need to spend to accomplish your tasks—and you’ll be able to make time in your schedule to get the job done.
- A language tracker isn’t a stagnant tool. Optimally, you’ll access your tracker daily as you confirm you’ve completed your language studies. At the end of a week, month or year you’ll have a clear view of what you’ve been doing with your study time.
- Review your progress periodically. I suggest monthly because I find that there are some weeks that I just don’t make every single task and I don’t want to feel badly about that. But if weekly works for you, that’s great, too. I review my language tracker at the end of every month and can see what I did, what I concentrated on and how many hours I devoted to studying a target language.
This is also a good time to break out the tracking sheets above, or review whatever built-in progress trackers you have going. If you see that you’re flagging in a certain area, adjust your course to get you back on target.
Trackers Are Excellent Tools for Language Learners
Trackers are effective.
They provide accountability, motivation and help gauge success.
Fitness trackers are a perfect example of how tracking works on human behavior. I mean, how many Fitbit owners (myself included) don’t call it a day until the step count goal is reached?
Let’s be honest, we all want to know how we’re doing and how we can do even better—and this is the method to address those concerns. Adding a tracker to your language routine, and using it consistently, can really help increase what you get done. It can also provide a tangible assessment of how well a program is performing.
Bring language learning to the next level, and keep your face out of that brick wall.
Track your way to success!
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