Not so fast kids! Don’t let the title mislead you! This is for anyone who is learning Japanese, comfortable with their hiragana and katakana, and a bit past the newbie stage. The site may be a bit intimidating since it’s not really tailored to the beginner student. But if I can benefit… so can you!
Being a J-Noob can be frightening sometimes! You’re learning to decipher all these crazy looking symbols and then you’re told that it is just the beginning. One thing is reading and understanding this “jibberish”… but do you think you’ll ever actually be communicating with other human beings?
Once you get to a certain level, you’re more comfortable with reciting certain lines that are part of basic conversations. You know a lot of vocabulary and are able to pick it up from conversations. You’re learning your grammar. Nice. As far as writing goes, using worksheets and doodling in your notebook will only get you so far. What about using your knowledge out in the real world? This is where Lang-8 comes in.
Basic Overview: Lang-8 is a site for language learners to practice their skills by writing journals on anything they wish and getting them corrected almost instantly by native speakers of the target language.
Cost: FREE!!!! Optional Premium membership… good for avid users, not necessary.
The Catch?: Give back to the site by correcting journals for people who are learning your native language.
So this site is usually recommended to Intermediate/Advanced users, which is why I stayed away from it for so long. I made an account way back when and did a little browsing. I was so intimidated after seeing journals from Japanese natives who were learning English and were very advanced. But I’m glad I was able to get over this fear.
I’m not gonna lie… it’s not going to be a walk in the park for my fellow J-noobs. Google Translate and Jisho.org are my best friends when I’m writing my journals. I try to stick with vocabulary I already know, but in the beginning looking words up is inevitable. And you’re going to be putting yourself out there. When I translate my sentences from Japanese into English, I sound like a 5 year old. And I’ll make stupid mistakes from time to time. I am well past knowing the difference between ”いる” and “ある”, but I still mix them up every once in awhile.
As embarrassing as some of my posts may be, they have definitely helped me improve immensely. I learn so much about the language through my friends’ suggestions. Looking back at my first post is humiliating, but rewarding when I think of how far I’ve come in only 6 posts! Lang-8 is best when used frequently, so I am trying to write more often.
So beginners… as long as you know your kana and are familiar with a little grammar you’ll be ok (just be sure to mention you won’t be using much kanji or you’ll get tons of kanji corrections!) Remember to be kind to your fellow language learners as well… help them out a little! You will get so much more in return and will have fun learning about their culture through their journals. It’s just a win-win-win with this site!