September 25th, 2019
Hi there! I'm Robin. Long-time language enthusiast, polyglot YouTuber, language teacher, and author of the book How To Maintain Languages. I've spent the last 10 years learning languages and doing everything I can to find the most effective and innovative ways to help my students, viewers, and readers learn languages.
Let me tell you why I spent the last (nearly) two years building Journaly for you.
Writing is a wonderful activity for improving your foreign language skills. Many people don't realize that writing is particularly amazing for improving your speaking skills, as you learn and improve your ability to craft better sentences, expand your repertoire of vocabulary and sentence structures, and have ample time to both think about what you're saying and process feedback...
Hang on. Let's pause and take a closer look at that word: feedback.
Getting good feedback on your language skills is incredibly helpful—even vital—to developing an excellent command of a foreign language. Getting it on a reliable and consistent basis is hard enough, but the greatest challenge of all is capturing it.
When speaking with people, the reality is unfortunately that much of the wonderful feedback we get goes right over our heads. I've gone to great lengths out in the field to capture as much of it as I could. In Japan, I always carried around a little field notebook. I also developed a system of having separate folders in my Japanese dictionary app for each person that I spoke with regularly, so that I could bundle my learnings into more speciifc contexts (a very useful technique!). But even after I'd worked as a Japanese-English interpreter and then worked as a Japanese barista while enrolled in a Japanese university in all Japanese classes, I would still find myself getting tons of amazing feedback from native speakers around me and I just could not capture it all.
Engaging in conversations also requires quite a high language level, and being able to take valuable notes while maintaining the flow of conversation is tricky even for advanced speakers. "Oh! What was that great word you used in the first part of that fascinating discussion point!?", doesn't exactly inspire an unsuspecting interlocuter who's just trying to have a great chat.
Now, after learning to speak eight languages to varying degrees of fluency (several to highly advanced levels) with my ninth well on its way, I simply can't bear to imagine all of the words, phrases, idioms, and wonderful little turns of phrase that have slipped through the cracks. It pains me to think of all those wonderful tips I scribbled down on napkins that were whisked away by a puzzled waiter, or on the backs of receipts that had to be sent off to the accountant. I needed to create a better, more reliable system for not only capturing but also organizing and storing feedback.
The thing about writing is that it's an effortful activity and a lot of us struggle to know what to write about. It's hard enough to write in a foreign language without the stress of having to come up with a New York Times Best Seller.
Well, that's where journaling, language learning, and technology all married so beautifully into the idea that became Journaly.
In Chapter 5 of my book, I discuss at length the technique of keeping a journal in the target language to drastically improve speaking accuracy through writing. This tends to be an easier activity to engage in, because most people are already familiar with the concept of journaling. Furthermore, it's actually something that a lot of people would love to do anyway, but building and maintaining that positive habit isn't easy.
Let's imagine a foreign language journaling platform. One that provided a seamless and delightful writing experience, enabling you to create visually pleasing posts that you were proud of, giving you the tools and support to build a healthful journaling practice. What if it made it easy to exchange feedback with native speakers and fellow learners? What if you could even make friends with like-minded people along the way (these could become ideal language exchange partners!), as well as having a reliable system to store and organize all of that invaluable feedback and your posts.
Journaly is that platform, and I believe it's going to change the world and community dynamic of language learning.
I want to make the writing experience easy and enjoyable, so that you want to write. That's why we spent months and months engaging in a robust design process, crafting and revising the designs to make sure it's lightning fast and intuitive to use.
It will be a home for you to build strong and healthful journaling habits that you can stick to and feel great about. One of the reasons that getting feedback on your writing is hard is that giving feedback also takes a lot of effort, so we're striving to build the most intuitive and pleasant "inline feedback experience" of any app.
This will allow you to simply highlight any text in someone's post and provide feedback directly inline. This means you can write your feedback exactly where it belongs, and the user can see it right there, too. The author and other readers will see highlights where there are comments, and you'll be able to respond to discuss this feedback in little "feedback threads" off to the side of the post.
We've also put together a full roadmap of additional features that we can't wait to share with you.
If you've been in the online language learning space for a while, you may have heard of a website called Lang-8, which was very popular in the past and allowed you to get written corrections. Some have asked us how Journaly is different.
Lang-8 was very useful, but the design was incredibly outdated and they closed off the ability for new users to sign up years ago. There's been a great need in the community that we aim to address, but Journaly is so much more than a Lang-8 replacement. Lang-8 was transactional, whereas Journaly has been designed from the first moment through the lenses of User Experience and habit-forming product design to help you not just write often, but also to help you build meaningful connections in the community with fellow learners who share your interests.
You'll be able to find not just perfect language matches, but also perfect people matches. Let's say you're an English speaker who's learning French. You like rock climbing, food, and movies. You'll be able to use our robust filters to find French speakers who are learning English, and who write about one or maybe even all of your interests!
This is why Journaly is about so much more than just writing and even improving your language skills. It's about helping people around the world break down linguistic and cultural barriers and meet wonderful people who they'd love to be friends with, and enabling them to also help each other immeasurably by simply exchanging the gift of their native languages.
Journaly has been created by seasoned language learners who are also deeply passionate about software design and engineering. We're committed to putting all of our skills, experience, and passion into building the absolute best and most helpful experience for each and every one of you.
Yep! I've barely scratched the surface of the amazing things we have in store for you:
I hope this gives you an exciting introduction to Journaly!