A feminine pair of black hands with elaborately designed green nails settled over a luxurious green-colored journal. Featured image for Bullet Journal for Language Learning article.

How to Keep a Bullet Journal for Language Learning for Busy People

Over the past decade, I’ve relied on my bullet journal as a backup for every task. And over the years, I’ve begun using it to improve my target language skills – or at least, my writing and reading skills. But it wasn’t easy to figure out a system that worked.

When bullet journaling in your target language, there are a few challenges:

  • Time limitations – Maybe you start color coding and doing detailed tracking, but the time it takes to make your notebook visually attractive begins to be a time suck. You start spending more time on artistry than learning a language.
  • Motivation – When it seems like this method isn’t working fast enough, it’s easy to give up. It’s even easier to stop if you feel like the effort in maintaining the journal is too much.
  • Content confusion – What should you put in a language journal? What details matter? Should it be a list of daily goals, a habit tracker, a yearly log? Should you add every new vocabulary word or grammar concept?

I overcame these challenges by keeping my journal simple and not trying to put too much into one book.

But, more importantly, I began writing my regular bullet journal in my target language instead of keeping a separate habit tracker. It may not look as pretty, but it gets the job done. 


Would Starting a Bullet Journal Specifically for Language Learning Be Helpful?

Yes, bullet journaling can be incredibly beneficial, especially for beginners.

In fact, I believe that beginners should use bullet journals before they move on to diary writing.

Reasons I highly recommend a bullet journal are:

  • It’s highly customizable
  • Your journal can match your level
  • If done right, it can give a motivation boost
  • You can track new language progress
  • It can take a minimal amount of time to maintain

You can use virtually any notebook to get started, and you can customize it to your learning preferences. While I’ll get into the details of how to organize your journal and what the include, I do have some general tips for language learners:

  • Make it something easy to complete
  • Don’t overcomplicate your habit tracking
  • Use relevant, in-the-moment details

I prefer to make journals about more than my language journey. This makes it easier to integrate new vocabulary and get used to writing recall.

Now, there are many creative ways to organize your journal.

How Do You Organize a Journal to Learn a Language?

Each method of tracking your language learning journey is unique. Because I get to how I use my journal, let’s look at a few common ideas out there:

  • Having a section to list out new words every day
  • Daily or monthly tracking for a specific activity
  • Grammar or topic checklists
  • Draw pictures of common vocabulary words
  • Vocabulary mind-maps

All of which are great. But, for me, at least, these activities can drive up time spent on beautifying the journal as opposed to learning. The second issue I have is that if you have a lot of responsibilities, it’s hard to find time to maintain so many different non-language-focused tasks.

Instead, I keep a bullet journal for my daily life and use my new language. Here is the complete setup.


On the back of the notebook cover or the first page, I typically add a quote or two that I like in my new language.

For example, this year, I used this quote from Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis:

“Δεν ελπίζω τίποτα, δε φοβούμαι τίποτα, είμαι λεύτερος.” / “I hope nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”

This small flourish is nice to reread from time to time. And if you pick a quote you don’t understand at first, it’s a great feeling to go back a few months later and be able to read it without much effort.

Table of Contents

Next is the table of contents. You’ll want to list every month in your target language. As you move through the journal, you can come back and add page numbers.

Goal List

Normally, I have a list of 4-5 yearly goals. Write these in your native language. If you aren’t a complete beginner and you already know how to write them in the language you’re learning, you can do so. If not, try to revisit your goals throughout the year and see if you can translate them.

Some examples of goals could be:

  • I want to get a new job that pays $XX.
  • I want to publish my novel by August.
  • I want to finish 4th in a 5k run.
  • I want to learn 300 Japanese Kanji by the end of the year.

Don’t pick too many annual goals, as a rule. If you add some space, you can always add new goals throughout the year.

Regular Vocabulary

Another starter page should be set aside for basic vocabulary. Things like:

  • Days of the week
  • Numbers
  • Core activities (eating, sleeping, exercising, studying, working, calling someone, hobbies, etc)
  • Short-term activities (vacation, dentist, doctor, visiting friends, birthday, etc)

Having a reference page of vocabulary for a new language learner can help immensely.

Monthly Log

I keep a two-page spread open for every month. This log gives me a week-by-week overview, where I list appointments, calls, holidays, and other information.

On the second page, I list work and personal tasks. I also have a short review of each week and a bottom section for notes.

If you want to keep track of daily goals, this page is a good place to create a habit tracker.

Weekly Log

Each week has its own two-day spread. I give more room to Monday-Friday, with Saturday and Sunday being small boxes at the bottom. I divide each day into four time periods and use bullets to list the tasks.

The second page has a list of the overvall tasks for that week, split into two columns: Work and personal. Beneath this section are a brief day-by-day review to read appointments and other details easily.

Then, finally, a section for notes. I’ve included daily Kanji, random recall, and general “play” in this section.

Color Coding: Is It Necessary?

When I first got started with my bullet journal, I used quite a lot of color coding. I did this for my grammar journals, too. But over time, this because a bit distracting to read and time-consuming to complete.

If you love color coding, go for it. It just didn’t work for me.

What Are Some Things to Include In a Bullet Journal?

The bullet journal works best when you’re detailed. But as a new language learner, it can take time to integrate tons of vocabulary. I tend to add new vocabulary as I learn it or when a word comes up almost every day.

Some ideas of things to include are:

  • Resources log for the week or month
  • A food journal section, using your target language
  • New words that really stuck out to you
  • An example sentence you want to use all week to create new constructions
  • Specific tasks that relate to your job, such as “budgeting” or “verifying manufacturers”
  • Same with hobbies – look for niche vocab like “knitting a cardigan” or “learn to play the D chord”


One of the points of bullet journaling is that phrases are short. I usually go through a number of steps to make my log more complex:

  1. Use target language words for my headers.
  2. In the beginning, use simple words for core activities and the days of the week.
  3. Add in complex and less-used vocabulary as it comes along.
  4. Turn the line where I write the day of the week into a sentence.
  5. Begin writing 1-2 sentences a day under the “Notes” section

Once I feel comfortable writing without referencing vocabulary, it’s usually time to migrate that language into diary entry writing.

Can I Use Multiple Languages in my Language Journal?

I tried using several languages at once – up to four. But it clutters the layout and takes more time.

Bullet journals are ideal for new languages. Within 3-6, you should feel comfortable writing in daily vocabulary and basic sentences, especially if you are learning in a classroom setting or with other materials. Once you feel comfortable enough with a language to write spontaneously, you can move it to a personal journal and start integrating a second language.

When I integrate the second language, I do so slowly. I begin to replace core activities and days of the week with a new language, but keep the older one. Eventually, I phase out the first target language.

If you do choose to write in more than one language, I would recommend using no more than two at a time.

What to Combine With Your Language Journal

My bullet journal is my quick and easy review. It also helps me keep my schedule in order. But there are other items you can use, too. And I find that compartmentalization helps to keep things organized.

A Monthly Tracker

Use an excel yearly log to track language lessons and time spent learning. It’s easy, it auto-calculates, and you can generate charts.

For a ready-made, affordable habit tracker, I highly recommend Judith Meyer’s LangTracker.

A Personal Journal

Once you can write comfortably, it’s time to write something longer than a few sentences. I keep a generic journal around where I write both learning exercises from textbooks, new vocabulary, personal entries, and poems. Add as many languages as you want here.

A Grammar Journal

I keep a multi-topic spiral with grammar notes for each language. I add to pages as I go along. That way, if I ever have a question, I don’t need to scour the internet or flip through the textbook. I can just review my grammar notes and samples, assuming I’ve covered the topic in the past.

This just makes it easier to write and review exercises.


What Do You Use For Your Language Bullet Journal?

Personally, I prefer Moleskin books. I use unlined or grid-based books, hardbacks. Not only is the page texture great to write on, but I love the little flap in the back to keep notecards or other notes. A single journal usually lasts about two years.

For my personal journal or grammar journal, I use whatever is around.

However, that’s not to say your journal should be cheap or ugly. It’s possible to find target language-themed options online from niche stores. But you can also get some attractive ones on Amazon. 

The journals I particularly liked were:

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