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

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.