Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

how to take notes when you learn English

When you learn a language do you take a lot of notes?

What do you typically do to try to capture everything you learn in English?

Do you try to write everything down and then have a hard time reviewing it later on?

This is a common issue and today we’re going to offer tips on taking notes and using them in the best possible way.


We have a question from a student today.

Hi Lindsay,

Hope you’re doing well! I have a question about notes. Indeed, very often, it’s recommended to take notes about what we’ve read, what we’ve seen, or what we’ve listened to. However, as far as I’m concerned, even though I’m very motivated to take notes, I always get lost when it comes to reviewing them. Maybe this is because I tend to write too much and I don’t know how to organize these notes.

Should I have a specific notebook for each “topic”? At the end, the problem is that it’s difficult to classify all these notes in order to be able to review them for a refresh.

I don’t know if you get my point, it might be easy for you but not for me. 

I ask this because I’m taking notes (vocabulary and expressions mainly) about different subjects, but at a certain point it’s becoming a mess.

If it’s possible for you to give me a piece of advice in terms of strategy it would be awesome!

Thanks again and best wishes to all the team!




All Ears English TranscriptsMake sure you understand every word you hear on All Ears English.

Bring your English to the advanced level with new vocabulary and natural expressions.

Subscribe and get the transcripts delivered by email.

Learn to speak naturally with the American accent.

Click here to subscribe and save 50%


Tips For Taking and Using Notes

Do remember it depends upon the type of notes that you are taking.

We’re looking at notes for personal learning in this case.

These ideas can help you to maximize what you learn from the notes that you take.


1) Don’t Overdo It

If you take notes on everything, it’s almost like you haven’t taken notes at all.

Give yourself a limit–it’s tempting to want to learn as much as possible in the least amount of time, but that’s not always good.

If you take on too much at once it’s a bit much for your brain to handle.

Focus on a few main ideas or words every day-maybe 5-10 as a focus.


2) Focus On A Few Main Categories

Maybe make a goal for every month of a few specific categories.

Know specifically what you want to focus on such as food, reading items, conversational items, etc.

Choose just a few and then dedicate a few pages of notes to each category.

Keep track of each category with some sort of book mark so that you can section everything off.

This will keep you organized but won’t take you away from the most important concepts.


3) Keep This Notebook With You At All Times    

This notebook that you write in and section off can help you at all times.

You should consider walking around with this notebook to keep it close.

It’s not to say that you should take long detailed notes each time that you think of something.

If you have the notebook though then you can easily write down something when you think of it.

Then you can use this information in conversation or you can write down further observations.

This all helps you to make great connections!


4) Have A Special Spot In Your Notebook For Phrases You Hear

This could be an idiom you heard someone say, a word you didn’t quite hear for sure.

You can always look these up later–and of course you can always send us a question about them!

If you have this notebook with you to write things down, then you can review them later on.

You should look over your notes every day, but this is more of a special review.

Look everything over, use your favorite study strategy–maybe it’s flash cards, maybe it’s making exercises for yourself.

Be sure to take the time to study these notes that you have worked so hard on.

Do be sure to have a rest/review day along the way.

There is no point in taking notes if you don’t take the time to review them. Take at least a day off a week and just focus on reviewing your notes.


5) Take This Information Out Into The World

Apply what you’ve learned to your real life.

Take a few of the words you learned each week and try to throw them into your conversations.

Make a tally of how often you used each word and you can make a list for which words you used if you remember.

You must practice what you’ve taken notes on.

This is the best way to review your notes since you’re practicing what you’ve written down in real life.



It’s all about taking in the information, letting it resonate, and then putting it back out into the world.

This will be the best way to learn!

Don’t take on too much at once and be sure to give yourself at least one day off a week.

Don’t overdo it and push too hard because then you may just get frustrated.

Find that good balance that lets you write things down but then actually absorb what you’ve written.

Good notes are a great starting point, but then you have to use what you have written to learn and get better. 


If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X
  • App-Store-Button
  • google-play-badge
  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X