Writing is extremely important when it comes to language learning, because, like speaking, it is how you communicate with native speakers, and communication is kind of the whole point of acquiring a new language. Most people start small with things like writing their memos or keeping a journal in their target language. As you progress, however, you’re going to need more challenging exercises.
You can start a blog and review things. You can write essays or stories and post them online. There is an endless list of things you can do when it comes to improving your writing skills, but what I’m about to suggest is perfect if you’re:
i) A B2 and your writing skills are lagging behind your speaking, listening and reading skills.
ii) You’re not really into writing and you need an extra push that doesn’t require you to be super creative and constantly come up with topics to write about, like running a blog.
If you’re a B1, you’re likely to struggle a lot more with this exercise since your vocabulary isn’t really there yet (expect having to pause every few seconds to look something up in the dictionary), but if you can persevere, you’ll find a tremendous improvement in both your reading and writing skills after just a few months. As difficult and frustrating as it can be, the process itself is actually very rewarding.
What I’m proposing is this: join a Korean book club. And not just any Korean book club, but this one specifically – 스피드 리딩 Speed Reading Café (click here to visit their page). It’s a naver cafe (forum with a membership system), and anyone with a naver account can join.
It was created for Koreans who are looking to improve their English through reading English books, although the discussions are conducted entirely in Korean. The fact that they only read English books is perfect because we all know how hard it is to get Korean books online, unless you’re living in Korea.
How It Works
It’s quite simple, really. You’ll see people putting up ‘recruitment posts’ in the recruitment forum for books they want to read. Joining is as simple as commenting with your username and a couple of other things (like your naver ID), which are usually stated in the recruitment post itself, so be sure to read it thoroughly before you try to join. Each reading lasts for a specific period of time – usually somewhere between 2 weeks to 8 weeks.
After joining, you’ll be redirected to the forum where the reading takes place. You’ll see that the book has been divided into several discussion threads (usually 2-3 chapters per thread). Here’s a screenshot I took a couple of months ago, when we were reading Animal Farm.
What you have to do, basically, is read the book and comment in these threads. There usually isn’t a rule on how often you have to comment, so as long as you comment in all of them before the reading comes to an end.
So what do people actually talk about in these threads? Some write a short summary of the chapter, while others share their thoughts and predictions regarding what might happen in the upcoming chapters. It’s just like any other online book club, except it’s all in Korean.
You’re required to write a short review to sum up what you think about the book, at the end of the reading. You can choose to go all out and write a 1000 word essay (no one will stop you) or you can keep it casual and just write about your favourite moments from the book. It’s all up to you!
Why You Should Try This
So why is this a good idea? Let me explain.
Practice Writing Regularly
It encourages you to write regularly (and in small chunks, too, so it’s actually pretty manageable), due to the nature of the exercise – it’s an on-going discussion, so you’ll find other members commenting on your posts, and you’ll have to respond to them and keep the conversation going. I think most language learners will agree that consistency is very important – it’s better to write short entries everyday than to write a long essay once in a while.
Learn How to Word Things Like a Native Speaker
When I first joined this book club, I found myself constantly comparing other members’ descriptions of the plot with mine. It was eye-opening. It helps you see the difference between how you think and how they think, which is important if you want to bridge that gap eventually and really speak and write like a native speaker. You also get to compare several different ways to describe the same event, which is something you don’t see anywhere else, except maybe on blogs that review books and movies.
Interact with Native Speakers
You’re free to comment on other members’ comments and initiate a discussion on the plot or the characters. You don’t even have to worry about being ignored here because they actually went as far as making it a rule for everyone to comment on at least one other comment that isn’t their own, to keep people from being left out. It’s also common courtesy (in this book club) to leave a comment on the comment before you. The community is extremely friendly and laidback – I have not seen a single fight since I joined in January 2018.
And unlike real-time conversations, you get to take as long as you need to formulate your response. This makes it a lot less stressful compared to video calls and texting. So if you feel like you’re not ready to have relatively complex discussions face-to-face with a native speaker yet, but wants to be able to do so in the near future, this is a great chance for warming up.
Joining this book club is one of the best language learning decisions I made last year and I highly recommend anyone who’s looking to improve their writing skills to give this a go. Leave a comment below if you have any questions regarding how to join and how things work in the club (it can be a bit overwhelming if you’re not used to the extremely cluttered naver interface). I’ll do my best to walk you through it.
Happy learning! 😉