Learning tool of the week: Lang-8

For the next few weeks I’m aiming to bring you a review of a helpful language-learning app, site or other learning method each week. I can’t guarantee they’ll all be totally free, but the focus is on affordable and accessible learning tools: no plugs for Rosetta Stone or expensive books and courses here.

This week, a fantastic recent discovery: Lang-8

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This isn’t the catchiest or most excitingly named or designed site, but it more than makes up for that with its excellent learning method and great online community.

So what is Lang-8? Basically, it’s an online language-exchange community with a simple premise: native speakers of your target language correct your work, whilst you correct the work of people who are learning your language.

How do I use it? You register with a brief profile about yourself, your native language and the language/s you’re learning. You can then write your first text to be corrected.

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I’m using it at the moment for Italian, but will try French soon as well. You then write a short text about anything you like in that language. My first attempt was a brief description of myself and why I want to learn Italian, but it could be about anything at all.

Then, native speakers will correct it for you! So here’s an example of how someone has corrected my first attempt.

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They can also type an explanation underneath about where you went wrong… Just like when your teacher wrote all over everything with red pen at school.

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Easy peasy and quite fun! It’s a great way to get feedback on your work and to find out what you’re doing wrong. Sometimes if you’re focussing too much on cramming vocab or running through a learning programme, you don’t get much of a chance to get feedback and corrections, so this is a fantastic way to get native-speaker input.

What about correcting other people’s work?

This is the cool thing about Lang-8. In return for lovely Italians helping me, I can go and correct texts written by people from all sorts of places who are trying to learn English.

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You run through things line by line. If it’s all hunky-dory you press ‘perfect’. If it leaves a little to be desired, you make the corrections and leave a quick explanation below. Just like marking school work 😉

It’s quite fun and doesn’t take a horrible amount of time. It also gives me the good feeling of helping out a fellow learner.

Cost?

Totally free for all the features I’ve mentioned. There’s a premium version (7 USD a month) which offers various additional features such as learning additional languages and saving work as PDFs. But the free site is so great that you don’t need to go Premium unless you really want to.

Overall assessment

An awesome tool to improve grammar, fluency and style. Of course it only really helps with improving your writing and won’t actually teach you anything new, but it does what it does pretty well. I’ve had a lot of fun correcting other people’s work and I’m excited to write some more texts. It seems people on there are very friendly and helpful and willing to help you improve.

I tend to think there’s a huge gap in the market for tools for intermediate to advanced learners, but Lang-8 fills that gap excellently. Native speaker input is lacking in a lot of DIY language-learning regimes, and that’s exactly what Lang-8 gives you.

I’m very impressed and aim to write at least a couple of texts on there per week. If you’re inspired to try it, feel free to add me as a friend (I’m littlenumber9).

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