If you know me personally, and have spoken to me about language learning, you’ll know how passionate I am about Lang-8. I’ve been using it for years and years to learn Japanese and consider it the one learning aid that has given me the most advancement in my studies.
In Lang-8, you write diaries in the language(s) that you are studying. Here is some Chinese I wrote some time last week. For beginners like myself, it’s best to put your native language underneath – even when I write in Japanese now sometimes people request the English. I feel kind offended when it happens with Japanese but I need it for Chinese because half of the time I’m pulling sentences out of my brain that may or may not even make sense!
Once you’ve finished your diary, you can publish it – then native speakers will come and correct your sentences. I remember the very first time I used it for my Japanese, when I was in my second year of uni. I felt so confident that my Japanese (a simple self-intro) was pretty decent, but then it got ripped to shreds by the Japanese users. This will happen no matter how good your language is, because the community gets pretty competitive about it. In order to thank the people correcting your sentences, you can award them with stars.
If you get a really friendly user, they might leave a nice little explanation for you as well. I find that the Chinese users are more prone to do this than the Japanese ones.
Once you’ve written your own diary and you’re waiting for some more corrections, you might like to thank your new friends by correcting their diaries too. If you see someone else’s corrections (like above – these aren’t mine) and you think they are good, you can click to say so. If you have a comment about a correction that you think is incorrect, you might like to quote it and show your concern – as I did with that last correction there. There is a lot of discourse between UK English speakers and US English speakers with some arguments over what is correct… did I mention that people get really serous about their corrections?!
It’s easy to make corrections too, with colour coding and other elements to make sure that your corrections are easily understood.
I don’t use this now as much as I used to – I’m just getting to the point with my Chinese where I can write things like this – but especially at uni, Lang-8 was a really good resource with essay writing, and then when I was in Japan I used it as a correction service when I wanted to write things like letters of complaint. These days I use it to write in Chinese, then I print out the corrections and work through my mistakes and the corrections with my Chinese teacher.
If you’re learning a language, I highly recommend this site – you can use it for free too (paid elements are also available but I never use those). If there’s anyone out there who already uses Lang-8, let me know how you find it!