How to write Diary Entries

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Hardly a day goes by where I don’t post entries at lang-8, sometimes one but usually several. Although now it seems such an important part of language study,  it took a while for me to get in the swing of using it regularly. The last few days I’ve been thinking of some of the strategies that helped me get in the swing. For one thing

Write quickly. Don’t think too much about what you want to write, choose a topic, get some ideas together and spit it out. I want my writing to be as close to how my speaking will be, and I know that I’ll be frustrated if I spend a lot of time working on one diary entry. And secondly,

Be prolific. If you write quickly and you are not worried about how many sentences are in each entry, you can spit out several diary entries every day.

If you want to write a longer or more complicated piece, I’d prefer writing smaller things first and then piecing them together instead of trying a long complicated piece all in one setting.

Tip: There’s a way I help do this — when I’m by myself waiting for something or on the bus I tend to try to think of a diary entry that I want to write, and draw it up in a rough form in my mind. I feel this is part of learning how to think more in Korean and it’s nice when all I need to do is type it out when I find a computer.

When I first started writing diary entries it took 45 minutes to write a small diary entry. But now I can write Korean diary entries much faster than English ones — usually in less than five minutes.

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!

Video diary entries

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I’ve started recording my lang-8 entries so I get practice speaking my sentences out loud. Yesterday I made my first of these podcasts — uploading it as a youtube video so that people can easily listen to it in lang-8.

I’ve tried to make Korean podcasts regularly before but the production of those podcasts was a lot more involved. After they were written I had them corrected, and then often edited them again to get exactly what I wanted before I recorded them. It was fun but it also took a lot of time. I find I do more language entries the easier they are to do. At first I told myself I had to write long diary entries. Now I don’t have any problem writing a diary entry of of only a sentence or two. The lower entry barrier means I can write diary entries more often (often several time a day) and I feel my Korean has improved quite a lot as a result.

My next goal — try making the barrier for making audio podcasts also low. Either I’ll record myself speaking freestyle in Korean (I did this once before and it turned out pretty ok) or just read whatever entry I wrote earlier in the day.

10 Ideas for Writing a Foreign Language Diary

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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 More