Writing and journals are some of the best ways to learn a language. They are free and effective.
Here are some writing prompts that you can use to develop your fluency and build your vocabulary, and assess your vocabulary and communicative skills in any language.
Writing is one of the best ways to learn a language in part because it allows a person to practice expression without the stress that can accompany a conversation with a native speaker.
I highly recommend doing these without a dictionary or without any help, setting a timer, and writing. This is going to give you a really good idea of what you can do and what you can’t. You can go back and look up what you need to, ask questions, find out what you need to know, and fill in the gaps.
Another way you can use these is to go ahead and write them out, brainstorming vocabulary first all over a page. Set your timer, and start writing. If you have access to a teacher or someone very advanced in the language or a native speaker, have them correct it and then carefully read the corrections.
Ready to get started? Pick a theme, set a timer and start to experience one of the best ways to learn a language.
Teachers- this works as great regular practice for building fluency. This is one of the best ways to build fluency–even for beginners. Just ensure you make the periods short and that there is some support.
For absolute beginners, consider regular writing that involves copying–one of the first skills we learn as writers. This might be using a text or phrasebook to write a dialogue, or words and phrases to complete a task.
Some prompts to take advantage of one of the best ways to learn a language:
- Ten facts about me. This is a really fun one because it can make you really introspective. Write ten sentences about yourself. Tell us as much as you can.
- Ten facts about your day. Again, you’re going to find out what vocabulary you know and what you don’t know when you write down ten sentences about what you did during the day.
- Ten things you see in your house. Pretty self-explanatory.
- Your daily routines. I think this one is particularly powerful in French and Spanish because it’s going to require you or your students to go back and use a lot of irregular and reflexive verbs. You’re going to get to fill in a lot of gaps here.
- Your community. Set a timer, tell us as much as you can about your community. This can be your school, your family, your workplace, your neighbourhood, your country, many different interpretations of the word community.
- Your family. This prompt is one of my favorites because you can practice a lot of beginning level vocabulary, but regardless of how advanced you are, there’s always more that you can say. There’s always more details. People are just so interesting. This is a great prompt for every level.
- Likes and dislikes. Again, another great prompt for every level. You can do this within a few weeks of starting French or Spanish well up into your advanced and superior languages. Again, developing fluency, building vocabulary, and checking for gaps anywhere and everywhere along the way. As we know, negatives are particularly difficult in the beginning for learners of French so this is a great way to check in on yourself or your students if you’ve got this one down.
- Write about your friends. Again, another great prompt for beginners, well up into advanced. I really like this one because from the beginning level, a person can talk about their friends in a very basic and simple way. Basic adjectives, basic verbs, going well up into the advanced and superior level talking about people who have had a profound effect on your life, problems that friends have had, our complicated lives. The exercise provides so much opportunity for growth and fluency. This is really appropriate for every level. Also, as you get more advanced, expanding that vocabulary and finding synonyms for some of those basic words. This is a great activity for every level.
- Your future. I think this is a fun, intermediate level, or advanced level activity. There are so many interpretations. Your future could be after you finish school, your future could be next summer, your future could be tomorrow, your future could be the next season, your future could be well into the future. This can be done towards the beginning range using some of those present tense constructions, ‘I’m going to’, ‘you’re going to’, etc., well up into more advanced where you’re learning the future tenses.
- Your house. Again, a fun one for beginners up into advanced. A beginner might even draw a house and label it and write a few sentences about it. An intermediate level student might test themselves and write as much as they can about the house they live in. An advanced student might write a paragraph about the home of their dreams in great detail.
- Write all about what you did yesterday. This could also be interpreted in a more advanced way where somebody could be writing about their life last year, or life in general in the past. What was yesterday like? What was the life of your grandparents like? You get to use lots of past tense here so this is perfect for a beginner as well as intermediate and more advanced. You can have your interpretations of yesterday, meaning 500 years ago, and that would require a great deal of knowledge and more mastery of the past tense to do effectively.
Foods you like. This is a fun one, again beginners can do this. It can be simple lists of foods you like. Or that construction of ‘I like this food…’ ‘I like that food…’ to more advanced writing paragraphs about experiences in the target culture eating different foods, things you’ve tried, things you’d like to try. I like this not just because it’s flexible from beginner to advanced level, there’s also lots and lots of ways to get culture in here. Food is another one of the best ways to learn a language–you will learn vocabulary and culture.
- Foods I Hate. Again, a beginner could list foods they don’t like or write that construction, ‘I don’t like this’, ‘I don’t like that’. A more advanced student could write a page comparing and contrasting foods in different cultures, specifically detailing things that they didn’t like.
- Listing your daily schedule to chronicling a detailed experience about your life at school. That would be a very advanced task. An intermediate task might be drawing just a little T chart and writing out school in your culture and what your experiences in school were, and school in a target language culture.
- The weekend. A beginner might approach this topic by talking about activities they like to do on the weekend. A more advanced learner might write out in detail what their ideal weekend would be if they had more money and could do whatever they wanted on the weekend if they had money to hire help to do all the things that maybe they don’t enjoy doing so much. An intermediate learner might approach this by writing about a great weekend they had.
- Last summer. If you can handle any past tense, or you’re just learning the past tense, this is a great prompt. Talk about last summer. Talk about what you did, where you went. An intermediate learner could talk in great detail about some memorable event from any summer in the past, again recycling that past tense. An advanced learner could write a short story about someone’s summertime with great detail talking about what they saw, what happened, what they did.
- Summertime. A beginning student might be listing words and phrases to talk about summer. An intermediate student could recycle lots of words and phrases to talk about weather and seasons and activities and things we associate with summer. An advanced student could write about their ideal summer. In Spanish, you’d be needing to use the subjunctive here. This practice, in context, is one of the best ways to learn and practice grammar in a language.
- The seasons. A beginning student could talk about summer or winter or spring or fall, or the four seasons in general. They could list words and phrases associated with it, they could even fold a paper in four squares and they could write out the months and the weather associated with that. They could even draw some pictures and label some different holidays. An intermediate student might take a piece of paper and write one paragraph about each season. They could include things they do, things they see, what the weather is like, what months are included in those seasons. An advanced student could write in much more detail what the intermediate student wrote, plus add what’s an important thing in their lives that has happened in each one of those seasons. Do they have any special memories about something? Maybe their birthday is during the summer and they had a memorable celebration or memorable Christmas.
- Your schedule. It seems really simple, but I know time can be a real difficult one to learn. This is a great way to recycle time. What do you do at different times of the day. That would be a great thing for a beginning student and a great review for an intermediate student. An advanced student might have the cultural knowledge to be able to compare and analyse and evaluate what might be better or worse in the target language culture as far as schedules go. For example, the French work week is shorter than the American work week. A French family I know gets two hours for lunch, which sounds ridiculous but it’s an important thing to them to be able to leave in the middle of the day to have lunch, to be able to run out to shops if they need to pick up something for their children, it’s important. Living is important. That’s an important difference in our cultures.
- Favorite activities. Beginners could even draw and label activities they like to do. If you enjoy doodling, it is great. It is another form of utilizing one of the best ways to learn a language. Intermediates are going to get lots of practice on their verbs talking about in more detail all the things they like to do.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Writing is an (almost) free way to master a language. It doesn’t require a teacher or enrolment in a class. Therefore, it is one of the best ways to learn a language.
I share more writing prompts here. I truly believe it is one of the best ways to turn downtime into a new language.
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