32 Writing Prompts for Your Language Learning Journal
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Of the four pillars of language learning (reading, writing, listening and speaking), writing is an often underrated skill.
Writing in your target language is a great way to start producing sentences of your own and can help you acquire new vocabulary and practice grammatical structures.
As an output skill, writing is perfect for introverted or quiet learners who find speaking stressful.
No, this is not me giving you permission to stop practicing your speaking skills, but we all have days when we simply can’t deal with talking to actual human beings.
With writing, there is less pressure to keep up with a conversation partner and keep the flow of conversation going. You can take time to organise your thoughts, look up any vocabulary you don’t know and go back to your writing to correct any mistakes.
Keeping a Language Learning Journal
A fantastic way to practice your writing skills is to keep a language learning journal or diary.
There are a few ways you can go about writing in your target language:
- The free-flow approach – Simply start writing without looking up words in the dictionary. This forces you to use the words already at your disposal and is a good way of identifying any gaps in your vocabulary. You can then go back and look up any words you didn’t know.
- The brainstorming approach – Choose a topic and brainstorm some vocabulary you think you may need. Look these up in your dictionary and then use them in your written piece.
- The look-up approach – Start writing and look up any unknown words as you go along.
It’s a good idea to ask a native speaker or your teacher to check your work so you do not unconsciously reinforce mistakes.
If you don’t know any native speakers, you can submit your writing on a language-exchange social network like Lang-8 and have it corrected by one of the community members.
Knowing what to write can sometimes be the hardest part. I’ve put together a list of 32 writing prompts that will help you get the creative juices flowing.
I have loosely categorised these topics into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced, but don’t get too hung up on these categories, especially at the Intermediate and Advanced levels.
Pick a topic that interests you and see how far you get.
1. A self-introduction
Probably the first assignment you will get in any language course. Write one or two paragraphs introducing yourself. What is your name? How old are you? What nationality are you? What do you do for a living?
2. Your family
Another fairly simple one suitable for beginners. How many members do you have in your family? What are their likes and dislikes?
3. A shopping list
Write out a simple shopping list. This is a great way to learn the words for everyday household items.
4. Your morning routine
Take a page from the lifestyle blogger’s playbook and write about your morning routine. For beginners, this can be as simple as getting up, brushing your teeth, and so on.
5. A recent holiday or trip
Yes, I know this sounds like the classic ‘My Summer’ essay you were forced to write at school, but it is a good way of mining new travel vocabulary.
6. A diary entry
Write a diary entry detailing the events of your day and how you felt about them.
7. Give directions
Imagine that you have to direct a friend from a familiar landmark to your home. Try not to get them lost!
Translate a simple recipe into your target language.
What do you do for fun? Do you have a passion project?
10. Write a social media post in your target language
Caption your latest Instagram photo or tweet your thoughts.
11. Describe a picture
Find a photo, picture or artwork that inspires or interests you and try to describe it in your target language.
12. State your case
Propose an argument for and against something. For example, why should you use public transport instead of driving? Write down some pros and cons.
13. A film/book review
Enjoyed a good movie or book lately? Can you give a brief overview of the plot? What did you like or dislike about it?
14. Your goals for the future
Imagine you have to answer the dreaded interview question ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ in your target language.
15. A how-to
Are you good at something? Write down a step-by-step how-to guide. This can be something as simple as how to boil an egg or more complex like how to do a pivot chart in Excel (if you know how to do this, I’d like to know too).
16. Explain your job
This is a good way to learn industry-specific terms. What do you get up to in the office? What are your responsibilities? What are your co-workers like?
17. Your most embarrassing moment
We all have at least one cringe-worthy story. What happened?
18. Write about your country or culture
This topic has the potential for many off-shoots. Are there any interesting places to visit in your country? Do you have any traditions or festivals?
Do you play any sports? Who is your favourite player? Can you explain the rules of the game in simple terms?
20. Write a letter of complaint
Restaurant got your order wrong? New dress falling apart after one wear? Write a formal letter of complaint to the company at fault.
21. Translate something
Try translating a page from your novel, a news article, a song or poem.
22. Summarize a magazine or news article
Read a news article or editorial and try to summarise the main points in your own words.
23. Write a short story
This is a super challenging one. Creative writing can be tricky even in your native language. You have to consider pacing, point of view, natural-sounding dialogue and a whole lot more. Try your hand at writing a short flash fiction piece, but don’t worry about getting it perfect. After all, fiction writers spend years perfecting their craft.
24. Discuss a political event
Got an opinion on Brexit, the Hong Kong protests or the failings of your local government? Write an opinion piece on a recent political issue or event.
25. Industry presentation
Useful if you are working or doing business in your target language. Put together a short presentation on a hot topic in your industry or your latest work project.
26. Are we killing our planet?
Do you think climate change is a global crisis? What can we do to save our planet?
27. Is technology making us lonely?
Our world is more connected than ever before. But do social media and other technologies actually isolate us from others?
28. Are video games making us more violent?
Do you think video game violence encourages violence in real life?
29. Why do you think we should learn a new language?
Get some ideas on this topic here.
30. What is your greatest fear?
What scares you most? How do you deal with anxiety and fear?
31. Do you believe in fate?
Does everything happen for a reason? Or do we create our own destinies?
32. Who do you consider your role model and why?
Who inspires you? What did you learn from that person? How did it change your outlook on life?
November 22, 2019 at 1:40 pm
Great advice! Awesome of you to share this.
November 22, 2019 at 2:22 pm
Thanks, Jamie. Glad you found it useful!
July 24, 2020 at 1:34 am
Thank you for the prompts; I have this pinned to my Taskbar, as reference for later. I’ve been considering starting something like this for Japanese, and today bought a blank book with that in mind.
July 24, 2020 at 10:50 am
So glad you found it useful, Aia. Let us know how you get along with your Japanese studies!
November 20, 2020 at 8:17 pm
In case it was not a joke, I can show how to make a pivot chart in Excel, it is easier than it sounds 🙂
November 21, 2020 at 6:20 am
😀 I’m only half joking… While I can figure it out with some effort, my Excel skills really are poor. I even bought an Excel course on Udemy to try and fix this!
March 2, 2022 at 9:20 pm
Really interesting post!