Today I’m going to talk about a website that I find very useful, and maybe some of you will also like. It’s called Lang-8, and it’s a good resource for foreign language learners, specially for the self-taught. I have talked about this site with some friends, and I recommended it to my students, and none of them knew about it, so I want to spread the word in case this can be helpful for more people.
The basic principle of Lang-8 is that when you create your profile you select your mother tongue and the foreign language that you are studying -you can select up to 2 foreign languages if you are a free user, unlimited languages if you are a Premium user- and right after creating your profile you can start writing! You can write texts in the language you are learning and native speakers will correct them, so you can see the mistakes you made and, if you are lucky, the person who corrects your text may also take the time to explain why what you wrote was wrong. You can also correct texts that people who study your mother tongue have written. Since there are many users in Lang-8, usually someone will correct your text -called journal in this site- in a matter of minutes or hours. This depends, of course, on which language you are learning. If you are learning English, or Spanish or another popular language, your texts will be corrected faster than if you study a more exotic language such as Georgian, because there are more users whose mother tongue is English than Georgian. But still, your texts will be corrected as long as there are users who speak that language as their mother tongue. If you study a very exotic language you can check whether there are any native speakers in the site, just in case. To follow with the example of Georgian: As I write this there are 112 native speakers of Georgian registered in Lang-8, so no worries : )
Lang-8 is a free service, but they offer the possibility of becoming a premium user paying $63 per year. Premium users have some advantages, but you can make the most out of the website for free. You can see the advantages of a Premium account here (click to enlarge):
I have been using Lang-8 since September 2012 to practise my Finnish and I’m very happy with this site. You can write texts about whatever you want, short texts or long texts, isolated sentences or a long essay about any topic you want. I think that this is very useful to improve your language skills, because when you sit down and decide to write a text about what you did yesterday you also have to look up some words in a dictionary, check some grammar books if you are not sure about how to say something, etc, and this is really useful to learn. Then, once someone has corrected your text you can go through the corrections carefully to make sure you learn from your mistakes.
If you also take some time to correct texts written in your mother tongue you will be helping other people as well, and it doesn’t really take a lot of time. Some weeks ago the website introduced a system of points, called L-points, to encourage people to correct texts instead of only writing them. Every time you correct a text you earn some points, and the more points you have, the upper your texts will be in the “To-be-corrected” list.
Anybody who wants to learn a foreign language and has a basic or intermediate level will find this site useful. Learners of an advanced level can also find Lang-8 useful, but if they don’t usually make mistakes when writing in their language of study, they will not make the most out of the possibilities it offers. Something that you need when using Lang-8 is determination, because no one is going to ask you to write texts and practise your skills, you just have to take the time to write about something and check the dictionary as many times as you need to. But once someone corrects your text and you can see how well you did, you will be rewarded with the feeling of having learnt something.
If you follow my recommendation and decide to give Lang-8 a try, let me know what you think about it!
Happy language studies!