For international students, one big question that always comes up about studying or specifically taking notes while studying is about which language to use: English or your native language. Many people have different views. Some say that English is better because it pushes you to think in English, while others argue that your native language is better because it is more natural for the note taker and easier for later review.

Today Im sharing how I take notes when I am studying. My emphasis is on studying for the CPA Exam, but my advice may also be relevant to note-taking for anyone studying in the US using English as a second language.

My recommendation is to use a mixed note-taking method. By mixed method I mean writing the English terminology while using your native language to supplement an understanding of the terminology. I think this method helps to avoid the disadvantages of using either language alone.
Using ones native language to take notes forces one to understand what is being written down. Sometimes when we take a class, whether live or online, the lecturers will ask the class to write down very important points. Although it is very natural for native English speakers to write down and understand the notes simultaneously, for international students, sometimes simply writing down is not enough for instant comprehension. A lot of us are still thinking in our native language to some extent.

According to my own experience, the more complicated the context is, the more likely I will think in my native language. Therefore, taking notes in our native language forces us to comprehend what we are writing down first, and thus allows us to really absorb what the lecturers ask us to write down (which are usually key points or heavily tested areas). Also, I dont know if it applies to others or not, but I write faster in my native language than I write in English. It is always faster for me to review notes in my native language, because I read my native language faster too.   

Ultimately we will take our exams in English. If we dont remember the terminologies in English, we will be completely lost when we take the exams. So I think the mixed method is a solution. Write down terminologies in English and take notes in your native language with the ability to transcribe your notes in English during the exam.


Other articles by Crystal:
4 Lessons to Learn about FAR Preparation
Taking the CPA Exam? Hug your Friends and Family!
Accounting Is a Beautiful Language
Why an International Student Should Take the US CPA Exam