You can’t learn a new language in a month.
No matter what they promise you, it’s not going to happen. (At least not until they invent a language chip they can insert into your brain.)
Learning a new language is a rather lengthy process. It’s not something you do for a while and then you’re done. Some would say it’s a lifetime project.
Yeah, it may get easier later on, but to actually get that far in the first place, you need something(s) that keeps you on board.
One such thing is measuring your progress.
The Importance of Measuring Your Progress
Although measuring your language progress can be fun, you’re not doing it to have a good time.
Instead, you do it to increase the likelihood that you’ll reach your goal of speaking your target language.
- You actually see your progress. Bad-day blues often makes progress invisible to you — as if you haven’t learned shit! Certain measuring methods immediately put you back into reality by showing that you’ve made more progress than you think. And if they don’t, that’s great too:
- You know when it’s time for a change. If your measurements tell you you’re not progressing anymore, you’ll know it’s time to shake things up. Some measuring methods even let you know what language skills deserve more of your attention. The more detailed you measure, the more you know what’s working and what isn’t.
- The more you do, the harder it is to quit. The urge to quit your language learning altogether can be seriously diminished by seeing you’ve spent 250 hours battling with your new lingo. If you walk away now, all that time will have been for nothing (almost). Set up a simple routine to track how much time you devote to your language learning. Don’t be afraid to be specific.
Basic Progress Tracking Methods
Something is better than nothing.
But if you can, try to use various methods simultaneously.
If you use just one method, chances are it will skew the results. Positively, or negatively.
You get a more accurate idea of your overall skill in your target language if you use several methods. If you can’t do that for whatever reason, then stick with a single method for now. Perhaps you can add more later.
With that out of the waaaaayyyyy, let’s go over some basic progress tracking methods:
- Using Spaced-Repetition software like Anki is one the easiest ways to measure your progress. At least when it comes to vocab. You can easily see how many words you’ve learned and often even whether your recall rate is rising or falling.
- Tracking Time Spent on learning your new language. It doesn’t only help you rethink your stance on quitting on your target language altogether, it also helps you keep yourself accountable for the time you study. During my language learning I’ve always used this simple method, even when I didn’t use anything else to measure my progress. You can track global time spent, or as detailed as you like.
- Re-reading texts or short stories after you marked what you understood of it the first time you read it. This is simple but powerful at the same time. Read a text or short story and mark what you understand. Leave the story alone for a few weeks and re-read it. Although not exact (but what is with language learning?), it’s a method that can give you clues whether or not you’re on the right track.
- Listening to music or video content. Then leave it alone for a few weeks. Come back to it and see if you understand significantly more than the last time you heard this.
- The Feedback from Speaking your target Language is invaluable. I’m not a big fan of having real-life conversations from the get-go, but you should definitely start conversing when you’re in the intermediate stage. Do people repeatedly ask you what you just said but you can understand them fine? Your speaking needs work! Do people talk with you like you are a native but you have trouble understanding them? Get off your butt and start working on your listening skills!
Dialang – The most convenient solution?
Ok, let’s get real here:
Measuring your progress helps.
But if you go all out on it…
It is extra work.
Good for you then, that there’s FREE software that can test you on every skill except speaking.
It’s called Dialang and it was developed by several higher education institutions. It compares your test results against the Common European Framework for language learning(CEF). It even offers advice on how to improve your skills.
Dialang offers tests for the following 14 languages:
Dialang is more of a long-term measuring tool. Scores will change little over a week or two, but testing your skills every month or so is a great idea.
Dialang isn’t perfect. For example, you have all the time in the world to answer the questions — something which you wouldn’t encounter in a real world situation. Nevertheless, it’s quite a convenient solution to measure how you’re doing with your target language.
Measuring progress offers many benefits to the language learner (Yep, that’s you and me).
It will increase the chances of you learning your target language to fluency.
Detailed measuring brings detailed results — which allow you to fine tune your language learning — but it isn’t for everybody. Good, then, that you don’t have to complicate things. If you find you’re better off with one of the simple methods, then stick to that.
The most important thing is that you measure something. It’ll help you stay the course, which, ultimately, is what counts most when learning another language.