Forums (also called “message boards” or “question and answer sites”) are one of the great things about the internet since they allow fast, global discussion about nearly any topic you can imagine. Discussions on foreign languages for learners is no exception, and there are many things to ask about: word meanings, grammar, what sounds “natural”, culture, etc.
Because they are so useful and easy to set up, foreign language (and other) forums are a dime-a-dozen on the net, which includes those for Japanese. I’ve frequented a few in my years of studying the language, though lately I’ve gotten by mostly with Google searching, asking Japanese speakers, and Oshiete Goo’s forums (in Japanese).
Just the other day I stumbled upon yet another forum for Japanese study, “Japanese Language Stack Exchange” (JLSE), when I found a few references to it in the view statistics from this blog because someone had linked to a page of mine to help explain a point. While the general functionality of it isn’t much different than all the others, I think the sites usability and a bunch of little features make it one of the better ones out there. It’s actually part of the Stack Exchange Q&A community, which contains the popular site Stack Overflow (SO) site, one of the more popular places to get information about software development. JLSE shares much of the functionality as well as the look-and-feel of SO and other sites in that community, so if you are used to using one the others are very easy to pick up.
If you’ve used one of these sites and haven’t yet tried JLSE, you’ll probably just want to check it out immediately. But I’ll touch on some of the cool things about these sites for those that are less familiar. There are features such as keywords to tag posts, up/down voting, moderation by admins, and the ability to link your account with places like Google accounts. There is also a concept of ‘reputation’ where you get points for doing good things like answering questions or getting your questions or answers up-voted. You can even earn badges when you’ve achieved certain goals (for example if one of your questions gets favored by 25 users), and use your reputation to place an award on a question where you really need an answer fast.
JLSE was started in 2011 so it isn’t exactly new, though SO began a few years previously in 2008. The number of questions is relatively few, with only ~8k total, compared to several million on SO (according to this link which says SO gets around 2.6 million a year, based on 2013-2013 data).
From what I’ve seen the JLSE community is nice, with a good mix of Japanese learners of various experience levels, as well as some native Japanese speakers that are fluent in English and answer questions pretty often. I haven’t participated too much yet, but hoping to peruse it once in a while for both my own knowledge, and to help out others when I am familiar enough to contribute an answer. Regardless of your experience level, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to learn something things at a site like this.