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

Highlights. . . looking back at the road behind

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I tend to look at the road ahead. . . the challenges to overcome and the things left to learn and master. Sometimes it’s helpful to look behind as well and see some of the mountains behind me.

The last few months there been a couple cool things that happened.

1. I did my first interpreting ever. I was with a friend at a meeting with twenty or so Koreans. The speaker was speaking in English and the Korean guy who had be delegated as the translator was suffering from diabetes so they suddenly told me to interpet. I’d never done that before, specially not from English to Korean, so I was incredibly nervous at first. However after the first minute or so I started to enjoy translating.

2. I started working as free-lance translator. With my money supply running out here in More

Lexicarry

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As I keep writing my strategies I’m a little discouraged because the first two ideas didn’t work. Of course I haven’t let the seeds grow very much, and you often don’t know people who can help off the bat. However, it’s a bit disappointing.

I had a 2hr session with M*. We covered a lot of Korean in Lexicarry but also there was too much talking in English. I think she is someone I want to start talking only in Korean with at least for part of our time, because sometimes we talk way too much in English. We did talk about a lot of useful things, and I learn a lot from her. Maybe our sessions are more useful than with her boyfriend. In either case there is too much English for my liking. I think with her now I’ll mainly do Lexicarry and maybe also reading help. We also worked on learning how to pray.

More Strategies
2.6. I have a new strategy for finding someone to record my textbooks. Stop by the public library, study some there and ask someone there if they can help me. I’m not sure how to ask anybody in Korean which makes strategy 3, 4,5 and this new strategy a bit more complicated.

3. Keep track of my hours better.