Writing in a diary in a foreign language is very good for your language skills. . . but how does one go about it?

When I first started writing Korean diary entries I put them online and asked visitors to correct my entries. That worked. However now I use  lang-8.com. I usually get corrections to my diary entries within twenty minutes of posting them.

Sometimes when we write though (and I’m just the same as anyone else) it’s hard to know what to write. Since I’ve been posting (in Korean) over there for around three years now, I thought I would write up some ideas I’ve used.

1. Write what is normally considered a regular diary entry. . . what did you do today? What did you feel? What did you think? Who did you meet? What did you talk about?

2. Write things you said in the language but you stumbled and it was awkward. Rephrase it. . Practice talking about the subject you were talking about with a friend by writing a diary.

3. Make up a conversation. Either make the conversation  funny or poignant. Or use a conversation you had with somebody as an inspiration. Or use a book like Conversation Inspirations to talk about some kind of imaginary incident between two imaginary people. Try to mix it up. In Korean two people the same age would talk about something different from two people of different ages. Also switch around the gender of the people and try to rewrite it again.

4. Write a letter. Write a letter, have it corrected and then send off the final draft. Or find a letter you sent before and (after editing out personal stuff and names) post it to be corrected.

5. Translate an English diary entry you wrote. Translating is hard work and you don’t realise how many English idioms and complicated grammatical structures you use every day.

6. Translate something into Korean from something in English that you like. Find a blog post from a friend or a part of a book and translate it into Korean. You’ll make tons of mistakes but that’s good, huh? 🙂

7. Write a review of a book you read or a movie you watched. Or write a review of some food you ate or a place you went to. Was it just a common food? Make it interesting. Make it alive. Maybe play a game of guessing with your reader and try to describe the food without actually giving the name away.

8. Write a script for a podcast or speech. Have it corrected at lang-8 and then record it and ask for comments on your pronunciation and delivery.

9.Facebook status or tweets. . . anything short and sweet will do the trick. Don’t think that you have to write a whole essay before you hit the post button. Write a sentence when you have five seconds to spare. . . . write sentence fragments if that’s all you can spare. . . write imaginary text message or Kakaotalk conversations, if you’d like, complete with emoticons, if you dare! 🙂

10. Use lang-8 to help you with dictations. . . a very useful (but often forgotten way) to practice your listening, grammar, sentence construction and spelling skills. Clip some part (not more than a few minutes) of a radio broadcast, podcast, speech, or youtube video and try to transcribe it. Then post it on to lang-8 and ask for corrections on transcriptions of the parts that you missed. This is what I’ve been doing for my Korean monologues.

11. Yes, I know I said 10 but we’ll throw in another for good measure. Take a paragraph, or a transcription, or a sentence, or a tweet — and model it. Try to write another paragraph using the original paragraph as a guide. Or try to write another sentence using the same grammatical structure you just looked at. . . but with different content. Then post both on lang-8 and ask for corrections and feedback on your sentences. You can also do a version of this if you want to practice a certain word .(This is what i’ve done — I have yet to try real modeling). . . Make up a sentence with that word or phrase and post both the word and the sentence you made.

Note (or is this 12?): One more thing writing a diary entry is good for is to find out more about the culture of the language you are learning. Ask your readers (all native speakers) what their opinion is about a subject. Write up a scenario and ask them what they would do if it happened to them. Then follow up in the comments with more questions or contact them one-on-one (all in Korean of course!).

Any other ideas for writing a foreign language diary? I’d love to hear them. 🙂

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