Journaling in your target language
Journaling is a wonderful tool to develop both your target language and your inner balance. But what is an optimal way to do so?
This is for all the intermediate language learners who want to give journaling a try but aren’t sure how. This article will guide on creating an efficient and mindful journaling routine to enjoy the benefits of this experience, prompt after prompt.
Allow yourself to enter the flow
You want to allow your mind to enter a state of flow, where you are fully engaged in what you are doing.
This state is very beneficial because it allows you to lower the voice of your inner critic and to be “in the moment”, concentrated on the action.
In order to do so, here are a few ideas:
- This is the moment when you’re going to dedicate yourself completely to one task. Avoid multitasking at all costs.
- Silence your phone, and turn off all notifications;
- If you live in a shared space, say that you’re going to be busy for the next 90 minutes.
- Create yourself a nice and cosy environment, where you like spending time. There’s no need to invest, just tidy your desk, make yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea, or whatever your favourite drink is (but avoid alcohol). Bring a pillow, light some candles if you like that and put on some nice background music with no lyrics.
- You could also have a small object around that you can touch when you’re distracted and you need to feel grounded. It can be a stone, a little statue, anything like that.
- Take a few deep breaths and enter the present moment. A simple exercise is to connect to your senses by naming 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can feel and 1 thing you can taste.
- If an external element comes to distract you, simply say you’re busy right now and you’ll be available soon. Then let it go.
- If a thought comes to distract you (and they probably will), simply acknowledge it as being a thought, say to yourself that there will be time for you to think about that thought later on (write it on a post-it if you need to). And then let it go.
Just like when you’re about to go for a run! In order to ease into your session, let your mind and spirit know that you’re about to connect to your target language with a short activity in that language.
- Read a paragraph of a book or a short blog post in the language;
- Do a small grammar exercise;
- Listen to your favourite song;
- Do a short guided meditation in your target language.
Directly in your target language
You will be tempted to write in your mother tongue first, especially if your level is pre-intermediate to early intermediate.
This is understandable, because your ego wants to make sure to be clear, organised and understood. It’s a form of control and you want to be a good student and do things “well”.
Remember that it is not a performance.
Writing your meaning in your mother tongue first is counter-productive. One of the benefits of journaling in another language that we don’t master is to connect to it, discover and develop our inner voice in that language. And it is not going to be an exact translation of your inner voice in your native language.
Write in your target language directly and don’t worry too much about the form for now. Use the tools you already have in the language. And yes, that means that you will have to simplify the way you would naturally express yourself.
And it’s ok.
And it’s actually a great way to clarify your thoughts.
When journaling in your target language, it’s essential to focus on your meaning first. The form will come later as you will have time to review, correct, rephrase if necessary.
So try to focus on what it is you want to say.
If you’re translating from sentences in your mind, try to concentrate on the meaning of those sentences rather than on the figures of speech or expressions that you use. They generally translate very badly.
When you feel stuck about something you want to express, ask yourself “what does it really mean”?
If there’s a specific word you need and you don’t know, try first to find another word that could do, and if not, write it in your native language and look it up later, after you’ve finished. You don’t want to break the flow!
About Google Translate
Another temptation is to enter bits and pieces of ready-made sentences in your native language into Google Translate to find its equivalent in your target language.
It is not a good idea. Here’s why:
- Google translate works for basic sentences but it doesn’t really know what you mean.
- Doing that will tell your brain that it’s ok to translate, and that’s not the goal. Remember, the goal is to develop your inner voice in that language and to slowly stop translating.
- Using Google translate will tempt you to NOT simplify your structures and the process will therefore be inefficient.
It’s ok not to make perfect sense.
It’s ok to make mistakes.
It’s ok not to have all the tools.
You’re growing another part of your soul, and that takes both time and effort.
About the use of a dictionary
Using the dictionary can be useful but again, you don’t want to interrupt your flow.
Checking every two words how to say this or whether this word is spelled correctly will not help you. It’s going to take you double the amount of time, you’re going to feel frustrated, and you’re not going to feel connected to the language.
Instead, express yourself and let go of mistakes, let go of imperfections. Who cares? Nobody is reading yet! Leave the dictionary for the reviewing stage only.
There will be time.
When you feel you’ve finished expressing yourself on the prompt of the day, take a few minutes.
How do you feel? What emotions did it bring up?
Take the time to congratulate yourself on spending time for your language and personal development, and take a break. Leave the room altogether and go for a walk, go to the gym, or whatever makes you feel good and is not connected to your language.
This will create some distance between yourself and your writing, and enable you to see things more clearly when you come back.
Finally, you can review your text.
- Re-read, see if it makes sense, edit, check the spelling, vocabulary, check your tenses and your grammar.
- When you catch a mistake, be grateful for being able to see it. It means you’re progressing.
- Don’t spend more than 15–20 minutes on this.
- It won’t be perfect and it’s ok. Let it go. Send it!
Learning a language is a beautiful journey inwards. When you reach the intermediate levels, journaling is a creative and fascinating way to combine language progress with personal development. Implementing these mindful guidelines will allow you to really connect both to the language you love and to yourself. There is no shortcut to it, and a machine can’t do it for you. But I promise, it’s worth it.
Peace and light,
PS: You’re an intermediate French learner and you want to try the experience in French. Why don’t you check out my program “Mindful Journaling for French Fluency”? Click here for more info!