Language forums – which to use?

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Language forums are some of the most useful websites for language learning  I’ve found. They’re informative, usually there are lots of people on them so you can ask questions about various languages. What facets of the language I want to learn are the hardest to master? How to get over this or that hurdle? Where can I find free resources online?

Currently there seem to be two main forums (although both Lang-8, Italki, and LingQ all have smaller forums on their respective sites).

I first started using How to Learn Any Language forum in 2009. I mainly read rather than post anything.  There are loads of useful posts about resources and (what is my favorite part) — logs of different people studying various languages. Unfortunately, the forum restricts posts after a certain time period so that only premium users can read them.

This is incredibly frustrating. It was frustrating when I first logged into the site and could see that people had answered my question before but I couldn’t access the post. However it has become increasingly more frustrating as comments and posts and questions that I’ve posted before are now restricted.

There is an alternative however — Fluent in 3 Months Forum. Unlike the How to Learn Any Language forum where useful posts about resources are mixed up with people arguing endlessly about which language is the hardest the Fluent in 3 Months Forum focuses on providing resources, information and encouragement.

The Fluent in 3 Months Forum is also completely free. A log I kept last year of a fourteen day trip hitchhiking More

Strategies for making the most of Lang-8

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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.

Taemin commented

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

My answer: These are all very valid concerns. I’ve run into all these troubles using Lang-8 and I’m sure anyone has used Lang-8 even for just a bit has run into similar problems. How much to trust?

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Practice discernment. Not every correction is as valuable More

세상에서 가장 아름다운 음악 뭔가요?

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Another short monologue from   유인나의 볼륨을 높여요’s 12/09/03 podcast.

The script (thanks to kind friends at Lang-8) is below:

안녕하세요, 볼륨 가족 여러분. 가수 서영은입니다.
참 오래만인데요. 어떻게들 지내셨나요?
저는 꼬박 여덟 달 동안 처음 겪는 일들에 정신이라고는 정말
하나도 없이 살았답니다.

그런데 그 존재의
어떤 소리 들리면 그 모든 고충이 행복으로 바뀌는 그런 순간이 있어요. 정말 고마운 소리인데요.
제 몸속에서 잘 지내고 있다는 신호, 저희 아기의 심장 소리랍니다.
병원에 가서 이 작은 소리를 들을 때마다 저한테 막 빨리 보고 싶다고, 나 잘 있다고 막 외치는 것 같아요.
그러면 저도 아이한테 말하죠. More

Learning with pop songs

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I’ve been thinking more and more the last few days about how best to review pop songs with Anki when I came across a post about memorizing long poems by Soren Bjornstad in the Anki help system. He writes:

But it is quite possible to memorize a text with discrete unordered cards; you just have to do it the right way. Here is what I do for song lyrics, which are similar:
First, I go through the song. I know most of the songs I try to memorize quite well by the time I begin, but I find a recording and listen to it (and usually sing along) a couple of times. With poetry, you should read through it; it would probably help to read out loud if you can.

Then I go to Anki and create cards with two lines of context and one clozed line:

CARD 1:
Q:

This is the first line
And this is the second line
[…]
A: This is the third line

CARD 2:
Q: 
And this is the second line.
This is the third line.
[…]
A: 
This is the fourth line.

I have a Bash script that automates the procedure of creating these cards from a text file of lyrics; let me know if you’re interested in it.

Once I’ve learned all those cards, I find I can usually sing the song from memory, without ever having gone through the entire thing at all (except in my initial lookover). After you’ve had all the cards introduced for a couple of days, try to recite your poem: you’ll probably be surprised with how well you know it. If you’re still having trouble, take a look at the whole thing again on a piece of paper and try to sequence what you’re still missing, and study for a couple more days.

If you find you don’t know it well enough or are still struggling with putting things in order (which I find is rare, with two lines of context), you can create cards for each stanza and even a card for the entire thing, to make sure you can recite it that way as well. But don’t do this until you have learned the three-line groupings.

Note that, while reviewing, I always sing the entire context (out loud, if I’m alone) before attempting to recall the clozed line; I find this helps with being able to remember what comes next in time later on. (Okay, I lied, I skip this step if I know the entire clozed line off the top of my head in less than a second or so, as that clearly means I know it well enough.)

Interacting with your diary entries

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Usually when I write diaries I spit out what I want to write rather quickly, upload it to lang-8, and after it’s corrected respond to the comments (in Korean) and only briefly look at the corrections to see any mistakes that I made.

However I didn’t have a good way of reviewing the corrected diaries. I would sometimes for fun or inspiration read the old diary entries straight on the site but I didn’t have any systematic way of reviewing the words and grammar that I had been learned.

As part of my audio library I put it in Learn with Texts. Then I segment it line-by-line  with audacity, and put it in Anki so I can review it. I started this week and already have several diary entries recorded and about 30 cards (with audio) from my diary entries.

These cards really stick well.  Afterall, It’s my story, my ideas, my history. Read by someone else. These are words and phrases and stories I want to say later when I talk to people.

I also originally recorded with Rhinospike but stopped doing that after realizing that (unlike lang-8) there was no way to delete content or protect it after it was put up on rhinospike. I don’t mind much lang-8 readers or my friends on lang-8 reading some of my more personal entries, but i was about queasy about them being searchable on the larger internet.

Fortunately just as I was realizing it, someone on lang-8 out of the blue offered to record my diary entries daily if I would record hers in English. Of course I was more than happy to agree.  We paste our corrected diaries in a shared Google Docs page, and then record on a private audio recording on Sound Cloud.

Of course there is one main problem with using your diary for language input. For language input isn’t it best to use native-to-native resources? Isn’t there a good possibility that your diary entry will have mistakes?

The solution  seems two-fold. First, I depend heavily on lang-8. I combine the corrections I get from several different people there to get an entry that seems the most natural. Often I’ll re-post the corrected version on lang-8 again to get even more corrections that people didn’t see the first time. Then I’m fortunate that my friend who records the audio checks it again one last time before she records it to make sure there is nothing that sounds unnatural.

The second part of the solution is to realize that the input from diaries is useful but limited. It contains words I want to use, grammar that I’m trying to learn, (and perhaps most importantly) corrections to common mistakes that I make so my mistakes don’t get fossilized. And it’s recorded by a native speaker so you get native pronunciation and (somewhat) native intonation.

However it is no replacement to getting loads of audio content from native-to-native sources — dramas, radio podcasts, and the like. As much as I find a diary deck useful, I want to have a much larger deck of native-to-native audio content.

화이팅!

Spaces between Korean words 뛰어쓰기

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Although text messages are usually sent without any spaces at all, when writing Korean or for a longer letter, spaces are rather important.

Fortunately, a friend told me abou this new site that seems pretty cool — 자동 뛰어쓰기.

Sometimes where to put spaces between words is difficult to figure out in Korean. However, here if ou can put your Korean text  and it will put in automatically correct any spacing mistakes.

I’m going to try to use it for my lang-8 diary entries before I publish them to double-check to see if my spaces are correct.

Anki decks

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The last few days I’ve started to put some of my Anki decks online using the new Anki deck sharing system.

I’ve put two decks so far. I’ll continue updating them as I include more sentences and more audio.

My primary sentence deck is full of sentences and phrases (in all 7326 sentences) that I’ve been working through and collecting the last couple years. It’s built on the smaller deck I published a while ago — here (at 4598 cards) so it has all the slang (and more) that was in that original deck.

The second deck I’ve added is a TTMIK Deck with audio. All the sentence cards (in this much smaller deck) include audio from the lesson podcasts.

Most of the lessons in TTMIK are pretty easy. However the last few days I’ve quite enjoyed  listening to them. Although originally it was primarily a bid to solidify my foundations and improve my pronunciation and intonation the more I listened I realized there were often several grammar points or words I either didn’t know or was not hundred percent comfortable using (either because of pronunciation issues or a general haziness on exactly how to use them).

As I come across lessons where there are sentences I’d like to continue reviewing, I’ve added them to this TTMIK lesson deck. I’ll continue to do so, picking and choosing whatever lessons seem interesting at the moment. Besides being a useful review tool for me, I hope it will also be useful to other people who use TTMIK.

Future Goals:

  • Make a sentence deck from random podcasts I listen to (together with the audio). I’ll start with my all time favorite podcast — 유인나의 볼륨을 높여요.
  • Make a sentence deck with sentences from favorite dramas. (Along the lines of  subs-to-srs, although I haven’t got that program to work nicely yet — if you’ve had any luck please let me know.)
  • Get and include audio for all the sentences in my main deck.
  • Make a sentence deck with the monologues I’ve collected so far (including adding more monologues).
  • Make a deck with interesting sentences (either because of vocabulary or grammar) from the Iyagi podcasts over at TTMIK.

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