Taemin wrote in the comments a question that seemed like it needed a longer answer so with her permission I’ll post her question below and answer it here.
I really like the idea of using my own journal as learning material because it is what I would say and it is things i care about. But 3 things ive observed at Lang-8 give me pause:
- Less careful correction. Everyone is busy and I see many cases where correctors have done a less than thorough job, letting all kinds of things go I corrected. (Here I’m talking about English corrections so I’m quite sure when I see what should be corrected.)
- Corrected to understandable but still not native. I find myself doing this one. Sometimes the original sentence is such a train wreck I should throw it out and start over but out of a desire to not discourage the learner, I try to keep as much of the original sentence as possible and also see other English correctors do the same. The same thing can also happen with a sentence where the original is understandable but fundamentally not the way a native speaker would have approached the same utterance. I don’t find myself making nor do I see other correctors making good corrections in these cases.
- WTF corrections by natives. I’ve had natives correct my sentences only to have other natives come and correct back to my original sentence. Try as I might, I can’t fathom this phenomenon.
In light of this, doesn’t the possibility of reinforcing my own mistakes concern you? You obviously spend a lot of time at this so I am curious as to your views.
I do think though that the problems are surmountable with a couple strategies I employ to get the most out of diary writing and minimize these disadvantages.
- Write often. The more I write the more chance I have my mistakes get corrected. We tend to repeat ourselves often anyway, and we definitely repeat mistakes. Even if a mistake is missed the first day, if we repeat the wrong phrase or sentence structure (which we are bound to do), someone will come along and kindly correct it for us or suggest an alternative explanation.
- Rewrite. Lots of times I’ll incorporate corrections and alternative ways of expressing the same content in a rewritten diary entry which I’ll also post on Lang-8. If the obvious errors have been corrected the first time, native speakers reading the corrected entry will have the incentive to look more carefully at the sentences to see if they are natural or not. Sometimes I do this not only once but two times just to make sure I’ve gotten it exactly right.
- Practice discernment. Not every correction is as valuable as the other one. Writing Korean or any other foreign language should be treated just as writing in my mother language. I love having things I’ve written in English read by others for their suggestions and corrections. But I don’t always agree or incorporate all the corrections that are given. Some corrections like obvious grammar, spelling or sentence structure mistakes are easy to accept. For other corrections I have to ask questions such as, Did they understand my original intent? and Are they conveying it better than I? Native speakers are helpful because they have more knowledge and a better language sense than we do as learners, but they are not gods and there is no need to blindly follow whatever they suggest.
- Befriend individual diarists. Befriend individual diarists on Lang-8. Choose some diarists that you enjoy reading or who seem to have a sense for language and style. Correct their diary entries so that they are more natural and native-like and not just grammatically correct. Go through their old diary entries and find mistakes that other native-speakers have missed or not corrected naturally and correct it for them. They will realize that you have thought carefully about your corrections and will reciprocate.
- Asking is free. Follow the old adage. Often when asking politely people are more than happy to oblige. I often ask my readers to help me write more naturally, appropriately, or softly/gently (부뜨럽게). Asking is not a full proof method of course, but it signals your willingness to be corrected and your interest in learning the language to a high level.
- Write about a variety of topics. Write about a variety of topics. Different kinds of people will be attracted to different types of writing. You are writing a semi-private diary, but you also have an audience and as you write more and more people will come not only to correct your diaries, but also because they enjoy reading them. Attracting a wide variety of readers is also important for getting high quality corrections. Some topics some readers will be able to correct better than others. People who have never prayed in their life are sometimes confused by my prayers but others can guess my meaning more easily and know how to correct me. Likewise if I write about chess, or computers, or gardening readers who have done those things or are interested in those activities often know and are willing to give the correct terminology and expressions.