How To Test Your Progress in Language Learning

More than ever before, people are teaching themselves to learn a new language. Online community learning groups, easy access to English language films and songs have all contributed to this growing phenomenon. One obvious problem with self-teaching is: How do you measure your progress?

Here are a few tips to help you measure your progress. They earlier you implement them, the more accurate they will measure your progress.

Important Things To Remember Before You Start

  • Keep all your progression evidence, but don’t re-visit each piece of evidence each time you create a new piece. (that’s like weighing yourself every day!)
  • Don’t put effort into each piece of evidence. It’s not an exam. There should be no stress and no worry attached to this. You are making a mark at the level you are at at the time of creating the evidence. If you don’t know something, it’s ok.
  • Don’t use these activities as learning opportunities or materials. eg. If you come across a word in the newspaper articles that you don’t know, don’t try to find out the meaning. Let the learning opportunity come naturally as you progress with your learning.


Take a look at a news article of around 1000 words from a (online) newspaper that you feel is significantly more advanced than your level. (eg. If you are at A1 level then pick something at B2 or C1 level.) Read it. Copy and paste it. then maybe highlight, underline, etc any words or phrases you don’t know. Then leave it alone! Don’t use it as a learning document.

As you progress, keep going back to that document (maybe every few months or so) and un-highlight or de-underline (if such a word exists) all the bits you now understand. When the document has no underlines, etc you have a visual representation of your progression.

Diction & Pronunciation

Record yourself saying around 5 minutes of speech; maybe from a long document or a chapter in a book that is close to your level. Every now and again listen to the recording. Record it again every few months or so – but keep all the recordings! As your language skills improve, so will your diction and pronunciation.


Watch a complex-plot film in your target language with no subtitles of any kind. (I recommend Oliver Stone’s JFK starring Kevin Costner) Appreciate and be aware how much/little you understand. Watch the same film again 6 months later – again with no subtitles and appreciate how much you have learnt. Keep doing that until you understand everything


Write about your day one day each month. Try and mention feelings as well as actions. After a few months looks at your earlier writings. Notice the sentence structure, vocab, themes, etc.


Look at a photo with lots of action and detail. Record yourself talking about it. Every month, go back to the same picture and record yourself talking about it. After a few months listen to all the recordings.


Meet once a month with a native speaker from your target language; someone who is patient and understanding. Explain to them that you want to meet once a month regularly and only once a month. It is important that you have no contact with that person in between meetings. You can meet online, but nothing beats face-to-face contact.

The person is not to correct you, but should encourage/allow you to do most of the talking.

The person may give positive feedback on how you are progressing, but it’s more important that you give yourself positive feedback.

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