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How to Build Your Language Skills Painlessly by Keeping a Diary

One thing I found helpful when I was initially getting the hang of Russian was to keep a language diary for a few weeks.

My diary started when, in an effort not to get rusty at Russian during the summer between semesters, I started reading some Russian poetry and parts of short stories in the original.

The diary wasn’t anything fancy. I simply wanted some more Russian-language practice and to practice expressing my thoughts in writing (no matter how simple the thoughts were). I did this by typing my entries in Russian into a Word document. I usually wrote about 2 things:

1) what I remembered about the poem/story’s plot

2) what I thought about the poem/story

I’d also bold and put into red coloring new phrases and vocabulary that I’d learned, found useful, and wanted to remember.

Your diary can serve whatever function you’d like. You can write about your day, or some little event that happened one day. Or you can keep track of useful phrases or words you learned recently, write out your schedule for the upcoming week, etc. The possibilities are endless!

A few of my personal tips for when you start your language diary:

- Don’t make your diary a chore. Just do it when you feel like it. Of course, you’ll at least want to avoid forgetting that you have a diary, so consider keeping it in a place where you’ll notice it daily.

- The entries don’t have to be long or detailed. Entries should be the amount you feel like writing at the time when you’re writing. An entry can be simple, like “I went to the store today,” or even a one- or two-word chore you want to remember, like “Go shopping” (hey, shopping can be hard work!). Some days you’ll feel like writing a lot, some days less—and that’s OK.

- Your diary doesn’t need to be fancy. What I mean is you don’t need to go out and buy an expensive Moleskine diary and fountain pen or peacock quill. A composition notebook or Word document should do. But if an extra-nice diary and pen make your diary more fun to keep up with, then by all means go ahead and knock yourself out.

So if you’d like to get some extra language practice, or are looking for a painless way to help your students make steady improvement in the language you’re helping them learn, give a foreign-language diary a try.

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