Lang-8 and my aversion to failure

I think most of my language-learning energy lately has been spent on actually studying, leaving me with no opportunity to write about it. That’s not a bad thing, but obviously makes for a rather boring blog!

Anyway, a quick note about Lang-8. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, you can post writing in languages you’re learning there and receive corrections from native speakers. In return, you should correct people who post things in your native language(s).

I love the site; I’ve used it before, years ago, before I stumbled into the language-learning blogosphere or anything like that. And it was useful — it always seemed intuitively useful to me, and when I actually wrote there, it was really helpful. But I have a strange resistance to using it. I’ll do tons of conversation exchanges and read a billion news articles before I write anything there. Maybe because you can sort of fumble your way through a conversation and in most cases no conversation partner is going to correct every single thing you get wrong.

But with writing, because it’s not spontaneous, it feels like it takes so much more effort, and if you keep making a lot of mistakes (particularly similar ones) then it feels disrespectful to the people who are correcting your posts, like you’re not doing a good enough job in absorbing the things they’re telling you, or not being serious enough. I feel a responsibility towards these people somehow!

I haven’t figured out a good system to capture the corrections I get, either. I know there’s a notebook system on there to paste in things, but I’d rather integrate the corrections into something like Anki. The problem is, unless it’s something very straightforward like vocabulary, I’m not sure I’m using Anki to its full potential. (I’m sure there’s a good way to do grammar review with Anki that fits with the way my mind organizes itself, but I haven’t been able to make myself experiment until I find it yet.)

I also fear that, if I start writing on Lang-8 again, I won’t be able to keep up writing there. And that would feel like a failure and… when I’m struggling mentally, I’m super failure-averse. Why start when I’m only going to stop again? (Writing that down, I can see how illogical that is, but that’s how the troublesome part of my brain works.)

So, feeling guilty for being a “bad” language learner and not being able to efficiently use the corrections I get — this seems to be enough to kick my avoidance into full gear. I really, really should use Lang-8. And yet… and yet.

How do you use Lang-8? Is there another tool or website that “everyone” says is amazing that you just can’t get into? How do you organize notes from these things? And how do you get over your resistance?

(Relatedly: Ramblings From An Imperfect Language Learner, which also includes some stuff about depression — always glad to see more people talking about that!)

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10 comments

    1. Hm, thanks for that — I’m familiar with the cloze deletion method in general (though don’t often use it), but that’s interesting. I appreciate that the point of that is that you eventually absorb the grammar through what “sounds” right, after having read billions of examples, though I also think I would like a way to effectively drill myself on grammar rules. I probably need to just play around with it more, though that takes energy/drive/focus I don’t always have… !

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  1. I also feel bad about not really integrating the corrections I get into some study thing. I usually write them down in my notebook and sometimes that’s enough to make them stick, but the rest of the time…

    I realized though that when I help correct other people’s posts I don’t usually go back to the same person, or even if I do I don’t remember their previous errors, so I try to remember that probably no one is closely monitoring me. I have more trouble with the posting because it feels like it just takes a huge chunk of time! I can’t even spit out an email in English without overthinking it, of course I can’t in another language! But that’s also a vicious cycle because I know if I write more I’d get better at writing and eventually correct any repeated mistakes. Busuu was nice because it gives you prompts, but they don’t have Mandarin. So yeah, I guess short answer is that I’m just gonna keep bumbling along ┐(˚ – ˚)┌

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    1. That’s a good point about how people probably aren’t closely monitoring you! Though I know when I was using lang-8 myself, I tended to friend people pretty freely and then prioritize their posts for corrections. But I don’t think I ever thought, “I told this person not to do mistake X last week and here they are doing it again, I can’t believe it!” So probably — hopefully — no one would think the same of me!

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  2. I’ve recently returned to Lang-8 as I did quite enjoy it when I used it a few years back, I felt the worst when people offered corrections that I didn’t quite understand – but then, I learnt something! The resource that I’ve struggled to get into would be Anki, I use Cram instead. When I’ve come across something new I make note of it in a notebook and try and make an example sentence out of it. I find I can’t keep to a regular routine and this has made me feel really bad at times, so as long as I find a bit of time every day, it helps ^^

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    1. Hm, I haven’t heard of Cram — I’ll have to check it out. I know what you mean about getting corrections you don’t understand, though sometimes I just couldn’t parse them enough to learn anything, heh. (For me I think that happened most at lower levels, but I hope for my languages now I’m at a level where I would be able to ask for clarification and understand the replies.)

      I think a lot of my problem in not making clear notes or not referring back to them is that my desk space is still a mess, and not in a state that I can easily change (I need to rearrange my computer setup, which is complicated for boring reasons). I need to work on that…

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  3. I’m a bit old school in that I write my entries out by hand first, then when I go through the corrections from lang-8 I mark them up like a teacher would. After that I write out the whole corrected version again by hand (in a different notepad). I then I have something I can go back and read. The idea is that this will help me internalise the correct version and develop the feeling of what sounds right. And I can focus on this nice, corrected version instead of the first ‘draft’.

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    1. That sounds like a really good strategy! Also, I like the physical act of writing by hand (though I’ve had some RSI-type issues that have made this more challenging, alas) — and there’s something about how it makes me slow down that sometimes makes whatever I’m doing feel like a special treat, something precious I’m taking the time to do for myself. Hmmmm, I may have to consider trying this!

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  4. It’s worth a try. 🙂 Typing it out could have a similar effect. It’s not so cathartic but it still means you focus on the end result (the corrected work) and not the first draft.

    I also forgot to mention that I do those two steps (going through the corrections and writing it out again) on different days. As 1) I’m usually tired after sorting through the corrections and 2) writing it out again is an ‘easy’ activity I can do on a day where I don’t have time or energy to learn something new.

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