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Any tips on how to keep a notebook when learning a language by yourself?

I've recently started a notebook for Norwegian and Japanese, and I wanted to know how you, experienced learners, organize your notebooks when learning a language alone.

My Japanese notebook is very messy. I'm just vomiting Misa's lessons on Youtube, but it works.

I'm trying to make a pretty and well organized notebook for Norwegian, but I don't know where to begin... Sofar I've only made a list of the 100 most common verbs.

What about you?

June 11, 2017



your note books look really neat to me, you should see mine. um, I found note books were good but also loose pages, which I placed in a plastic holder with the terms handouts and my extra notes. cos it just fills the pages with scribble otherwise. then I would store that and fill another, I found using a two ring or four ring folder worked best for me, with plastic sleeves for hand outs and lined pages for notes, then I could be neat or messy and it didn't matter. so both of these ways worked for me. so..


That's a good idea. It gives you the freedom to put other kinds of things in there, like printed poems or song lyrics, etc... Another good idea is to put those colored stickers on the pages with additional information, so you don't scribble over your notes.


your notebooks look fabulous! I have a couple of variations on notebooks for learning a language:

One method is : Scribbling notes during class, where I often draw and illustrate so it is easier to remember. Simple illustrations, such as the differences between here, there and far away (in Spanish) drawn with a stickfigure and arrows to a teacup, or mountains.

Another method is: Copying selected sentences from Duolingo lessons and making close variations using google translate, (for example "he has a horse" "they have horses" "this is a horse" "the horse eats an apple") – and pasting them into a three-column word document. I do this to learn Russian, it helps me decipher the alphabet while learning words. In the first column is the Russian sentence (in cyrillic), the second column shows the English meaning, and the third column shows the spelling with our alphabet. Then I print out the page and stick it on the wall, or carry it around with me for a while.


I think the first thing you should do in Russian (and Japanese too, or whatever) is learning the alphabet, and then you should strive to get familiar with it. The latin alphabet cannot represent accurately the ы, the щ, or the ь (or the long vowels in Japanese). It's also very motivating to look at these letters and say to yourself "Wow, I can read it !". It will also become very important eventually (nobody actually write in latinised Russian). I think I would have dropped Russian already if I wasn't familiar with the alphabet, for these reasons.


Um, I've actually got different sets of notes (sort of like different notebooks). My first set of notes is handwritten, just like yours are ... they are notes that I pull from lessons as I'm working on them, so they are in lesson chronological order (including reviewing lessons). These notes are written directly into a bound composition book - kind of like stream of consciousness / put stuff into there as I encounter it. I pull stuff out of these handwritten notes and put them into different typed files on a regular basis.

The first of these files contains nothing but nouns (including gender information plus plural forms) and example sentences for the different cases I've learned. I have this file sorted by gender first, THEN alphabetically - this has really helped me get past a big hurdle I had in figuring out gender for German nouns, because grouping all the feminine / masculine / neuter stuff together helped my brain figure out patterns for what's likely to be what.

My second file contains adjectives and their opposites, again with example sentences.

My last file contains notes about grammar, and things like that ... this one is sorted in lesson order, so when I go review a previous lesson, I can go look at what I wrote for that lesson.

The nice thing about handwritten is that it really seems to settle into my brain better than typed stuff does. The nice thing about computer files is that it's easy to insert stuff into them, so that stuff stays organized in a way that helps you find it - especially helpful when you start getting a larger vocabulary.

I print new copies of my typed files whenever I feel like the old ones have too many notes stuck onto them, and put all my typed notes into an Acco binder. I carry that binder around with me pretty much wherever I go; if I get a chance to look at it, I do - which I also find very helpful!

I hope this helps!


I like how you describe using both hand written notes and documents. Until now I have only done typed notes set up by Duolingo topics. Now that I'm taking a class, with a text and homework, I am trying to figure out a written notebook. The text Table of Contents is out of sync with Duolingo but I can see now that both can work.

Computer notes so far have been like you described, except I never print them.

I sort masculine and feminine nouns after each lesson also. That helped me so much in the beginning. I also kept track of all the adjectives from the lesson and wrote sentences or phrases with nouns and adjectives.

I change text color daily.

Duolingo Topics are subheadings so I can navigate quickly.

My written notebook will have a Table of Contents that matches the book but I will only add each chapter as we start it. So to start out I'll leave 5 blank pages. After that the pages will be numbered so I can add page numbers to Table of Contents.


Your notebooks appear to be fairly neat and organized; your Japanese notes are very organized. Also, I would suggest using the Tips & Notes section for each skill as a helpful resource.


Oh, yes, the tips and notes are a great guide! Unfortunately there aren't any for Japanese yet, but it's a very good idea for other languages available in Duo.


That's true; Japanese isn't available on the website yet.


Lea.1717, do you use Linguti?


I don't have a notebook, but one thing I reccommend that you do when you're writing down new words is to list the type of word it is (noun/verb/adjective, etc.) and if it has several meanings-not to be confused with several homophones-so that you'll be more familiar with the word.


A strange observation I made with my notebooks: A4 format reminds me of school and doesn't work for me. A6 is too small, everything feels crowded, I have no real overview. Hence, I work with A5, blank pages. If I need a list of vocabulary, I can draw the line myself, but I can interrupt and make observations. (For example, for Turkish I follow the Duolingo course but do a lot of research on dictionaries and grammar sites. I was confused why the translation of "erkek" and "adam" is both "man", so I stopped the list and wrote a small paragraph on the different uses.) Also I work with different colours - but not too many.


I also recommend keeping a page for goals, accomplishments, and progress. It can be a source of encouragement as well as a language reference.


Yep, I have a "to do list" wih grammar points to learn and its making a big difference. It helps a lot with structuring and organizing your studies.


Um, I'd probably be better at taking tips about keeping a notebook than giving them, lol! I notice most people use notebooks to store vocabulary lists. That is a good idea. I write random phrases in mine. I used to keep a journal in German. It was just for writing down whatever, only it must be in German. Sort of like a diary, but when kept by someone who barely knows the language. XD


I'm currently learning Polish. I first write down the words I learn from Duolingo each lesson, what they mean in English and how to read them (if it isn't obvious... I still can't wrap my head around Polish pronunciation). If the chapter has any tips, I'll write those down as well (although I often summarise them).

Then, for each word, I look into the grammar, like plurals, cases, conjugations etc. After I've done that for every word, I try forming a sentence with each of them. If I have the time, I will take a text in Polish, write it down and then translate it into English. The sentences and translations are incredibly helpful in any language, really.

You have such nice handwriting, though!


それは本当に良いアイデアです!私のスペイン語のノートが見えるはずです。あなたがしていることを続けてください!( That is a really good idea! you should see my spanish notebook. Keep doing what you're doing! )


Messy? You have no idea what "messy" means...

In any case I haven't started on a notebook yet. I'm only on level 8 in "my" language.


Oh trust me, I know what messy is. These are, without exagerating, the neatest pages of all my notebooks.

It's never too early to start taking notes.


Your handwriting is so neat! I wish that mine was like that ;n;


Don't let this fool you. My handwriting is actually monstruous. I had to make a conscious effort to make it look like this... But hey, if I can, anyone can.


I find notebooks are good for vocabulary (organized from a to z, or in the case of Norwegian that would be "a til å"). I set a side some open pages for each letter. For grammar I now have a lot of links pasted into a Word document. But earlier I also used a binder with plastic sheets to seperate each topic (writen exercises, poems, interesting texts about culture, notes on grammmar). With a binder you can remove pages which are no longer relevant, for example when you dig deeper into grammar.


"a til å"

I had to look that up. Neat.


Oh wow! My handwriting is super big!


That's messy?!? You obviously haven't seen messy...

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