Conveying your thoughts in Japanese can be quite difficult. Reading and listening to Japanese is one thing; speaking and writing Japanese is quite another. And if you don’t live in Japan or have your own Japanese clique yet, outputting Japanese isn’t an easy habit to get yourself in.
That’s why you should use Lang-8. It’s a language exchange blogging service, which sounds funny but works really well. The concept is pretty simple: Write blogs in your target language and get it corrected by people who have spoken it their whole life.
It can be intimidating to start writing in Japanese, especially if you’ve never done so before. I’d encourage you to give it a try, though, even if you don’t feel very confident. It’s fine to make mistakes. In my first blog post, I didn’t even spell こんにちは right!
You will make a lot of mistakes, but you’ll also learn a lot from them. You usually don’t have to wait long for corrections, and everyone is very kind and polite (this is Japan, after all). Be sure to thank them for their time and give them a few stars (Lang-8 currency of choice) for their trouble. You don’t necessarily need to write very often, but I like to keep myself on a schedule.
Of course, if you want help with your writing, it’s only polite to return the favor. There are plenty of people in Japan with broken English who need some help with their language learning too. Take your time. You don’t want to make a mistake when correcting and mess up their English.
While it’s necessary to pay it forward, don’t spend too much time immersing yourself in English. It’s a very easy trap to fall into… fixing jumbled-up English is a lot more fun than it sounds! If you still feel guilty, you could try correcting their journal or leaving a comment in Japanese.
Don’t forget to make some friends while you’re there. Be a nice guy and leave a few smiley faces on people’s blogs and everyone will want to be your friend. Learn how to write a friend request and send a few yourself, too. Some friendships will never go beyond a nice comment on the other’s blog, but you can get to know them a bit better if you’d like.
Many people leave their Skype information lying around or will give it to you if you ask, and it can be a great way to find some good language exchange partners if you decide to go down that road. Also, your friend’s entries will appear at the top of the home page so you can give them special attention. (And get special attention yourself!)
Also, as a little bonus, you can find a lot of good Japanese sentences to read and to review on Lang-8 too. Some users will write their posts in both English and Japanese, which is great because it’s authentic Japanese and the sentences are often fairly simple as well.
If you are looking for a fun way to improve your writing skills, give Lang-8 a go. Have you ever tried it out? How did it work out for you?
Written by: Eric