Sacha Chua posted a nice list of resources for learning the Japanese language on her blog (I’ve been reading her blog for a while and didn’t even know she studied Japanese), which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to post about a new Japanese (and other foreign language learning) site that I’m completely hooked on:
Lang-8 is a language exchange social networking site. This means that all of the members of the site are working toward the common goal of learning a foreign language. At the core of the site is the ability to maintain a blog in the language you are learning. Your blog is then checked for correctness by other users of the site, generally who speak your target language natively. The correctors can highlight your mistakes, insert or change words, and leave comments.
The beauty of the approach is that you tend to get paired up with people who natively speak the language you are attempting to learn, and who are learning your native language; this means that the relationships are mutually beneficial. This mechanism works astoundingly well. I find that posts tend to get corrected in less than ten minutes after they are posted, and just by correcting other people’s posts you can enlist a team of friends to correct your posts in a few minutes’ work.
Technologically speaking the site is a bit immature (though not quite down to the Myspace level), but the developers are directly at hand within the Lang-8 community and seem quite interested in improving the quality of the site. As an example of the closeness between the community and the developers, you’ll see the developers make posts in a standard Lang-8 diary and other users will translate these posts into other languages so that more community members can understand their content. I cannot recommend Lang-8 enough.
Beyond that, my favorite internet resources for learning Japanese—some of which Sacha already covered—are:
- Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese Grammar
- Jim Breen’s Japanese Dictionary Server
- Perapera-kun / Rikai-chan extensions for Firefox
One cannot overstate the importance of the Firefox extensions, either; they simply are essential. They’re enough to bring me back to Firefox time-after-time when I get on Safari kicks.