Welcome to the Actual Fluency Blogging Guide. This guide walks you through setting up your own language learning blog, so you can get higher levels of accountability. This motivates greatly in sticking to your language learning routines.
When it comes to starting a language learner blog there are two main options available. You can either start a free one, or you can start one with a small investment. It's highly recommended to go with a paid option as it gives you more creative freedom, as well as a financial incentive to ‘keep going' with your language studies.
This guide was last updated May 22, 2020.
Option A: The Free Blog
This is very simple, you simply go to www.wordpress.com and register. You will have a blog up and running in less than 2 minutes. Whilst you cannot add plugins or any advanced functionality you are able to change the theme to suit your liking.
The reason I recommend WordPress over a dozen other options is that once you are ready to move from a free blog to your own you will be using the WordPress software, so using the free option to gain familiarity is a plus. If for some reason you can’t do WordPress, Google has its own alternative called Blogspot.
There isn't much to say other than if you do not want to invest funds in the alternative, this gets you up and running.
If you, like me, prefer to have your own website and the option to fully customize your blog, then read on to the next option.
If you decided to go with the free blog, then you are actually ready to just go blogging – it's that easy!
Just be aware of one big limitation: You cannot make money with a site like this, because of restrictions imposed by the owners of the site (WordPress or Blogspot)
Option B: Your own website with unique address
Note: This is a complete guide how to buy hosting, domain and setup your own WordPress-based blog with the essential plugins required to get started. If you already have a blog up and running or you decided to go with a free .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com blog you may skip this chapter.
This process is not done in 2 minutes, however, with my guide you should be up and running within 15-20 minutes.
Absolutely no technical knowledge is required.
Step 1 – Registering your hosting space for your blog
In the world of websites a web host is the place where your website is hosted, while the domain name is just the name that tells browsers where to go for the website.
HostGator has 2 packages relevant to us: Hatchling or Baby. If you only plan on hosting one domain (blog/website) then Hatchling is more than good enough. However, if you want multiple blogs or websites you need Baby. You can always upgrade this should you require it later.
These packages start at only $2.75/mo for Hatchling, or $3.95 for the baby plan – so that's a really low investment for getting started.
Plus you get a free domain included, so that's another $10 or so saved.
Step 1.1 – Installing WordPress from HostGator Control Panel
I like to use WordPress as the blogging framework as it allows a high level of customization and plugins that extend the usability of the website. Contrary to popular belief WordPress is not just for blogs, you can make literally any website with it.
Log in to your HostGator Control Panel and look for this:
Then look for “Wordpress” under Blog Software in the left menu. Hit continue and then you should have something like this:
It’s important to leave the field after your domain empty. The rest of the fields aren't super important (they can be changed later) but do make sure not to use the username “admin” as it is too easy to guess for hackers.
The install will take a few moments and then you will be sent a link by e-mail (don’t forget to check the spam folder.) The link will look like this: yourdomain.com/wp-admin -> go to this link and you are ready for step 3.5
WordPress vs SquareSpace vs Wix vs other sitebuilders
Note: Modern sitebuilders like Wix, or SquareSpace are perfectly useful alternatives to WordPress. They look good out of the box, but your monthly subscription costs will be higher and you would be forever tied into that ecosystem.
WordPress on the other hand is very flexible, and the monthly cost is lower with fewer restrictions. With millions of plugins you can add almost any functionality to WordPress.
The only weakness of WordPress is that it's not as good-looking out of the box.
I've used WordPress for over 15 years, and so that's the choice I've made for this guide.
Step 1.2 – Setting Up WordPress
There are only a few MUST-change settings in WordPress when it is factory new. You gain access to your admin panel by following the link that ends in yourdomain.com/wp-admin.
Once you are logged in the first stop is to go to SETTINGS -> GENERAL and fill out the fields, so your blog isn’t called “Just Another WordPress Blog.” After you have filled out the fields, don’t forget to scroll down and click “Save Changes”
Next: Go to SETTINGS -> PERMALINKS and change the permalink structure. For some reason WP always defaults to your posts and pages being called something like “yourdomain.com/?p=125” which is not desirable. You want to pick one of the others that involve the NAME of the post. I personally use this one:
(but any with the post name in it will do)
This concludes the essential set up of WordPress. Next up is Theme and Plugins.
Step 1.3 Themes and plugins
WordPress draws a lot of its powers from the ability to extend functionality with hundreds of thousands of plugins and themes to make your site perform and look better. In theory ALL of these plugins are optional, even a new theme too – but many of them are really good.
When that is said though, these are my personal recommendations and those I use on my site today. You know I’m a cheapskate, so there are no paid plugins or themes in these recommendations either.
You install plugins by going to “Plugins.” First click “Add New” at the top of the page next to the word Plugins. Then use the search box on the new screen that opens.
“Antispam Bee” – Antispam
“WordPress SEO by Yoast” – Search Engine Help: Adds additional fields in the post editor, so your website is optimized for search engines to find you. Go to the plugin and follow the instructions once installed.
“W3 Total Cache” – Speeds up your website by using browser cache.
Note that you can easily add more plugins as you go along, if there is a feature you would like added to your blog. Simply search the repository and follow the simple procedure listed above.
Find a new Fresh Theme
The default theme in WordPress is a bit boring. But you can go to Appearance -> Themes and click “Add New” generally you will find some really cool themes here, particularly in the featured section.
I've now switched all my new sites to ElegantThemes and their “Divi” theme for the ease of use and one-time payment, saving me the typical subscriptions associated with other premium theme providers
The pagebuilder, and how it looks out of the box are the big reasons for me switching all my new sites to Divi. Actual Fluency still runs on an old Thrivethemes theme, but I'm sure I'll be switching over one day when I have time for such a big project.
You don't need a premium theme though, there are plenty of free themes available – and especially in the beginning simpler is better.
Step 1.5 Get blogging!
You have now reached the end of this section of the guide. And have a working WordPress site that is ready to for you to start writing on.
To write a blog post simply go to Posts and use the editor! It’s very intuitive, so you should encounter no problem here.
Before you are done, you need to create some essential pages. This is done via the Pages menu option. The absolute minimum I suggest is:
About Page: Who are you? Write a short introduction to yourself.
Contact Page: Add the contact form from the plugin, so you don’t have your email publicly listed for spammers to attack!
That’s it – congratulations with your new blog!
As always if you have any questions, or if you are having trouble setting up your blog, please don't hesitate to use the contact form.
Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.
Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.