Self-study Guidebook

Self-study Guidebook

Many of us would like to improve our language skills. To succeed, one needs to study regularly. Little but often should be the golden rule here. Many students find it helpful to put aside 10 to 15 minutes a day for language learning (30 minutes would be excellent).

Another prerequisite for success is to work systematically and set realistic and specific enough goals. For example, the goal “to be able to follow and comment on current affairs in Spanish“ sounds good; however, it is too general to make any faster progress. Try something more effective:

  1. Identify the specific language you would like to learn (e.g. the topic/situation)
  2. Decide how much time you are going to devote to it (to this one topic)
  3. Choose sources you will use and activities you will do
  4. Finally, reflect on your work and evaluate how well you did – to what extent you found the chosen materials useful and whether you managed to learn what you set out to learn. Such reflection/experience should help you plan what to do next time - do more of what works for you.



Writing plays a significant role in the learning process. Not only can you access your notes any time in the future, but with a little bit of discipline, the writing also facilitates the planning of any long-term work, recording of your progress as well as mapping of what else you need to do to reach your language goals.

One way to apply this to real life is to keep a structured LANGUAGE LEARNING JOURNAL. Below is an example of how such a journal entry may look like for a student of English for Political Studies:

Learning target:

To improve my ability to report on and to speak naturally about ELECTIONS. At the moment my language seems unnatural and I do not know many typically used expressions.

Time allocation:

 Next 2 weeks (1. 1. - 15. 1.)


Internet resources - youtube videos, news articles, and podcasts about elections that have taken place recently in Europe/the world.


* Reading a couple of news articles online, writing down new vocabulary and useful collocations

* Watching two youtube videos and writing transcripts for about 5-minute clips from each of them

* Listening to at least four podcasts related to elections on my way to university

Now record whatever you do during the two weeks in your language journal: new words and collocations, transcripts, etc. - carry out the tasks you have planned to complete.


Watching the chosen youtube videos and writing the transcripts worked well; must organise my vocab taken from the news better and write sample sentences to see the new words in context! Listening to podcasts helped me with pronunciation; however, next time I should probably write a summary of the content to remember more and practise the phrases better.


If you find the above-mentioned example way too structured, you can try from time to time to think about the language classes you are taking and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What was the aim of the lesson? What was I supposed to learn?
  • What is/was my goal (have I identified what I am good at or - on the contrary - what I need to work on (grammar, vocabulary, skills, etc.)?
  • What all/new did I learn in the lesson (vocabulary, pronunciation, and so on)
  • What should I focus on in the near future?

 As the classic puts it:

"I keep six honest serving men,
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When,
And How and Where and Who."

Rudyard Kipling


Choose authentic sources of good quality (be it a text or an audio/video) related to issues you are passionate about and/or questions you are curious about and use them for developing your foreign language reading, listening, speaking or writing skills. Be ambitious in your choice of tasks. Here are some suggestions for INSPIRATION:


  • read and retell the main content
  • read silently or aloud – try delivering different texts as if presenting or lecturing
  • write a schematic summary from your reading (note-taking)
  • write an academic summary of the text - e.g. a journal article (find out about the rules first)
  • translate a passage into Czech (or your mother tongue) - one thing you can try: (i) find a foreign text you believe to be interesting and written in a good style and (ii) try to translate few lines into Czech and then back into the foreign language (without looking at the original version), (iii) then compare your translated text with the original one


  • creative writing (blog, reflection, story, scenario): set a title for your writing project; decide on purpose, length and style; focus on accuracy (grammar rules, use your computer spell check or (the basic version is free)
  • writing with a collocation dictionary - write a summary of a text with the use of an on-line collocation dictionary (either using it as you write or for editing)
  • academic writing (paragraph, essay, abstract, summary, book review): study the guidelines for academic written discourse for the target language you are learning; set a title for your writing project; decide on purpose, length, and style, focus on accuracy
  • professional writing (editorial, report, case study)


  • try to write a transcript of a part of a film/documentary/youtube video/TED talk (2 – 5 minutes), choose 10+ words as “take-away” words (write them down and copy the sample sentences containing the chosen words so that you see them used in context) 
  • retell the main content (recycle new words)
  • write subtitles for a sequence of your choice


  • listen + retell the main content
  • take notes and choose 10+ words as “take-away” words
  • write down your reaction to what you have heard in 100/200/… words ("what I think about it” / “what is my experience with it")


  • create a slideshow with your own voice-over (you need to write a script before you perform it) 
  • prepare a presentation
  • chat with a native speaker, discuss a societal issue and summarize the content of the discussion highlighting the most interesting comments 
  • focus on an practise pronunciation (see the relevant links in the Recommended Sources entry below)


No matter which source you decide to use, you are always going to run into new words. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I know exactly what the word means?
  • Where should I put this word in a sentence?
  • Do I know how to pronounce it (in its isolated form and in the sentence)?
  • Does the word usually keep company with any particular verb, adjective, adverb, and so on?
  • Will I use the word frequently? (Do I need to learn it?)

Our memory stores the words partly according to their meaning; therefore, it makes sense to divide the words into groups. However, it is also necessary to learn the words in combination with other words. If we learn not just individual words but whole phrases, we can speed up the learning process. One way to do it is to look for COLLOCATIONS - words that often come together and sound correct and natural to native speakers (e.g. to conduct research on poverty alleviation, eine Sanktion verhängen, faire l'analyse des relations sociales, vulnerar los derechos, tutela dei diritti del minore, погасить долги).

When reading or listening, look up new words in the dictionary, note down pronunciation and learn new words by

  • making word webs
  • imagining them (or associating them with something memorable)
  • saying them aloud
  • making topic-based vocab lists
  • organizing words into NOUN phrases, VERB phrases, OTHER useful phrases
  • practising with an app such as Quizlet, Anki, Brainscape or Memrise
  • learning COLLOCATIONS and word chunks by writing sentences that contain collocations you would like to remember - AI generators can help you create a set of such sentences. 
  • building vocab by looking up
    * SYNONYMS (words or phrases that mean exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language, e.g. shut is a synonym of close)
    * ANTONYMS (for example, choose 7 key expressions from the text and find words with opposite meanings, e.g. happy is the antonym/opposite of sad. Turn them into sentences.)
  • NEWS. Choose a news headline and prior to reading the article, try to write down the list of words you expect to find in the text (use the dictionary whenever you need it). Then start reading the article and see which words you predicted well and which other expressions related to the chosen topic you found in the article and note them down as you are used to.

Review your new vocab items regularly (e.g. when travelling to/from school).


You can still do something for your language learning, even if you have missed your 15 minutes of study time. For example, when reading the news in the evening, choose a few expressions and see if you are able to translate them into the foreign language you are learning. Or, after reading lecture notes or listening to podcasts on the way from school, try to summarise the content for yourself in the target language. Be creative.

Good luck with your language learning!


In addition to the websites recommended in our teachers' individual syllabi, you can also try the following:


Dictionaries: (collocation dictionary)

Grammar: (includes free English materials and exercises)


Useful Resources: (audio and video files organized by a level of difficulty and covering a wide array of life skills) (TED talks) 


Online dictionaries (portail lexical) 

Grammar: ; ; 

Tests: (exemples des tests DELF-DALF) 



Useful resources: (All things French: the country, the language, the culture, the news) (news) (podcasts)


Goethe-Institut - Leitseite:


Italian (Italian browser) (website of ANSA - Italian News Agency) (Italian journal)


Online encyclopaedia:

General browser:

News servers: (listening to the news on the right) (video commentaries)


Tests in 21 languages and 420 language combinations: