Lately I’ve been dabbling far less seriously than I normally do. I guess you could say I’ve been taking a “vacation” from Mandarin. It feels great – if you wanted to know. I’ve also started with a French course which I may tell you about later but I won’t ellaborate on in this post.
So I’ll share with you just a few things that I’ve done at Lang-8.com. (Credit here to hackingchinese.com for making me aware of this tool at first. I know I’ve been ignorning this tool for far too long. Using Lang-8 to improve your Chinese)
Background: Lang-8 is is an online journal entry website where language learners submit their writing in the form of an online journal and have their writing corrected by native speakers. It doesn’t mean you have to keep a traditional journal. It really just allows you to practice writing in the language(s) you’re learning. It’s free and in exchange language learners can help and correct other learners’ writing in return.
Basically I’ve not been great at keeping the habit but for a period of two weeks last month (before I decided a vacation from Chinese was in order). I do plan however to do more writing in the future as I like to use it as a way to find out how something should be said.
Anyways, without further ado. This is how I’ve used Lang-8 on the days I were “comitted enough” to post an entry:
- I aimed to write just a few sentences a day. This (roughly) was my goal. (The first day I was so excited though and probably wrote four different entries in a couple of hours )
- I use Lang-8 to ask questions that are relevant to my written entry. For example if I don’t know what a hot-cross bun would be in Chinese, Lang-8 gives me the opportunity to ask that at the bottom of my written entry or I would quickly slip in a question when thanking a native speaker for their correction and hope for a reply. It’s great – because sometimes they’ll ask questions in return and it ends up being an opportunity for both parties to learn something – whether it be a cultural aspect , a piece of general knowledge about the culture or a language related snippet.
- Sometimes I look at native speakers’ English entries if they provide a Mandarin equivalent and use that as a bit of reading practice (with the help of my Pera Pera toolbar of course). I must admit I didn’t do this much, probably because it takes effort and time – but if you think about it – you’re already inside the tool when you do your own writing so it actually saves you time trying to find other reading material on the web – if you want to give your reading skills some practice. In addition, what other learners write about in their entries, may not necessarily be as complicated as anything you’d see on a website or a news report – so it’s still pretty good “reading material” even if you just look at a few posts like these in a week or “glance” at them.
Other benefits (besides the more obvious):
- Lang-8 is free and you don’t have to pay money for it. Because there are many tools out there to keep me interested in learning languages, I am looking to keep my language learning costs down – so it being free is fantastic. There is a paid option that would provide more benefits but I can’t see why I’d want upgrade at this point.
- If you’re shy (like me) – Lang-8 can put you in touch with native speakers. (Being an introvert for me means that I appreciate connections not with the masses but just one or two people at a time. I’ve found that it can be a bit overwhelming to connect with other learners (strangers) and it still tough for me though I guess this is something people could find hard to understand unless they have similar personality traits.) The point I’m making is using Lang-8 can make it easier to “meet” people.
- You can try out newly learnt vocab by writing a few sentences. It is a great opportunity to “construct” sentences – to think about what you want to say before you have to say it. There’s no pressure and you can use all the tools you have available like dictionaries and Google Translate before you submit your entry. In fact I’d sometimes identify between three and five new words and figure out a way to do a piece of writing that incorporated these words. Sometimes it meant that I just wrote five random sentences and that my sentences had not formed a cohesive whole. That’s the joy though – write what you please – just be polite
- You’ll learn from your mistakes or you’ll find out just how hard it is to break a “bad language habit”. Don’t let this deter you though – and don’t take it too seriously – just enjoy it.
If you want a more comprehensive post – take a look at this post:Using Lang-8 to improve your Chinese.
Now that I’ve told you about it I think I will go and write another short post and I will share some of the corrections I’ve received with you in a follow-up post.