Do you brag about learning a foreign language? Blog about it instead!

So, do you brag about learning a foreign language? Let’s admit: most of us do, in one form or another. Don’t you update your social media profiles, your CV, or suddenly greet a colleague in a coffee kitchen in his native tongue, which you incidently happen to learn? Learning a foreign language requires an effort. Diminished capability to express yourself can also be frustrating at times. And so we seek additional motivation and approval from people around us, and so we brag, in one form or another.

Logging your entire learning process on the web (aka ‘blogging’) would certainly be an amplifying factor to your bragging, but there’s more to that.

Bragging on Rails

Most likely, you will want to revisit the topics you’ve learned, maybe even redo the exercises and see how your new results compare to those in the past. Since each of your exercises is posted on your website as a block of clickable tabs, you can review them either as the original task, or as your solution, or as the solution, or as a completed task with teacher’s corrections, flipping these views with a click of a mouse. And if you were doing your homework on paper? Hmm…

As you carry on with learning a new language, you will notice that what otherwise would have been a bunch of messy private notes, now looks like a proper online book. It even has a table of contents! A clickable table of contents, mind you. Er… can you imagine anything even remotely comparable, should you be using a paper notebook instead?

Having your language learning blog public (and open for comments) might provide you with useful suggestions from friendly strangers. It will also be accessible from any device, anywhere, allowing you to fill inevitable time gaps, like a flight delay, with something useful. Carrying your paper notebook around at any one time? Give me a break…

Would you prefer to keep it private? No problem – just build a static site (it’s just a bunch of html files, after all), upload them to your smartphone, and use it without any exposure.

And, of course, brag about your progress in every language you already speak!

The Building Blocks

The setup I’m suggesting consists of several building blocks stacked on top of each other. Each next block is more elaborate to set up, but involves less manual labor, once you actually start blogging. Feel free to stop at any of these once you feel bored with technicalities.

The actual steps to get started are described on the next page. Feel free to skip the blurbs and get down to it.

Install Hugo, Create a GitHub Account, Start Blogging

Hugo is a popular free open-source static website generator. You write your texts, and once you are done, you type hugo on command line, and your site will be generated in a split of a second on your computer, locally.

To publish your site, create an account at GitHub, then create a repository, and then push your locally built site to that repository. Ten minutes, and you are done.

This would be a completely free-style blogging: every bit of content will be created by hand.

Include Your Exercises in Your Blog

You might want to enhance your articles by including the exercises you’ve done with your teacher’s corrections, or just present an example of a common error and the correct way to handle it. If you are using the Errorist theme, it is just a matter of marking up the particular chunks of your text. This text in your blog ‘source’

>... as I told you ~~beefour~~ **before**

will become this on the actual page:

… as I told you beefour before

An Exercise as Clickable Tabs

To make the exercises posted on your website reusable, you want to organize them in clickable tabs. Here is a real-world example testing one’s command of Indonesian pronouns (courtesy Yuni Kartika):

Fill the gaps with appropriate pronouns in the following dialogue.

Peter dan Dita pergi ke Jakarta. Tina tinggal di Jogja.

Dita: Tina, … pergi ke Jakarta. Saat … kembali mari … pergi ke Kesuma restoran.

Tina: Andy dan Ria pergi juga?

Dita: Tidak, … harus bekerja.

Tina: Dan Anto?

Dita: … bekerja juga.

Tina: Berapa lama libur …?

Dita: Empat hari.

Tina: … iri padamu.

If you are using the Errorist theme, all you need is to create a folder and certainly named files, one for each exercise view.

We are still in full-manual mode, and things are getting a bit laborious. Out of four tabs above, only three have some ‘originality’. The fourth tab (the one with corrections) can be calculated as the difference between the second (the student’s solution) and the third (the correct solution).

Generate Exercise Corrections View Using Wdiff

GNU Wdiff is a free open-source program that calculates the word-by-word difference between two text files, and outputs it any way you need. Installing and reading a manual will take about 15 minutes, and saves a lot of typing.

Manage Your Homework on GitHub

This will increase your efficiency regardless of whether you are blogging or not. But as far as blogging is concerned, your files would be far better organized.

Our scenario so far implied maintaining four copies of each of your exercises. Four unrelated files, from your computer’s perspective.

If you manage your exercises in a Git repository , the four versions of an exercise would be stacked in effect on top of each other on different layers called commits, somewhat like different cultural layers of an ancient city (think of Rome or Troy).

Like the ancient cities in our metaphor, the file versions will all have the same name, and in your file browser you will see only one file instead of four. But since the versions of the same file are now related, you can access them any time – for instance, when you want to include them in your blog. This will tidy things up precisely by 75%.

Git can be easily configured to use wdiff as an external tool, so you are covered here as well.

So much for blurbs. Let’s get down to it!

Built with Errorist theme for Hugo site generator.