the boxcar children series

Okay, Netflix. Now, I want Percy Jackson, Chronicles of Narnia, Spiderwick Chronicles, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Junie B. Jones, Magic Tree House, Boxcar Children, and Hannibal Season 4.
—  my greedy ass after finishing the first season of A Series of Unfortunate Events 
Social Media & Language Learning: AO3

Today’s choice may seem a bit unconventional.  For those who aren’t familiar with it, AO3(or Archive of Our Own as it isformerly called) is a fanfiction publishing site.  It has hundreds of thousands of works (no I’m not exaggerating) created by fans as extensions or alternate versions of their favorite shows and literary works.  I myself became a fan and a member a few years back when I dove heavily into Johnlock (from the BBC Sherlock fandom) and just couldn’t get enough.  What I didn’t realize at the time was what a language learning goldmine the site could potentially be.

Where is it?

To publish and to read some fics that authors have locked down you need an account.  This is done through a waitlist system but I got through in under 24 hours.  You can also receive invites from others who are already members.    You can read most fics without being a member though, so feel free to browse around before committing to yet another e-mail sign up.  (I will say AO3 is one of the least bothersome this way- they only e-mail me updates of the fics I ask for, rather than trying to “engage me with more content.”)

When/How is it most helpful?

In my opinion, AO3 is most helpful for Intermediate learners all up.  (Beginners please feel free to prove me wrong- this is after all just my viewpoint.)  Here are the 3 ways I see it as a potential language learning gold mine.

1.  You can search for fics BY language.  If you go to Search and choose Works, the site gives you a plethora of options for narrowing your fic choice.  One of these is Language.  Currently AO3 has fics in 53 languages and this seems to be growing all the time.  Such a great way to get fun and manageable reading practice!

I suggest the first round you just narrow by Languages to get a feel for the quantity available in your target tongue.  After that, experiment with all the other narrowing fields.  You can bump the Word count down to make it more manageable or pick Fandoms of interest.  Even if you are not generally a fan fiction reader, there is bound to be some show or book on there that you enjoy.  The beauty of the fan fiction element in language learning is the content is somewhat familiar, making it much more likely to be comprehensible input than reading a completely unfamiliar work.

(For those who are thinking “yeah but isn’t all fanfiction smut?”… no, it’s not and you can narrow your search options by ratings as well for just that reason.  Pick a level you are comfortable with.  If you are me and think much of explicit content on there is no worse than what you can pick up in the local romance section and frankly often better written, there’s plenty for you as well. ;))

2.  Up for more of a challenge?  How about writing a short piece of your own? You don’t have to publish a novella- a short 100 words or a drabble or two about a couple favorite characters from a well-loved book or novel is just fine.  It can be an interesting challenge, while letting you rely on and make use of much of the new vocabulary you picked up reading these fics.  You also can put a note in your description nicely asking for feedback on your language as much as the writing and may find a friend or two that can help correct your errors.  As with any site, realize that there be trolls and mean-spirited folk out there, though not many in my experience on the site.  If you are unfortunate enough to encounter one, remember they are the sad one who can’t support someone in their language learning venture and thus to be pitied and ignored, not dwelt upon.

3.  Want a challenge but are not the creative writing type?  Many authors LOVE for people to do translations of their work. Some even post in their notes that they welcome this.  You could do from your Target Language to English or vice versa.  A note of etiquette- if the author DOESN’T explicitly state they’d like translations done, ask in a comment first.  You’ll rarely get a no, but it shows respect for their work. Also, make sure you cite the author of the text when you post.  There are guidelines for this on AO3’s FAQ section.

4.  Pretty advanced and looking to work on pronunciation?  You could record a podfic of a favorite piece in your target language.  This is basically you creating an audiobook version for readers to enjoy.  Many authors appreciate this as well.  Obviously if you are doing this in your target language you want to already be fairly fluid and have reasonable pronunciation.  But many will forgive you a few trespasses in return for the time you have sacrificed.  You can always re-record if you don’t like it.  Multiple re-readings aloud have been shown to be a great way to boost fluency and pronunciation.

Why use it?

I promote AO3 for language learning mainly because it’s comprehensible input.  If you are able to find Fandoms you already enjoy (and chances are you will), then you get to work with familiar storylines while learning new vocabulary and structures.

Remember as a kid how you probably loved a favorite series such as Boxcar Children or Baby-sitters Club or Animorphs?  Part of the reason those types of books appeal to us when we are learning to read (and yes, 3rd and 4th graders are still “learning to read”… one could argue we all are as we are constantly taking in new vocabulary and content) is that their repetitive structures and base storyline help us comprehend anything new they throw our way.  Fan fiction can be argued to be the adult version of that- often re-telling the same story but in a new way.  People extend stories, change endings, create alternative universes, but they keep some essential elements which can make reading so much more manageable.

I also feel that it is an overall supportive and safe environment for one to try their hand at writing a bit of their own work in a new language.  While, as I cautioned earlier, there are jerks out there, they seem to be few and far between.  Most people are going to be understanding, especially if you mention in the description that you are trying this in your new language.  In fact, you may find many are appreciative, especially if their language is lacking many fics.

Translation as a learning strategy has been widely scorned and to some degree I understand why.  But for high intermediate and advanced learners who still want to go further you’d be hard pressed to find a better way. Translations force you to DEAL with difficult vocabulary and structures, rather than work around them as us seasoned learners generally do.  And you really are providing a service in doing so on these sites, so you can increase your karma while you’re at it. ;)

Who should use it?

I recommend AO3 to learners who like fiction and who are in the intermediate stage of language learning or above.  Beginners are welcome but may find it frustrating.   A good starting strategy may be to seek out a fic that is available in both your native language AND your target language (a translation one way or the other) so that you can compare the two as you need. 

AO3 offers unique, but authentic content in your target language in a way that is often more comprehensible than tackling a brand new story or series might be.  It can also be a great way to enhance your vocabulary and your translation skills.  And who knows, you just might find an author or a piece to fall in love.  

May the fiction force be with you my Polyglot Peeps! Until next time!



The bookshelves in my room for #shelfie sunday! The first two pics are the two bookshelves, on either side of a window. The rest are close ups on some of the coolest shelves.

First is the row of books I got for free from the college library. They’re redoing, and were forced to get rid of a lot of books. My dad (a psych professor and bibliophile) got several boxes ‘for school’ and then took me over to pick some out.

The next is a shelf of some of my favorite Afrikaans kids books, and some younger series books - Magic Tree House, Animal Ark, Boxcar Children, etc. Most of my younger kids books are downstairs in our family room, to share with my sister and my mom, who just got a job as a children’s librarian.

I’ve also got a shelf of Diana Wynne Jones books, and a shelf of Tamora Pierce books here too. Yes, I do have at least one copy of all of TP’s books….

Other prominent authors include Jessica Day George, Diane Duane, Gail Carson Levine, Wendy Mass, Rick Riordan, and Shannon Hale.