Tag Archives: international

Language Exchange Done Right?

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Happy New Year! I’m slow to post again. Sorry! I have an important project that I have to finish, so I can’t spend enough time here. Anyway, I hope you had a good new year and will have a good 2009.

Today let me tell you a little about Lang-8. It’s a language exchange website. Usually I don’t link to these websites. Users often get bored or frustrated, because they can’t explain grammar problems, etc. (Yes, a native speaker can tell you “This is wrong.” However, it takes a language teacher to explain why something is wrong.) Or people just write short notes to each other. That’s pretty useful, but any language exchange site is fine for that.

Anyway, Lang-8 is a little different. It focuses on writing correction. You write a short journal entry in English. Native/fluent English speakers use Lang-8 sections to make corrections to your entry. You can see their corrections highlighted in red, marked out, etc. It’s easy to see the changes. (And you can help other people who are learning Korean, Japanese, German, etc.)

Of course, there’s still a problem. If you ask the commenter “Why did you change that?” he or she probably can’t explain very well. As a result, it’s hard for you to understand why you should write differently next time.

So I have a suggestion: If you use Lang-8, use it to practice specific grammar points and sentence patterns. Pick something where you basically understand the rules and write just a couple of sentences practicing that grammar point. Make several journal entries over several days working on that grammar point. Use Lang-8 to “check your homework” (except that the “homework” is your self-study). I think this will help make Lang-8 more useful to you.

Actually, I’m going to try this myself with Japanese! Wish me luck…

Send Your Stuff

Remember the previous entry about PostCrossing? Well, how about sending more than just a postcard? That’s the idea behind Gimme Your Stuff. You put together a small package of interesting things from where you live, and trade it by mail with someone in a faraway country. For example, I might send a small box of Californian stuff to someone in Italy, and the person in Italy would send a small box of Italian stuff to me. Right now, there are over 500 participants from 41 countries. (The website and most of the participants use English to communicate; there are also lots of participants in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia.)

In order to participate, you need to have a website or blog page where you can post a description of the kind of thing you’d like to send and receive. Then you’ll add your information to the Gimme Your Stuff site, and choose someone to trade with. (Here’s their How To page of instructions.)

Check out the website for fun photos of some of the “stuff” that has been sent across the world. People send magazines, postcards, jewelry, candy, toys, stickers, yarn, pasta, recipes, handbags, and even things they’ve made themselves. Many of the exchangers seem to have made friends with each other, too. Here’s a great chance for you to make an English-speaking friend somewhere in the world, and share your culture with someone else, too.

(If you don’t currently live in your home country, you can still participate, of course. A mix of local things and whatever you can find that originates in your home country would be great!)

Postcrossing: Trade postcards across the world


Postcards Exchange

Postcrossing is a free system for helping strangers exchange postcards. 1. You register with the site. 2. Then you request an address to send a postcard to. 3. The site gives you someone’s address and a postcard ID number. 4. You write and mail the postcard, with the ID number on it. 5. The person who receives the card enters your ID on the website, which is proof that you sent a card. 6. Then your address is given to the next person who requests an address, so you should receive a postcard soon. (Many people privately send a postcard back to the person who sent them one, but the official Postcrossing system keeps things fair.) By trading postcards in English with people from all over the world, you get practice reading and writing. You might even make some friends.

It sounds confusing, but it’s very easy when you register. Just follow the instructions.

Some people have scanned and uploaded the images from the postcards they’ve received on Flickr.

According to the website, there are

  • 214,889 users in 204 countries
  • 29,874 males, 125,506 females; 58,43 prefer not to say
  • 6,214,658 postcards received
  • 210,346 postcards traveling at this moment

It’s free to register, but of course you’ll have to pay for postage. I’ll have to see if I have any international postcard stamps!

Edited to be easier to read, and statistics updated, on January 26, 2010.