Lang-8 Quite Possibly the Best Way to Practice Your Japanese Writing

    lang8 logo

    The title of this post says it all. Lang-8 is an absolutely amazing way to practice your Japanese. I’ve been using Lang-8 for about six months now, and plan on using it a lot more this summer. It is a mix of social networking and language learning, though I think the emphasis lands mostly on the latter. Although it’s not a website just for Japanese language learning, that’s what I’ll be talking about for the most part today. Those that are learning Korean, Chinese (traditional and simplified), English, Spanish, and Japanese are all invited…though that makes me wonder, why is it called Lang-8? Maybe they are planning on adding other languages later. Perhaps if a Lang-8 staff is reading this, they can fill us all in.

    Anyways, I should explain to you what Lang-8 is all about. They do a better job explaining it than I do, so here you go:

    explanation graphic for lang8

    Let me explain these three steps in more detail

    1. You can write entries in the languages you are studying

    So, say you are studying Japanese (which you probably are, if you’re visiting this site). On Lang-8, the most-used feature is the “diary” (yes, you get to be a 12 year old girl all over again. Sorry, no ponies on this site, though). In your diary, you can write whatever you want. I plan on using my diary this summer to fix mistakes on my Koichiben posts. Basically, you can write about whatever you want. Some people write about current news that interests them, others write about their lives, and some (like me) write crazy articles about American culture and language.

    If you’re nice enough, you’ll also write everything in your native language (Japanese and then, afterwards, in English). This way, others can see what the translation is supposed to be and can help correct your Japanese with more accuracy. On top of this, it gives people that are learning English an opportunity to practice their reading more.

    2. Other users (Native speakers) correct your entries

    After you write an article, all you need to do is sit back and wait for your friends to correct it for you. Since you are learning Japanese, native Japanese speakers will come along and fix your mistakes, give you comments/suggestions, and tell you anything else you did wrong. Here’s an example of part of an article I put up about “the meaning of the word love in America.” Here are Miki’s corrections:

    example of lang8 corrections

    The corrections are in blue on your diary page, so you can easily see how people made changes, which in turn really helps you to learn. Users can also highlight text red, make things bold, and cross words out. More on that later.

    3. You can help teach others your own language as well

    You can’t just take take take, right? It’s always a good idea to help others as well. If you can speak English, then why not help a native Japanese person with their English, and practice your Japanese reading at the same time (since people usually write in both their native language and the language they are learning)? Recent diary entries from your friends will show up on your front page, so they are easy to find. Here is an example diary entry from a user than I am Lang-8 “friends” with. This person seems to have taken the “recent news” approach, and is writing about some old actress:

    example of lang8 diary feature

    After reading the diary entry, I’ll scroll down a little farther and find the section that allows me to make corrections, sentence by sentence. It looks like this:

    lang8 correction options

    Everyone has their own way of making corrections, so you’ll have to figure out your own style at some point. Either way, Lang-8 makes it easy to make corrections and make them simple, so it’s really a pleasure to help others out (and a pleasure for others to help you).

    Making Friends in Lang-8:

    Unlike Mixi, making friends on Lang-8 is very easy. Everyone using the service wants to make friends, even if they don’t know you already. The more friends you have the faster and more thoroughly your diaries will be corrected. When going out and making Lang-8 friends, I would suggest that you only make friends with people whose native language is Japanese. This makes things a lot more simple.

    To make friends on Lang-8, I created tabs of everyone on the “People match to your language study!” (great English, right?) section (on the left side of your profile page). I then hit the “add to my friends list button” if they were native Japanese speakers and sent them the following message. Feel free to use it if you want:

    hi! lang-8に入ったばっかりです! お友達になりませんか? よろしくお願いいたします

    It is basically saying: “I just got into Lang-8! Will you be my friend? I’m looking forward to your reply.” It’s also very polite, so you won’t have to worry about offending anyone.

    Other Lang-8 Features:

    There are some other features on Lang-8 that I don’t really use, but are worth mentioning.

    One of the things you can do, which is a lot like writing in your diary, is to write a review of something (movie, game, restaurant, whatever). I don’t see why you can’t just do this in your diary, though, so I’m not sure how much you’ll use this feature.

    The other feature, which is slightly more useful, is the ability to join groups. There aren’t a ton of groups out there, but if you can find one that matches your interests, then maybe you’ll be able to enjoy it enough to make things worthwhile. I personally haven’t joined any groups yet, but maybe you are the groupy kind of person.

    Cons:

    I couldn’t find too much wrong with Lang-8, though the design of the site bothers me (maybe I’m just a very picky / visual person). It’s pretty darn fugly, though, if you ask me. Still, you shouldn’t let this bother you or stop you from using Lang-8, it’s still a great service, and content is king, right?

    Another con is that you really need to have your Japanese basics down before you get started (not Lang-8’s fault, only yours, you lazy bum). It’s all about reading and writing, so if you’re unable to do those things at least on a basic level, then you need to hit the books before signing up.

    Lastly, you have to make friends before you can really start to appreciating it. This usually involves a day or two of blindly asking 40-50 random people to be your friend. Luckily, the response rate is pretty fast, and the success rate is pretty high. Still, this is the internet, and nobody on the internet is patient.

    Conclusion:

    Yeah, Lang-8 is amazing. You should really go visit them right now, if you’re learning Japanese. Using this website to its full potential is quite possibly the best thing ever. Sometimes I feel like I learn more from Lang-8 than from real teachers, mostly thanks to the format of the corrections. Here, I’ll even provide you with a big button you can press to join Lang-8. Making things easier, one Tofugu user at a time:

    Oh, and here’s a video review:

    Lang-8 by The Lang-8 People!

    Pros

    • Easy to Make Friends
    • Native Speakers correct your entries
    • Unique "diary" feature is great

    Cons

    • Web Design isn't very pretty
    • Need to know the basics before you join

    Overall Rating

    9

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