Last week in this language learning series we talked about ways to practice and improve our reading in other languages. Now, on to writing.
Once again, I’m going to assume you know the writing system of your target language. If not, you’ll need to run some searches, like “touch type (language)” and “writing worksheets (language)”. Here are the ones I like for Russian: Typing & Worksheets. I haven’t found one I like for Hebrew or Hindi, so if you’ve got suggestions, please leave them in the comments.
My absolute favorite site for writing is Lang8. You write in the language you’re learning, post the writing, and wait for corrections. For your first two languages it’s free, after that you can pay for a membership and use it for unlimited languages.
In turn, you also correct other people’s writings. I try to correct three pieces for every two corrections that I receive, because not only do some people not do any corrections, but not everyone speaks a language that others are currently studying. I have been privileged to grow up speaking English, and for me to spend a bit of extra time helping people who are trying to improve their English, seems a small thing.
You can also set up a pen pal or text exchange through various sites. I don’t have one to recommend as I’m focusing my writing on Lang8 right now. Personally, I suggest setting up a separate email address that you can just delete if you encounter someone who makes you uncomfortable and won’t go away.
Also, it’s a good idea to have a few stock phrases in case your conversations start veering into uncomfortable territory. Things like “This is making me uncomfortable, let’s talk about (topic).” Not only does having phrases like this give you something calm and civil to say when surprised in the moment, it’s also a bit of a test. Different cultures have different societal norms, like when discussing money. In come cultures discussion of income is a complete taboo, while in others it’s a common topic. The same goes for things like marital status and children. This way, you can make your boundaries clear and see if they push back. If they do push back, then you’ll know to walk away.Most people are happy to hear you trying to use their language, and will help you as best they… Click To Tweet
Translations are another great way to practice. I love the Duolingo Immersion section for this, though it is only available for their in-house languages. Once you have an account and have selected your languages, you can start translating immediately. Choose your categories of interest and difficulty level and you’re ready to go. A few things to note: Anyone can edit your translations, so don’t become attached to them. I like to think of it as collaborating, even if the other person doesn’t recognize it. Also, there are many children on the site, and on occasion, they act like it. If you encounter a problem you can flag it, talk a moderator, or message abuse.
You are going to make mistakes. It’s just part of the learning process. When we get wound up about being perfect and never making mistakes, we get incredibly anxious. For language learning, that increased level of anxiety makes it harder to focus on pulling the right word from memory. So, when you start spinning into anxiety and becoming afraid to speak, stop. Literally stop everything and take a breath. Get out the words that you know, with the idea that you will learn a better way once you’ve made your point. Find out how to say “What is the best way to say that?” Then if you have to, repeat your attempt. If you’re at a true loss, you can lean the translation for “How do I say (word or phrase in English)?”
Most people are happy to hear you trying to use their language, and will help you as best they can. And frankly, anyone who is mean about your mistakes is no one worth spending your time around anyway. Language learning should be an enjoyable experience, so please don’t put up with that kind of behavior, you deserve better.
ps. I have a pinterest board just for you language learners, come check it out!
This is the second of a four part series, come back next week for the next post on listening. If you missed it, the first part was on reading, go give it a look.
If you have any tips on practicing listening in another language, please share them in the comments!