10 ways to measure your progress when learning a language

When you first start learning a new language and picking up new words it is fun, they seem easy to remember and it all seems wonderful. However, the more you discover about the language, the more difficult it can seem and the more difficult it is to keep track of everything you have learnt. This is why, having good ways to document your study is really important as it helps track your progress and keep you motivated.

In this blog post we will look at ways to document your study and track your progress.

Why is it important to measure your progress?

• You can see your progress clearly

By visibly seeing your progress you will realise how much you actually know. We all have a bad day and think we’ll never master the language. If you look at how much you have learnt and what you do know it can give you a reality check and keep you motivated to keep going.

• You know when it is time for a change

If you notice your progress is slowing down or you are not progressing with certain activities, then you know it is time to change your methods. The more detailed you measure your progress, the more you will see what works and what doesn’t.

• Less likely to quit

If you feel like giving up when it gets difficult, if you look back at how much time you have spent on the language and how much you have learnt it will be much more difficult to let this all go to waste. You will want to continue to make all of this hard work and time worthwhile by working to become fluent.

Progress tracking methods

If you can use several methods to track your progress, you will have a more accurate picture of how you are doing. However, you can always start with one method and then add more later on. The more detailed you measure your progress, the better you can fine tune your learning to make the most progress.

1) Spaced repetition – Anki

Anki allows you to easily track the number of words that you have learnt and how quickly you can recall words and how this is increasing or decreasing.

2) Keep vocabulary lists

By keeping a list of the number of words you know, as this builds this can be extremely motivating to know. Apps such as Quizlet are great for storing vocabulary lists and for practising these with interactive exercises.

Tip: Group lists under themes – e.g. foods, clothes, personality adjectives and so on. This makes it much easier to learn from.

3) Measure study time

If you keep track of how many hours you study per day or week as this builds up, you will be less likely to stop learning the language after considering how much time you have spent on it.

4) Read and re-read

If you read a chapter in a book, a magazine article, a website or anything else, mark what you do understand, then a few weeks or a month later go back to it and see if you can understand more of it. This will clearly show you if you are improving and if not, what you may need to focus on – learning more words, understanding more grammar – tenses or verb endings.

5) Listen and re-listen

Similarly, listen to a podcast, a song, a radio interview or Youtube video. Listen to it again after maybe 6 months after you have studied the language more and see if you understand more of it than the first time you heard it. You will see what you still need to work on improving.

6) Proficiency tests / online assessments

These tests give a clear idea of your strengths and weaknesses. Do these tests once every 6 months and you can see how much you are improving. As well as showing you what you know, these tests also show you what you need to improve.
This is free software to test your skills in reading, writing and listening in the following languages:

• Danish
• Dutch
• English
• Finnish
• French
• German
• Greek
• Icelandic
• Irish-gaelic
• Italian
• Norwegian
• Portuguese
• Spanish
• Swedish

It is based on the Common European Framework for Languages. As well as measuring your skills it offers advice on how to improve. This is a good measuring tool to use perhaps once a month rather than every day. The drawback is that you have as long as you want to answer the questions, whereas in real life you would not be able to do this.

Language Trainers also have an online assessment tool.

7) Record yourself speaking

You should do this every so often so that you can look back on how your fluency is improving. If you do this too often you won’t notice much of a difference. Your aim should be to do this roughly every 6 months. You will see how your vocabulary has grown, how your accent has improved and generally how fluent you sound. If you continue this over several years you can listen back to your first few recordings and you will easily see just how far you have come.
You could use your phone to make the recordings or create videos of yourself speaking in the language and upload to Youtube.

8) Write often

Try to write regularly in the target language. For example, you could write a diary every day. This is a great way to put into practise what you have learnt and to help you create your own sentences in the language. It is also a brilliant way to track your progress if you go back to read what you wrote a few weeks or months ago you will spot mistakes that you would no longer make, you will notice how you could have made it better and you will easily see how much you have improved by.
Lang-8 http://lang-8.com/ is a good app to send your written work to native speakers for feedback.

9) Social media

If you use social media to document your learning, this holds you accountable for your learning. For example, you could post an image to Instagram every time you learn a new word. You can look back on your account to re-learn words and see how much you know.

10) Language learning app: Memrise / Duolingo

Language learning apps help you track your progress as your account will show you what you have covered and sometimes give you a percentage of fluency.

The soon to be launched online Spanish course “Learn Spanish Successfully Solo” will have a whole unit on this area of language learning along with a Workbook to track your progress.