How To Organise Your Language Learning Notes

If you have been learning a language for a while, you will probably have wondered how to organise your language learning notes. If you don’t get it under control, this is one of those things that will escalate to uncontrollable levels pretty quickly. It’s also another unnecessary roadblock when it comes to language learning; un-organised language learning notes can be the difference between you getting ten minutes of practice in and simply not bothering.

How to organise your language learning notes

We have established the main and simple reason why you should organise your language learning notes; it ultimately means you are more likely to do the work and practice you set out to do.

What remains then, is how to organise your language learning notes.

I cant give you a perfect system, but mine is currently optimised, and in a state of continual refinement.

So here is my method of language learning note organisation.

Firstly, there will be a lot of stuff that you find interesting that simply isn’t relevant to your language learning goals. Before you know this, you need to have worked out your language goals. Ergo, the first step to being organised is to sort out your goals.

The second step is to have some sort of bookmarking system, whether its literal bookmarks, web browser bookmarks, or some other means of indexing stuff that isn’t relevant.

To set this up, you have to be diligent with yourself. If you cant use the item or information in the near future, don’t waste your time on it in the present. Just make a bookmark of it, and write the level which you think it will come in handy, and then leave it.

As an example, i recently found a French copy of ‘The Three Musketeers’. I can’t read it, and wont be able to read it until i am an upper intermediate at least. So i make an index card that tells me to look at the book again when i feel im an upper intermediate. I now wont think of the book again until I am at that level.

The same goes for grammar books and grammar rules. If you have a grammar book, don’t read it all the way through once. Read the contents pages, make index cards saying where you can find the rules as and when you need them.

Anki decks are great for this purpose. Only targeted learning works, so you should separate things out as and when you need them, and then discard them when you don’t need them any more.

Books, webpages, vocabulary lists all follow this same basic pattern. If you print everything off, then have folders according to the level. When you use things, act like you were back in school and then put the date in the top right corner as you use something. Then keep a diary for reference purposes.

For instance, if you were to ask me what the word for lemon in Chinese was, and I couldn’t remember, I could simply skim through my diary, see where id studied that vocabulary, and then go to the folder for that day and find out. I have this site which works in a similar way.

As for indexing, you can do it by date and/or theme, but write both because the more anchors you use, the easier it is to find stuff.

That is my system in a nutshell. This has been a fun ilttle post to write. If you have a different, or better, system, then drop it in the comments below!

Language Bug