Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why keeping a journal will improve your English

Writing your thoughts down in a notebook or on your computer is such a useful exercise that everyone should be doing it. Besides, it's not that difficult, and you can do it on your own. In fact, for serious language learners and especially if you're in the intermediate or advanced levels, it should be a must. Keeping a journal is a personal and private activity; you should be able to write anything you want without worrying about who might read it, and there should be no apprehensions whatsoever about exposing your subject matter, your writing ability, or your English. You will simply be free to write, and you should write for three reasons: to record your thoughts, to record your experiences, and yes, to improve your English.

Why does keeping a journal improve your English? Funny you should ask. Keeping a journal works because it's an output activity that lets you express yourself in your new language. In addition, because you're writing, you will have to pay closer attention to grammar and sentence structure--something you don't do as much when you're speaking. In fact, writing lets you practice the grammar that you will be using when you speak.

The improvement in your English happens when you write regularly and consistently and when you also practice input activities such as reading, listening to the news, or watching tv or movies. When you're taking in English with input activities, your brain is subconsciously getting used to the sounds and the rhythm and the structure of the language. When you write or speak (output activities) you're consciously practicing what your brain has subconsciously learned. Writing gives you better control of your English and makes you aware of how you're using it.

When you first start your journal, your writing will probably have plenty of mistakes. It may even be difficult to understand. Not to worry. As you continue to write--remember, regularly and consistently--and as you do input activities, you're writing will eventually improve. This is inevitable. You will be applying what your brain has been picking up, and you will acquire your language skills in a very close to natural manner--similar to how a child learns its first language. Sound familiar? See my Oct 5, 2011 post, which talks about laminating exercises and reading them repeatedly. When you read your old exercises, your letting your subconscious mind pick up what you're consciously reading. When you write, the inverse happens: you're letting your conscious mind practice what your subconscious has learned. 

Before long, your journal will become a record of how your English has improved. You, yourself, will notice how certain words and phrases just sound natural while others just don't. You'll have a better handle of tenses and prepositions and idioms, etc. than your friends who don't write. You'll see. So get started now. Get a nice notebook or create a document on your computer. Name it "my journal". Write as regularly and as consistently as you can, and notice how much and how quickly your English improves.

When this happens, let me know.

apprehension - worry, uneasiness that something bad will happen
whatsoever - at all; not even a little
expose - reveal; show; uncover
Funny you should ask - It's interesting or I'm glad that you asked
consistent - without interruption; without stopping
subconscious - when we are not aware of things happening in our minds
conscious - when we are aware or when we control what's happening
inverse - opposite way or direction
take in - receive; get
inevitable - unavoidable; it will happen
pick up (language) - learn; get from our environment 
acquire - receive; get; learn
a handle - an understanding; a grasp

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