When studying a foreign language, learning to write holds a special place because one can attain a fairly high level of competency without actually living in a country where that language is spoken. This is because both reading, an important related skill, and writing itself can be learned and practiced with just a computer and an internet connection. Strictly speaking, an internet connection isn’t needed for the writing part, but looking up words and related background knowledge is made much easier by online tools. Just to be clear, when I say “writing” I am focusing mostly on the aspect of creating sentences using words and grammar, not the actual process of writing each character by hand, though that can also be learned regardless of where you live.
Despite the fact writing is much easier to learn than conversation in many respects, I feel that sometimes it can be hard to get into the habit or periodic writing practice, especially if you are self-studying or are currently in between taking language classes.
In recent years there have been several websites where you can get feedback on your Japanese, and while these can be useful I feel they have some significant drawbacks. One of the biggest ones to me is the lack of personal connection, or community, when using websites being used by millions of people. Also, they may not provide the level of motivation you need to keep up your writing practice frequently enough.
So, after some thought, I’ve decided to create a little program leveraging this blog, dubbed Japanese Writing Lab, which helps to motivate people to practice writing in Japanese more, provides feedback on their writing, and allows them to see posts of other Japanese learners.
Here is a few simple steps describing how this program will work:
- I’ll write posts with the title “Japanese Writing Lab #X”, where I give a simple assignment, or theme, such as “self-introduction” or “an anime series I like”. I will start with a frequency of once a week, but depending on participation and other factors I may post these more often.
- Anyone interested can write a few paragraphs in Japanese on the given topic and post it via one of two options:
- For those who have a blog (WordPress or anywhere else is fine): post it on your blog, and post a comment to my article where the topic was introduced, along with a link to your post. I also suggest adding a link on your post back to the original topic post, so people who find your post can follow it to read other people’s submissions.
- For those who don’t have a blog: simply post it as a comment to the article where the topic was introduced. [Note: creating a blog is pretty easy and free on many sites, so if you are in this category I’d just consider trying to create a blog]
- I will read all the submissions from everyone, and try to make constructive comments including grammar mistakes or wording suggestions. (If you don’t like others reading these comments and you are posting on your own blog, you can just read them and delete them without making them public)
- I highly recommend to all participants that they read the submissions from other participants. Feel free to leave your own constructive comments, or simply give a motivational “nice job” message.
- As an optional step, I recommend telling anyone you think might be interested about this program. The more people, the better chance of everyone having their stuff read and commented on, and the more opportunities to meet other people.
While I may give a suggested length for each topic, you can write as long as you want (even a few sentences is fine). Just be conscious that the longer your submissions, the less likely others will read it to the end and provide helpful commentary, so you might want to limit yourself to a few paragraphs.
There are no requirements in terms of experience, and this program is open to anyone of any level from complete beginner to expert. While I can personally point out grammar errors and give general suggestions, having other advanced students will be a plus to provide even more feedback to the less experienced learners. If you are going to write comments on other’s submissions, I prefer that you do make your own submissions just for the sake of fairness, though if you consider yourself fluent in Japanese (either native or not) you can be excepted from this.
Just so everyone can gain the most from this program, let’s all please use English as the primary language for giving comments about grammar or unnatural phrases, although if the content is simple (ex: “good job”) you can of course use Japanese as well.
I’ll be participating myself, since I need to work on my writing just like everyone else, and I’m always open to any comments or questions about my own writing.
I’m aiming this to have the feel of a virtual classroom, so those who don’t have an opportunity to take a class in person can benefit from that type of environment. I’m also open to any feedback about the program itself, either before it starts or midway through.
I’m aiming to send out the first email with a suggested topic in the next week or two.
If you might be interested in participating, feel free to like this post just to give me a heads up on what size a group to expect initially.