As always, I’ve been trying to find more outlets to use Korean and Japanese and recently I started using Lang-8 for that very purpose. Lang-8 is a social networking site for language learners where you can basically maintain a blog in the language you are attempting to learn. Native speakers can then correct your entries and leave comments and you can do the same for others. You can also have “friends” who you can message privately and whose entries show up on your homepage to be corrected. Video introduction below:
So far, I’ve written two entries in Japanese and one entry in Korean and all of them were corrected by native speakers within minutes. Corrections can be made by bolding and crossing out words or by add text in two different colors; there’s really no protocol on how to use these correction tools, although one Korean speaker who corrected my entry came up with this logical method: Crossing out and red for incorrect words, blue for more natural sounding words/phrases. I’ve also tried to help out a few of my friends with their English in a similar manner. Another great feature is access to a dictionary and Google translate (which I avoid like the plague) right below the space for inputting your entry.
Honestly, I think Lang-8 is a great concept. Whether or not it’s executed as well as it could be is another question. The website was launched four years ago and, in that period, I feel like a lot of improvements could have been made. It’s kind of unattractive, little unwieldy to navigate. But then again I’m not a web-designer so it’s really not my place to say this.
Lang-8 has really made think about English from a foreigner’s perspective. I’m extra careful when I correct people’s grammar or spelling and I never try to complicate matters more than I have to. Sometimes I find myself in a tricky situation. For example, I came across a post that was basically a recipe for kimchi fried rice. In the directions, this person had written stuff like and “heat water” and “put vegetables in pan.” That actually sounds pretty natural. Recipes and protocols tend to be written without articles BUT does the writer actually know that? It’s difficult to tell.
And now I have a bone to pick with native English speakers. I find that all of the people who have corrected me on my Japanese and Korean are encouraging, gracious, and, most importantly, reasonable with their corrections. That’s not always the case with English speakers. Even when it’s obvious the person is only a beginner in English, I still see tons of English speakers who leave long, detailed explanations (in English) after completely rewriting that person’s sentences using advanced grammar and vocabulary. I even saw one person literally say, “I can’t even understand what you’re trying to say.” That’s completely rude and unacceptable.
Although I haven’t corrected many entries yet, these are the rules I plan to follow:
- Gauge a person’s level in English. – Obviously, the more the advanced the level, the more nitpicky you can get. You have to gear your corrections and explanations so that the person can understand and learn from them.
- Correct as little as possible. – It’s really discouraging for a person (especially a beginner) to see their entry marked over completely in red. If it is grammatical and it makes sense DON’T CHANGE IT.
- Avoid “stylistic” changes. – As in, don’t change something that’s in passive voice to active voice or vice versa. Most of the time, that’s a stylistic preference and the meaning of the sentence is unchanged. It really frustrates me to see corrections like this.
- Do not change vocabulary. – Unless it is really incorrect or unnatural (in that case, I usually make sure to indicate that “so-and-so” is more natural.) But changing out one word for a synonymous one is unnecessary and might confuse the learner.
- Avoid using slang. – Or at least make it known that it’s slang if you absolutely must use it.
- Make sure your OWN English grammar and spelling is correct. – How many times have I cringed when a person has misspelled something or misused a word in their own correction?
- Be encouraging. – Goes without saying. Be nice about how you make your corrections and then leave a positive comment after you’re done. Personally, I always feel good when someone says 잘 하시네요 to me, even if I’ve made tons of mistakes and they’re just being polite.