Writing vs talking

I have been a LingQ member for six weeks now and a tutor for about one month (since my first conversation with Steve).
At first I made myself available to correct writings only, because I’ve always been uncomfortable with talking on the phone, so on Skype too, and because I have always given higher importance to writing than to speaking to learn a language.
Then I read that tutors who offer conversations are more likely to be submitted written texts for correction, so I started offering conversations: first in Italian, then also in French and eventually in English, Spanish and German too (since I needed to earn points). Now, I have already hosted six conversations with two already booked for tonight and tomorrow. But still no writing to correct… :frowning:
I have had a look at the activity of other tutors and I was surprised to see that almost all of them have held at least twice as many conversations as they have corrected writings. However, a few tutors who do not offer conversations have been submitted many writings.
Now, I am no longer embarrassed when I have to talk on Skype (or at least, not so much as before) and will certainly continue holding conversations, but I would like to correct writings too, since I feel I’d be a better teacher in that activity.
I know Steve’s method focuses on hearing and speaking rather than on writing, which makes me kind of heterodox here :slight_smile: (but I’m a translator, after all… and I am closer to Kató Lomb’s method - if you don’t know who she was, look for her name on Wikipedia and download her book “Polyglot”). However, writing is an important part of the language, especially if you are a student or need to write in a foreign language for work.
So, why do LingQers talk a lot but write (apparently) so little? What’s your opinion?


I believe that writing is a tremendous way to improve in a language. When we write we try out more words and expressions. We have the time, with little pressure, to really exercize our passive language skills. The problem is that most people, myself included, are too lazy to write.


I remember now that you wrote about the importance of writing in your book, but in the forum you always stress the importance of not caring about mistakes, so I linked the two aspects, since the part of a language where you are more allowed not to care about mistakes is when you speak. I am not so tolerant towards mistakes as you are: it must be due to our different paths and education.

Why are you and other people lazy to write? Why would writing require such a big effort? For me, it’s something very natural. :slight_smile: Moreover, when I write, I can see my mistakes and correct them, which cannot be done orally (you can correct yourself, sure, but your listener has heared your mistake and you cannot delete it).


If you remember my book you will remember that I said that we should write the way we talk and not be too uptight. We should write with mistakes and then let the corrector correct us, (or perhaps notice our mistakes when re-reading). The corrected writing becomes a sample of how we speak and use the language. Then we can import words and phrases from our reports and work on these gaps in our language.

Speaking is just easier, especially with different writing systems, and with spelling and accents and other issues. You cannot make a spelling mistake when you speak.

Well, often it’s hard to think of a topic to write about, and then just start writing in a foreign language. I prefer chatting online over speaking, but writing is really different. Oh and besides… you can get your writing corrected for free at lang-8.com, which has always worked perfectly for me. I guess lots of people prefer that, at least I do.

Lisa, when you decide to write a text on LingQ, you find several suggestions of topics to write about.

I like writing, but it takes too much time from me, so I do it less that I think I should. In fact, writing forces you to produce the language and be more aware of what you don’t know very well. I can see, for example, that I can understand a lot of French just because it has so much in common with both English and Portuguese, that I can guess most of words already. But when it comes to produce some French… well, that’s another story…
By the way, it is not that hard to find a topic. If you just comment on the texts you have studied, you’re plenty of topics. You can start by a small summary of the text and then give your opinion on the issue brought by it.

psychedelica: There are some topics

  1. My diary (you can practise routine stuff, whatever…your thoghts…your activities, your feelings…you can write about your future plan - for other day…so you can practise future tense, present tense, past tense) - some polyglots talk about this type of practise writing…
  2. About something you are interested in (how you are doing in your language learning, about a match in TV which you liked, whatever you want…)
  3. You can translate something into your target language from your native language or from a language you are familiar with (in order to practise the familiar language)
  1. On Lingq, there are some recommended topics to practise:
  • People do many different things to stay healthy. What do you do to maintain your health?
  • What are some of the qualities of a good parent? Use specific details and examples to explain your answer.
  • What qualities do you look for in a friend? Do you have one or more good friends? Describe them.
  • In your opinion, what is the most important characteristic (for example, honesty, intelligence, a sense of humor) that a person can have to be successful in life?
  • Some people prefer to work for themselves or own a business. Others prefer to work for an employer. Would you rather be self-employed, work for someone else, or own a business?
  • Many parts of the world are losing important natural resources, such as forests, animals, or clean water. Choose one resource that is disappearing and explain why it needs to be saved.
  • Some people say that computers have made life easier and more convenient. Other people say that computers have made life more complex and stressful. What is your opinion?
  • If you could change one important thing about your hometown, what would you change?
  • Some people prefer to live in a small town. Others prefer to live in a big city. Which do you prefer and why?
  • You have the opportunity to visit a foreign country. Which country would you like to visit and why?
  • Discuss the important holidays and festivals that take place in your country.
  • What do you like to do in your free time? What sports or hobbies do you enjoy?
  • Describe your family, your job and where you live.
  • Movies are popular all over the world. Explain why movies are so popular. What is your favorite movie? Who is your favourite actor and actress?
  • It has been said, “Not everything that is learned is contained in books.” Compare and contrast knowledge gained from experience with knowledge gained from books. In your opinion, which source is more important? Why?
  • Describe your typical day/weekend.
  1. If you study a lesson, you can write about the lesson…summarize the lesson.
  2. write about a book you are reading or you have read - review
  3. write about a movie or a series you have watched

Jarda, your posts are worth praising! Yes, there are many topics to write about, and you don’t even need to make the effort to think of one yourself! :slight_smile:

Anapaula, sure writing takes time, but speaking too. If you find it difficult to produce a written text in French, you are likely to find it difficult to talk too. I am opposing writing to speaking: reading and listening are passive activities, so they are (or should be) easier than writing and speaking respectively.

Steve, I do remember you say in your book that we should try to speak as we write if we want to learn a language, and I fully agree with you on this. Actually, even when I speak in my mothertongue (Italian) and in my best known foreign language (French), my way of speaking is very similar to my way of writing.

mikebond: how often do you practise writing in a language you learn anyway? :slight_smile: How many words a day / a week? What do you usually write about. And what about reading…how do oyu split your time during the day for learning a language? :slight_smile:

Oh and besides… you can get your writing corrected for free at lang-8.com, which has always worked perfectly for me. I guess lots of people prefer that, at least I do.

I disagree with you, psychedelica. One student tend to submit writings to me, that first were corrected at lang-8.com.
My correction:

  • 1 error every 12 words
  • 1 error every 16 words
    and I am still correcting two his other writings, but I am sure, the error rate will be about 1error / 15 words.

There are such errors:
“Каждый день к концу моей вахты, когда я сдавал следующему сменщику вахту, я докладывал…” – we don’t use “моей” is this situation at all. Only “cвоей”.
“который был в задней комнате” --“который был в рубке”
“Он выше меня по званию” – “он старше меня по званию”
“руководить направлением корабля” – “руководить курсом корабля”
As you see, there were no grammar errors like incorrect endings — they had been corrected by lang-8 users, but nobody of them corrected unnaturalness of these writings.

lang-8.com is a good site, as well as rhinospike (no, rhinospike is a great site, although there are no a lot of active users), but I find LingQ for proofreading writings better. It seemd it is a very good combination for receiving a lesson that you want on your target language: lang-8 first, then LingQ, then rhinospike.

And I disagree with you, Cakypa:-) There aren’t any errors in “Каждый день к концу моей вахты…” I think that in this case “своей” and “моей” are fully interchangeable. I do not consider this an error in Russian. I speak and write both ways often and was never corrected, even by school teachers when I was in school.

Maybe you are unnecessarily strict sometimes? However, I would agree with second and fourth of your corrections because they are introducing new vocabulary items to your learner. I must notice that only that tutor who is familiar to marine terminology could make these corrections. Maybe the person at Lang-8, like me, simply doesn’t encounter words like “рубка” very often in Russian.

And I’d agree with your third correction, too, with a little comment that “выше меня по званию” is completely understandable and may be used in informal, colloquial speech, but for a learner it is important to know the most general pattern. Maybe I’d provide my correction with this or similar remark.

I think it’s normal to have a favourite tutor, but I am talking about the overall amount of written texts being way inferior to the overall amount of held conversations (I’m not comparing my amount of conversations to my zero corrected texts). And, anyway, a short written text costs less than a conversation, so it would be better, especially for beginners who have few points and low skills to write 2-3 sentences rather than booking a conversation they cannot take great advantage of.
Susanne, I don’t know your writing habits, but I don’t think many people change their style of writing according to the tutor they will submit their text to. I have written only two texts so far, but I will write more now that I have earned a good amount of points, and I have just written my texts and sent them… :slight_smile:

There aren’t any errors in “Каждый день к концу моей вахты…” I think that in this case “своей” and “моей” are fully interchangeable.
I don’t think so, Dmitry.
“Каждый день к концу моей вахты случалось что-нибудь интересное”, but “Каждый день к концу своей вахты, я докладывал”

Well, I submitted some Spanish writings on lang-8 a few months ago… and although there could be mistakes in the corrections of course, I got a correction withing half an hour, with lots of notes and an encouraging comment :slight_smile: I wouldn’t know about Russian though. I don’t really care if every little mistake is corrected, as long as it’s not a mistake a native speaker doesn’t notice immediately, it’s fine with me. If I ever need to get a very important, hard writing corrected and it needs to be PERFECT, I’ll get it corrected here on LingQ. But usually I’m fine with a few mistake, I make them in Dutch too, it’s normal :slight_smile: Oh and… this has got nothing to do with why writing is unpopular on LingQ, but if you’re learning a language that’s not on LingQ… they have pretty much every language there (including Dutch :D)
By the way… If you learn English I would recommend using LingQ to get your text corrected. Most English writings simply don’t get a correction at all on lang-8, and if they do they are often very poor.

Oh and thanks for the list of topics :slight_smile: I think I’m going to try to keep a diary or something in different languages… not to let people correct it but just my own personal diary so that I keep writing regularly and know the gaps in my vocabulary. That’s something I forgot to say… usually when I use wrong grammar or the wrong word for something, I’ll encounter the right way to say it somewhere, or when I’m talking with someone I’ll automatically get corrected. To me the most important thing about writing is just getting more used to expressing myself in another language.


Please notice that “Каждый день к концу своей вахты, я докладывал” is a different example and I completely agree with proposed usage of the reflexive pronoun in it. But the very first phrase, let me repeat it - “Каждый день к концу моей вахты, когда я сдавал следующему сменщику вахту, я докладывал…” - is not the same as your shortened example, it contains a subordinate clause which splits an independent clause, and you may see that the distance between the reflexive pronoun “своей” and its antecedent “я” becomes more long. It is simply uncomfortable to a listener or a reader of this sentence to wait for antecedent for such a long time in order to get more accurate information about person which the first part of a sentence describes. So, my correction would be: “Каждый день к концу моей вахты, когда я сдавал её следующему сменщику, я докладывал…”

It is a pure coincidence that the subject of the subordinate clause “когда я сдавал следующему сменщику вахту” is the same as in our independent clause “… я докладывал…” In such cases I think it is possible to use the reflexive pronoun, so that the personal pronoun “моей” and the reflexive pronoun “своей” become interchangeable. This is what I meant in my previous message. But as a general rule, when the antecedent of a pronoun comes way far below, it would be much more thoughtful of us towards our listener to specify a person meant (with a personal pronoun, of course). This is what I do generally and definitely would do in the sentence “Каждый день к концу моей вахты, когда следующий сменщик принимал у меня вахту, я докладывал…”

I’ll try not to escalate our discussion any further, I think it is pure off topic in this thread. I’m sure you have understood all I have written. All that is just my opinion and my feel of this example. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I do write and speak in such a way in Russian. Anyway, I’m not a Russian tutor here, so I don’t have any fear that somebody can learn my possible mistakes.