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How to Keep a Bullet Journal for Language Learning

I’ve got a secret.

There’s a new BFF for language learners—a method to intensify, organize and customize language learning.

Bullet journals.

A bullet journal—often called “BuJo” for short—is a customizable notebook.

Ryder Carroll, the creator of the bullet journal technique, calls it a method to “track the past, organize the present and plan for the future.”

In this post, we’ll explore how to use a bullet journal for language learning, from setting it up to using it.


How to Set Up a Bullet Journal

A bullet journal can be as minimal or fancy as you want. Some are bare-bones, with the four main parts and little else. Others are artistic playgrounds, filled with drawings and detailed lists.

Let’s start with the primary components every journal will need first.

A basic bullet journal has four main parts:

  • Index — This is a listing (by page numbers) of what’s in the journal. The index makes it a breeze to locate a particular section without any fuss.
  • “Future planner” section — This portion helps you organize and plan upcoming tasks or events, such as language lessons or cultural activities.
  • A monthly calendar (for obvious reasons)
  • Daily task list — A task list keeps the focus on what’s happening on a given day. It’s basically a daily to-do list.

Now, let’s get into some spreads you’ll need specifically for language learning tasks (like taking notes).

How to Make a Progress Tracker in Your Bullet Journal

Most BuJos have goal lists—both short-and long-term (and we’ll discuss those later on).

But how do you keep track of your progress?

That’s when a tracker comes in handy. It’s a page set up as a graph, with the dates of a month written down the edge of the page and the daily items you want to focus on written as the other axis of the graph.

The point is to mark every day that you accomplish a particular task. Ideally, the end of the month will show that most days, most items were addressed. It’s the perfect place for language learners to see their progress. Many BuJo keepers use colored pens to make this portion of a journal an attractive spot!

Items to put on your tracker page can include writing practice, vocabulary list-making, time with flashcards, watching videos or reading. Checking off coursework or study time shows not only the “big picture” but the smaller steps—the ones that will get you from beginner to advanced.

How to Make a Weekly Spread in Your Bullet Journal

As I said before, the complexity of a bullet journal depends on the learner.

Me? I go somewhere in the middle with my bullet journal. In addition to the four must-haves, I added a section to improve the journal’s efficiency as a learning tool.

A “weekly spread” is typically a two-page deal that breaks the week up into sections for the seven days. I just count the lines on the page, divide it into sections with a ruler and write the day and date at the top of each section.

Then I note what language learning tasks I’m doing each day. And at the end of every day I mark items that I’ve accomplished. It’s an excellent way to see that tasks are being completed!

How to Make Vocabulary Pages in Your Bullet Journal

Your bullet journal will need several pages for learning new vocabulary.

You can use it like a regular notebook—where you’d simply take notes without much regard to the style or aesthetic appeal—or create beautiful spreads that make it easy to organize important information.

Some things I recommend your vocabulary pages have:

  • Grids or space to write the new vocabulary words
  • Definitions and translations of each word
  • Space for example sentences
  • Space to take notes about how the word is used in context
  • Space for any grammar notes that are relevant to the word (such as structures that are required to use it in a sentence)

Here’s an example of a bullet journal vocabulary spread from Archer and Olive. The YouTuber is learning Chinese, but as mentioned in the video, you can adapt the spread style to suit any language you’re learning:

How to Make Grammar Pages in Your Bullet Journal

Next, you’ll need to dedicate a few pages to taking grammar notes.

There are tons of ways you can make a grammar spread, but here are a few ideas for formatting you can draw inspiration from:

  • List format. Again, you can always choose to keep things clean and simple by listing out new grammar points you’re learning without much structure or attention to aesthetic design. For example, if you’re learning about the differences between por vs. para in Spanish, you could just use bullet points and underline or highlight important notes. This is less time-consuming and more convenient if you’re busy. But if you get inspired to study by eye-catching spreads, you might want to choose a different theme.
  • Table format. This will look similar to the spread created by the YouTuber in the video above for vocabulary. If you choose a table format, I recommend creating four columns: one for the grammar point/structure, explanation, example sentences and a “notes” section. You can use the “notes” to jot down mnemonics to help you remember the structure, things you struggle with, a reminder of where you saw the structure used in action, etc.
  • Mind map format. A mind map organizes information by using a hierarchy system. At the top is the main point or broad topic (such as a sentence structure), and the points underneath it are smaller details that lead up to the main point. For example, if you’re learning about the Spanish present perfect tense, you could include the structure at the top (haber + participle). Then the bubbles or spaces underneath are the conjugations of haber. Underneath those are examples of different -ar and -er/-ir verb participles.

You can find tons of ideas for language learning spreads on Pinterest if you’re out of inspiration for your grammar pages (or any other page, for that matter). For example:

bullet journal language learning spread pages on pinterest

How to Make Book, Movie and TV Series Pages in Your Bullet Journal

Learning a language from entertainment media—like books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, songs, etc.—is one of the best, most effective ways to do so.

But to maximize this study time, you’ll need to actively pay attention and take notes when you come across words, slang, idioms and grammar points you don’t know yet.

You can do this by learning unknown words you find in podcast transcripts or song lyrics, sentences in books, turning on captions for YouTube videos, or using subtitles for videos with a program like FluentU.

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Because of this, I highly recommend adding a few spreads that you can use specifically for taking notes from your favorite media to your bullet journal. (I personally do this for learning Spanish and it’s been a life changer.)

Here are some elements I include in my Spanish media bullet journal spreads that I can recommend to you:

  • Space for new vocabulary
  • Identify what kind of word it is—a slang, expression, colloquial phrase, idiom, regular vocabulary word, etc.?
  • Space to write down the exact sentence it was used in when you heard it (for example, a line in a movie—this makes it super easy to remember)
  • Space for usage notes so you know how to use it in your own sentences

If you’re learning with songs, another method I like is using a whole page just to write down the lyrics of one of your favorite songs. Then, highlight the words and structures you want to learn.

Extract these words and put them in a column or index on the side of your spread with their definitions and any notes you want to make.

Finally, you can also make a page for all of the movies, TV shows and books you want to watch/read in your target language. Then, mark them off when you’ve finally watched or read them and write a small summary of your opinions, thoughts and impressions—like a review (but in your target language).

This is also an excellent list to have when you’re bored, don’t know how you should study one day or you don’t have the energy to learn super actively or intensely.

How to Make a Study Log in Your Bullet Journal

Seeing your progress over days, weeks and months is one of the most foolproof ways to keep motivation high.

Since you plan to consistently study your language for a while, I recommend leaving at least 3-4 pages for your study logs in the front of your bullet journal.

Here are a few ideas for how to set up your study log pages:

Basic study tracker

If you prefer the simplistic, minimalist bullet journal look, the basic study tracker format is probably the right one for you.

Start by dividing your page in half vertically with a ruler and pen or pencil. On the left side, make a column for the date and then list the days of the week.

On the right side, make a column for “Tasks Completed.” Be sure to leave enough space in the rows underneath to fill out everything you did to study that day. You can use bullet points, checkboxes, highlights, you name it.

Detailed study log

This study log builds off the format of the basic study tracker but goes into more depth.

In addition to the date, days and “Tasks Completed” columns, you can also add:

  • Subject (i.e., Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening/Speaking, Reading/Writing)
  • Topic (i.e. present tense verb conjugations, adverbs, the subjunctive mood, Quebec slang, etc.)
  • Time Spent
  • Tasks Completed
  • Notes—a good place to jot down your reflections, questions and key takeaways

Habit tracker

If you already know what activities you want to do each study session (such as using an app, reviewing flashcards, learning 15 new words, etc.), you can use a habit tracker instead of a detailed study log.

In my experience, habit trackers are a bit more convenient to fill out than study logs when I’m busy. And it’s also extremely satisfying to color in bars, boxes, etc.

This is very similar to a Progress Tracker, but it’s more focused on specific tasks than overall language progression. For example, you might use a Progress Tracker to measure your study streak, how close you are to your goal, your current language level, etc.

My favorite way to set up a habit tracker is to create a grid for the current month and a box for each day. Write down what your habit or routine is at the top, then fill in the box with a pretty color each day you complete it.

If you want more inspiration for study logs, Pinterest comes in clutch again with tons of ideas. Just check out some of these:

pinterest study log bullet journal spread ideas

How to Use a Bullet Journal for Language Learning

There are an infinite amount of ways you can use a bullet journal for language learning even within the structure we’ve already established.

And many language learners swear by its effectiveness.

But still, I know firsthand how frustrating it can be when you’re staring at a blank page and freezing at the thought of committing to a specific style, theme or design.

My first recommendation is to start by just setting up the primary pages we just went over. Use the same fonts, colors, etc. for as much consistency as possible, that way you don’t stress about aesthetics every time you start a new page.

Next, draw inspiration from other language learning bullet journals. You can use the Pinterest screenshots and links I included above, search for your own or watch a few YouTube videos of learners who have been bullet journaling for a while now. For starters, I highly recommend Abigail from Polyglot Progress’s detailed run-through on her 2021 language BuJo:

Finally, follow a few tips to help you establish a routine for bullet journaling, like these I’m going to give you now:

Journal completely in the target language

The most obvious way to empower your language program with a bullet journal is to journal in the target language. As in, keep the entire journal in the language you’re studying.

Write the daily, weekly and yearly spreads in the language. Fill in all the journal pages in the target language.

Sound challenging? That’s not a bad thing—part of learning a new skill is being challenged. Don’t back down. You might surprise yourself with how much you learn by keeping an account of your activities and goals in your new language.

And a bonus? Bullet journaling in another language forces you to think in that language! That’s a hard-core language learner’s goal, isn’t it? We all yearn to think in our newly-acquired language!

Write specific topics in only the target language

It would be ideal to keep the entire bullet journal in your target language, as mentioned above. But for most people that just isn’t possible. Let’s face it, not everyone is at that stage in their language journey.

Language is a step-by-step endeavor. Sometimes, bullet journaling is, too.

Maybe you’re beyond just writing the headings in your target language, but you’re not up for writing the whole journal in the target language. So why not BuJo on just specific topics using your target language? No English allowed!

Maybe add a couple of “how to” sections and jot notes in those areas using only your target language. Do you write, draw, sing or cook? Keep a journal of your special interest—using your language skills.

Eventually, you may find that these special sections become larger. Or that you’re not only keeping these parts in the target language, but others, as well.

Steps, remember?

Create headers in the target language

If you’re not proficient enough to even partially journal in the language you’re learning, then just focus on writing the headers in the target language.

Working on writing the days of the week, all the calendar months, to-do lists, exercise and language trackers will provide tons of writing practice.

And, repetition makes those words and phrases you use on each page part of your core vocabulary.

Establish your journal’s organization

It goes without saying—but I’ll say it anyway—all of your learning program components should be a prominent part of the journal.

Your goals for your language journey, the tasks you complete (and even the ones you don’t) and certainly your language trackers all help customize your language plan. They should be part of your journal.

Organizing everything in one place streamlines a program. You’ll see just what you’re doing well and what you need to work on. If you don’t consistently hit all of the tasks on your language to-do lists, you’ll see that at a glance. You’ll be able to adjust your schedule to accommodate those items.

Or maybe you’re trying to do too many things, and that’s why they’re not getting checked off. A bullet journal will show you that—and again, you’ll be able to restructure your program to suit your needs.

One part of bullet journaling that’s especially helpful is the idea of “migrating” tasks.

If you’ve got something on this week’s list that doesn’t get accomplished—for whatever reason—it’s possible to migrate that to the next week. You’ll see (because it’s not marked as completed) what needs to be migrated.

How to Set Goals with a Bullet Journal

Goal-setting is a big component of language learning.

Some thought on goals might be:

  • Where do you want to be on your language learning journey?
  • What do you want to know and which skills do you plan to master?
  • And dates for these tasks?

That all goes on the goal lists. You’ll just need to decide whether they’re long-term or short-term goals. Let’s flesh this out a little bit.

Yearly goals

Goals vary from learner to learner because language learning is a personal journey, but most of us have some idea of where we’d like to be speaking in, say, a year.

With that in mind, your yearly goal might be based on the CEFR (Common European Framework Reference for Languages) language scale.

A B2 proficiency in a year will take commitment, but it’s doable. Maybe you’re not as motivated, so a different level on the scale might be what you write in your bullet journal on the “Yearly Goals” page. It’s all up to you! The point is to decide, then commit to paper.

Monthly goals

Monthly goals are short term and those kinds of goals typically feel pretty concrete. They’re the ones you’ll be ticking off your monthly trackers.

Reading two books in your target language, attending two language lectures, watching one film, practicing grammar daily and adding a predetermined number of words to a vocabulary journal are good examples of monthly goals.

Weekly goals

A weekly spread for a language learning bullet journal is even more customized than either the monthly goal or yearly goal section. The weekly spread breaks down the week into days and provides a spot for each component of a language learning program.

An example of a weekly spread might look like this:

  • Monday — Watch a movie/TV show/YouTube video and grammar exercises in your textbook.
  • Tuesday — Watch a foreign film and read two chapters in a foreign language book.
  • Wednesday — Attend a language lecture.
  • Thursday — Listen to two podcasts in your target language and read two chapters in a foreign language book.
  • Friday — Work on your vocabulary list and do coursework from your textbook.
  • Saturday and Sunday — Review, plan the new week and migrate items not accomplished.


Consistency is key with a bullet journal. Set goals. Crush them. Set new goals.

Language learning by the book can work for everyone—if the book is a bullet journal. Good luck!

And One More Thing...

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