Firstly, a big welcome to everyone who is new here this week!
Incredibly, my 29 life lessons post has already been read over 100,000 times (in just 4 days)!! Thanks to everyone who has been sharing it on Facebook, twitter, Stumbleupon, Reddit and Google plus (if you haven't done so yet, please do share click the share buttons on the left of that page if you enjoyed it!), and all those who read it in Google Reader's hotlist and on the iPad app Zite, as well as anywhere else! 🙂
If you are a new subscriber, please make sure to check out the site's About page to find out more about my story, and see the Most popular posts on the right of the site for some other interesting things that have been popular on sites like Stumbleupon. If you really liked that one, I'll make sure to share some other thoughts on travelling that I've learned from speaking to so many people later!
But for now, back to helping you with language learning! 🙂
Now, after a long wait (people have been requesting me to do this since the website and the e-mail list started!) I am very happy to introduce to you the completely free Fluent in 3 months forum. Click to browse it, or even better, go here to register.
Before I even made any mention of it publicly (just mentioned it in the Language Hacking League e-mail list first, since people in that list always hear about my projects way in advance), it had over 500 members in less than a week! In the second week I've also made the link to it viewable on the site and made announcements about it in other forums as well as on Facebook, twitter and Google plus and it continued to grow. Now that I'm officially announcing it on the blog I expect it to continue to grow much more!
So many incredible discussions were going on that they managed to crash my site's server! I've had to upgrade to dedicated host (from VPS previously) just to account for the new load (nothing to do with the traffic from this week's blog post, which my host handles fine anyway with infinite bandwidth).
To give you an idea of some of the fantastic discussions going on, here are some of the completely free resources that people have been sharing already in this short time that are definitely worth checking out:
- Resources for chatting online to strangers in your target language
- Worldwide TV for free
- Resources for Korean
- Resources for Japanese
- Resources for German
- Resources for Dutch
- Watch French TV online
- Video of Michel Thomas in action
If any links are missing in those discussions, feel free to add them yourself! Open contribution by all is what this forum is about 🙂
And people are getting very active in offering free Skype based language exchanges! For example, native English speakers are being sought after to exchange conversation practice with native Ukranian/Russian and Vietnamese speakers. And several others are willing to just chat to teach you their language, even though they already speak English, since they are so passionate about it! Others are posting their conversation exchange requests and I'm told by many of them that natives have already contacted them!
I especially encourage non-native English speakers to start a thread (I know a lot of you read my blog for English practice!) as there will be many opportunities to find nice natives (you can't get nicer than Fi3M readers!) to exchange with.
How is this different to any other language learning forum?
There are other language learning forums online, but in using them in the last years I've had several issues. The focus has been more on linguistics and technical aspects of a language rather than speaking it, and there have been several aspects missing or only present to paying members. So I addressed as many of these as I could in creating a forum on this site:
- Completely separate group of forums just about speaking. Too many people look for generic advice about “learning a language” and I want to make it clear that the technique for speaking/conversing is different to learning a language for the sake of it or passing an exam or writing etc. and deserves its own discussion.
- Share your language MISSION with us! If starting a blog seems too complicated, just start a thread on this forum and be guaranteed much more likeliness of people reading and interacting! Keep it up to date so we can follow your progress, and get support from the community when you run into problems! Rather than being a log or diary of generally “learning” a language, the focus here is to publicly announce your language mission with a deadline and specific goal, and this public announcement will motivate you much better to achieve it.
- Separate group of forums for non-spoken aspects of language learning. Since people will obviously want to talk about this as well! Linguists are welcome to bring up technical issues in their very own forum section! You can also ask about technical aspects of your specific language that are bothering you and someone will very likely come and answer it for you 🙂
- Find a language exchange partner! Write the language you can teach and the one you want to learn and you may find someone in the FI3M community that can help! Even with the community as small as it was in the last weeks, many people have been finding partners to chat to over Skype in their target language!
- A LADIES ONLY group!! [You will not see this without registering, as it is viewable by members only] After lots of discussion with some female language learners, we agree that too many forums online are male dominated. I wrote about my frustration about that here. Guys tend to take over topics and steer them in a way that women would not, and this can be frustrating. So ladies can discuss here knowing that no testosterone will take over the threads. This thread is not publicly visible and will not be accessible by search engines so you can be sure that you can talk about any issues and only logged in members can view. For obvious reasons, I will not be moderating or writing in this forum – I have invited several female polyglots to check in, contribute and moderate. Ladies of course can write in all groups, not just this one. There will be no men only group 😉
- Fi3M project specific forums. Here is where you can ask me questions about my project, or my past travels etc. I will be pushing general questions in this direction to make them publicly searchable, and I hope this will reduce my very large e-mail backlog (especially this week!!!), as I write the same things in reply to people many times. However, please ask the community first in other sub-forums if it's a general language learning question as you will get an answer quicker and it may be more relevant than what I would say 🙂
- Travel, culture and social issues – specific forums to discuss them.
- A forum where you can write in a non-English language if you want to practice, or if you are a native of a different language who is not comfortable writing in English yet.
- The forum looks nice, and runs on the “Simple Press” platform that has many features that other language learning forums lack, such as a complex word processing editor that let's you see what it looks like as you write it, no broken links if they pass a small amount of characters, ability to use emoticons, see the text from people you are replying to as you write your reply. Also, EVERYONE can apply an avatar. At the moment there are no plans for Pro vs free members. Presuming the costs of maintaining this forum don't get too high, I'll keep it free permanently. There are also no irrelevant Google or other ads, but I'll be leaving the headers and footers from my blog.
- All Wikipedia/Youtube links are automatically converted into clickable mini-windows using Apture. Rather than opening a new window you can watch the video or read the article from within the forum. This is done automatically – just copy and paste the basic link directly into the body of the message. Also if you select a single word then a search bar will open (no copy and paste necessary) so you can research into it.
- Tool allows you to enter some non-English characters and accents that may not be on your keyboard from within the editor (Click the Ω symbol).
- The flexible signature option lets you create flags to designate the languages you speak and are learning. All the colour makes the forum more cheery! You can also choose to have social networking buttons display so people can contact you easier for language practice. It's best not to leave your e-mail in any posts (to avoid spambots from getting it), and to contact people using the PM (Private Message) option.
- Optimised for mobile devices – whole forum is displaying beautifully on my Android device!
However, the most importance difference here is the community.
The community of readers following my blog are very different to those who read other forums, which tend to be quite theoretical and linguistics related, or be passionate about languages without necessarily being interested in speaking them with natives. There is a “Linguist's corner” forum for people with that mindset, but they are separate to the main part, which will be more about speaking, and encouraging language learners.
This forum is not for just talking endlessly about languages and theory, it's for practical support and advice to make real progress.
Feel free to create new topics in the appropriate forum and I'll also be personally contributing to as much as I can. But the best thing about opening up discussions for everyone is that people who know much more than me about specific challenges can contribute to the discussion, so you'd get a lot more than you would from e-mailing me.
I've been getting such amazing e-mails from people in the LHL community and from comments on the blog, so I'm so pleased to now have this interface so that you can directly communicate with one another. I can't wait for you to meet other Language Hackers 🙂
And if I can help I will certainly say my piece! I plan on being very active in this forum 😀
I'll see you in there!! Don't forget to sign up here. 🙂
If you've any thoughts on the forum itself, then let me know in the comments below!