Reflective Learning: Learning Log
A common question is “how long will it take me to learn X”? ..The answer is always “as long as it takes”.
Each and every learner is different depending on study time, efficiency of study, motivation, surrounding environment, prior learning of related languages, prior learning of any language, and a list of any other number of variables.
The only way to know for sure is to keep a log and use it as a reflective tool. It’s not going to predict how long it will take you to learn, but it will show you how you have learned. But that’s not all it’s good for, it’s kind of a follow-up to the Power of the Schedule article that looks at how to make the most of your time, keeping a log on the other hand, allows you to keep a history of how your learning techniques develop and adapt to situations.
Teachers often use a similar idea when considering their professional practice and use it to refine and develop their lessons. So why shouldn’t learners make use of the same reflective principles to refine and develop their learning methods? A small invest of a few key points about what you did in your study time could save you hours down the line in language learning through just becoming a better learner.
What to keep track of? Some people document actual study time and that’s all… others go a little deeper and cover time of day, surroundings, what was studied (grammar, vocab, listening, reading, etc), materials used, feelings associated with studying for that session, things that worked or failed, things that you want to try next time…. and so on. As with all things, some follow the KISS notion, others go OTT. And that’s fine, because at the end of the day it’s just personal preference that will shape your log. As long as you can build a personal device that helps you learn, that’s all that matters.
I have always kept a log… in my head! I didn’t keep a written log when I first started learning. I regret it. I struggled with bad learning methods for a long time before something finally clicked and told me to look at how things were (or “were NOT”) developing. These days I keep track of time of day, time taken, what materials I cover and if I feel it was successful or not… and other devices such as Anki and LingQ help me keep track of motivational things like the number of words I read or apparently know, while my audio recordings can be added together to give an approximate figure for number of hours of speaking practice (of the speaking I have recorded that is). If I’d kept a log I may have seen the trends sooner and become a better learner many years ago.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing.