You will realise how much you actually know. We all have bad days and think we’ll never master the language. If you look back at far you’ve come it can give you a reality check and keep you motivated to keep going.
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 method. The more detailed you measure your progress, the more you will see what works and what doesn’t.
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 all of this all go to waste.
The more detailed you measure your progress, the better you can fine tune your learning to make the most progress possible.
Anki is a Japanese word meaning “memorisation”. Anki is an efficient flashcard program that allows you to easily track the number of words that you have learnt and how quickly you can recall them. It also tells you whether this is increasing or decreasing.
Every time you are shown a Spanish word it times how quickly you get the English translation right. Words you take longer to remember or words you get wrong, you will be shown these more often than the words you know. So if you get a word right and it was really easy, you won’t see that word again for two weeks. If it wasn’t so easy, you will be shown it again in a week and if it was really difficult or you got it wrong you will see it again the next day.
The good thing is you spend less time studying and speed up your learning as you don’t waste time going over words that you already know.
By keeping a list of the number of words you know, as this builds this can be extremely motivating. 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.
If you keep track of how many hours you study per day or per week as this builds up, you will be less likely to stop learning the language after you realise just how much time you have spent on it. You just won’t want to throw away all of that time for nothing.
If you read a chapter in a book, a magazine article, a website or anything else, mark what you don’t 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.
Similarly, listen to a podcast, a song, a radio interview or Youtube video. Go back and listen to it again after you have studied the language a little more and see if you understand more than the first time.
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.
Dialang: This is free software to test your skills in reading, writing and listening in a variety of languages including Spanish. 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 online assessment tool.
You could use your phone to make the recordings or create videos of yourself speaking in the language and upload to Youtube. Talk about any topic that interests you.
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 how fluent you sound.
Try to write regularly in Spanish. 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 Spanish. 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 is a good app to send your written work to native speakers for feedback.
You could also use social media. If you use social media to document your learning, this will hold you accountable for your learning. For example, you could post an image to Instagram every time you learn a new word. You could tweet a new phrase or a verb. You can look back on your account to relearn words and see how much you have learnt and how far you have come.
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. They will also show you what you understand and what you need to work on.