Journalling in a Foreign Language

I came across a video by Hyunwoo of ‘Talk to Me in Korean’ which encouraged journalling in a foreign language on a daily basis. I was inspired to give this a go myself, and I think it can have a positive impact on your language learning from day one!

Why is journalling in a foreign language recommended?

Keeping a language diary is a way to aid your language learning especially when you are unable to immerse yourself in other ways. For example, you might have no native speakers nearby to talk to. It is really important to practice your production skills in your target language, so writing is the next best area to focus on.

I’ve become acutely aware recently that my speaking and writing skills in Japanese have suffered a lot. I took a break from learning Japanese and so I am keen to build these skills back up again. As it happens, I ended up with two 2017 diaries, so journalling in a foreign language is a great way of putting the spare diary to use.

My experiences journalling in Japanese so far

I have been doing this for a couple of weeks and I am really enjoying it so far. One thing I immediately discovered is that I absolutely have to write out the diary entries. On busy days, I settle for just typing a couple of sentences on my phone. Writing in my diary seems to engage my brain in a different way compared to typing on my laptop. Having said that, I have always found that handwriting things in Japanese helps me to remember things more easily.

I think this is even more important where the writing system of your target language differs to your native language(s). In the age of predictive text, you can end up solely relying on your ability to recognise words rather than producing them. For Japanese, I have found it much easier to pinpoint which kanji I need to review if I cannot immediately recall how to write it.

I keep my journal very simple (ie. boring), but I have seen some amazing language journals on Pinterest and YouTube!

But I don’t know what to write/ I have just begun studying a new language!

Don’t worry about the content of your entries too much. Even writing out a new word you have learned a few times will help to consolidate your knowledge.

This is the time to experiment with new words and phrases you may have learnt but try to put these into sentences where possible. Some people find writing out sentences that they already know to be correct is helpful for revising new grammar points and vocabulary.

I recommend checking out my 30-day writing challenge, or the Noun Verb Adjective challenge for writing prompts.

How do I check whether my writing is correct?

For short sentences and phrases, Hi Native is a wonderful app for getting quick feedback. Check out my review of the HiNative app to learn more.

I used to highly recommend a website called Lang-8 for longer pieces of writing. Aimed at language learners, you can publish posts and ask native speakers to read and correct your work. Japanese friends, of course, may be happy to do this for you but sometimes getting input from complete strangers can provide a fresh perspective.

Unfortunately, Lang-8 is not accepting new applications so if you do not already have an account I would check out Hello Talk or Italki’s Notebook instead. Both of these sites work in a similar way to HiNative and Lang-8, and are free to use!

Being a community of fellow language learners, I have always found people on these websites to be extremely helpful with anything I need help with. Make sure that you return the favour and review other people’s writing!

Finally, don’t forget to periodically look back what you have written. I think that this is a great way to stay motivated with Japanese, as you can see your progress.

Do you keep a journal in Japanese/ another language? Have you found it useful so far? Let me know in the comments.

journalling in a foreign language pin

6 thoughts on “Journalling in a Foreign Language”

  1. This is a great idea! You’ve inspired me to start a journal in Japanese. 🙂

    One question I have about it though is: how do you “dumb down” what you want to write about so that you don’t get frustrated with how much vocabulary or grammar you don’t know yet?

    When journaling, it’s instinctual to want to translate your native language (in my case, English) directly into the foreign language in which you want to write. At least, this is what I did when I had writing assignments for French. I know that English doesn’t directly translate very well into Japanese, but I would think that it would be frustrating to want to write certain sentences that you can easily write in English, but not be able to do so as easily in Japanese with limited knowledge.

    1. Hi Dina, thanks for your comment – you raise a really good question! It’s something that I struggle with myself to be honest. I think it is better to focus on what you ‘can’ say as much as you can rather than what you ‘want’ to say to begin with. When using Lang 8 or asking a Japanese friend/ teacher to check what you’ve written you can then take the opportunity to ask how to express what you really wanted to say afterwards. I hope this helps a little bit!

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