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Why you should write a Writing Journal

A journal is a special diary where you write about personal things in your life. There have even been famous diarists who wrote about life so well that their diaries were published and used by historians to understand times from the past! However, for language learners, you can write about anything you like. The idea is to build a collection of writings over a period of time so that you can look back and notice changes in your language. You can write in a notebook with a pen, or you can use a computer.

Why is it a good idea to create a Writing Journal?

Unless you are taking an exam where you need to write an essay, or perhaps need to write emails and reports for work, you may be wondering why you need to bother with a writing journal. After all, writing is difficult and time-consuming and maybe you just want to learn to speak to people and have interesting conversations.

Well, here are three reasons why a Writing Journal is a good idea anyway!

  • Writing highlights the problems in your language better than speaking One of my students told me that they didn’t like writing because it showed them all the issues they hadn’t solved yet. Luckily, this student persevered and is now able to write to a very high level. Writing is the best mirror there is to your language. Use it.

  • It’s good to develop all four skills evenly If you never write, there is a very real danger that you will end up with uneven skills. Although this is common, it’s not very healthy for your language development as all the skills connect with each other and a weakness in one area will impact on another.

  • Being able to write in a foreign language is incredibly satisfying! When I lived in Korea, I learnt to read and write Korean in about three months. Although this is a long time ago, I can still remember the pride I felt when I wrote a postcard in to a British-Korean friend of mine in London.

How to start and keep a Writing Journal

1. Decide the practicalities:

  • Where are you going to write - on your laptop or in a paper notebook?

  • How often and when are you going to write? It’s good to commit to a specific number per week. Choose the best days according to your schedule. Even if you only choose to write once a week, you will still write 52 times in one year!

  • What are you going to write about? For example, are you going to keep a personal diary in English or write descriptions of things you like? Perhaps you would like to try writing simple poems or short stories? Or maybe you need to practice writing formal emails. Choose the best thing for you.

  • How long are you going to write for? If you don’t like writing, go for a short time such as three to five minutes. If you are preparing for an exam, timed writing sessions may be a good idea. Again, this decision is up to you.

2. Write!

3. Look for three positive things. These could include using a piece of grammar well or including some new vocabulary.

4. Look for weaknesses. Unless you are a very strong writer, I would suggest that you choose one or two specific areas to focus on. For instance, if you know you have problems with articles, focus on your use of these. If you know that you struggle with past tenses, check out your accuracy here.

5. (optional) Re-draft your writing. Learners often miss out this step but redrafting can help you to improve on your problem areas. If you have a teacher, you can share your second draft with them.

A final word

Over time, you will create a library of your own writing and should be able to track your progress more easily. You will also have developed what is for many learners the weakest language skill.

This post is taken from my Study Skills Workbook

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