language learning

More language learning strategies with Evernote

Judging by the large number of visits to last week’s post on More ways to learn language with Evernote, there is a lot of buzz about the many uses for this application that helps you to « remember everything ».  Evernote just won Best Mobile Startup at the Crunchies 2008 Awards.

Here are a few more tips to help you learn language online with Evernote.


I gave up bookmarking to my Firefox toolbar a long time ago and adopted Delicious.  The disadvantage of Delicious is that you can only save the link but not the content, which limits the capacity to search.  In Evernote you can add the content of a webpage to a note in Evernote  directly from your browser with two clicks, although to speed up searching it’s best to add tags.  My Evernote is full of tags to help me find language-learning tools (‘reading’, ‘writing’, ‘listening’, ‘speaking’, ‘vocabulary’, ‘pronunciation’ etc.)  For a better visual presentation of the page in Evernote, you can paste it as a screenshot into the note.  The Firefox plugin screengrab does this well.  You can also type your own notes into the bookmark to help you remember why you saved it.  There is one negative though – clipping websites into Evernote seems to be slower than bookmarking in Delicious, something that should improve in future releases.

evernote-readlaterBecome a better reader

The best way to increase your vocabulary in a foreign language is through reading.    The best way to increase your reading is to find material that you are really interested in.  Doing reading comprehension exercises based on articles or books that don’t interest you at all is a waste of time.  There is a huge amount of reading material on the Internet that matches our interest, but the problem is that the best articles usually turn up when we don’t have time to read them.  So we bookmark them, but never remember to go back to them.

I hardly ever have time to read valuable material the moment I find it, so I have created a « read later » tag in Evernote.  When I find an article that I would like to read, I save it using « read later » and then forget about it.    I then plan « reading time » into my week when I have a spare hour, type « read later » into the search, and all my articles are there waiting for me.  When I’ve finished reading I simply delete the tag.

evernote-chatRecord your social networking conversations

In the post How to improve your language outside the classroom we talked about using social networks for language-learning.  Sites like Ning Networks, EnglishForum and many others use Instant Messaging for live communication with your language-learning contacts.  IM or chat is very effective for language-learning, especially if you combine it with Evernote.  Copy and paste your IM chats into Evernote and make time later to study the conversation to revise the language that you learned from your language helper, and to see how you can improve and correct your own language.  In the desktop version of Evernote you can use the Edit/Spelling and Grammar tool to help you.

Using Evernote is as easy as writing all your notes on post-its and throwing them into a drawer.  Even when the drawer is overflowing with notes, you can still easily find the note you are looking for.  In addition to the text search and tags, you can also filter notes based on when they were created or modified, what kind of media they contain, or the tool you used to capture them (web, mobile, desktop, etc.).

More ways to learn language with Evernote

evernote-logoAfter reading our post on Building an external brain with Evernote, have you tried it yet?  As promised, today we have three more ideas for how to use Evernote to become a more efficient language-learner, and there will be three more next week.

I’m what you call a « late adopter ».  With any new technology  it takes me a long time to make a new application part of my daily life.  I think that the reason I put it off is that I know I will have to invest time in learning how to use it.  At the beginning it feels like you are playing with a new toy, and I would rather reserve my « play » time for my children.

Evernote was like that for me, but I am finding new ways of using it that are making it part of my routine.

Turn your language notebook into a personal dictionary and grammar reference
You can’t learn a language effectively without having a way to record your learning.  One of the best ways is to have a vocabulary notebook that you carry with you everywhere, and write notes of everything you are learning.  Even the best technology will never fully replace paper and pencil.

evernote-snapshotHowever, there are problems with notebooks.  It’s difficult to record notes in a logical order, sometimes you can’t read your handwriting, they fill up and you have to keep adding new notebooks, and most of all, when you have several notebooks it is sometimes impossible to find what you are looking for.

Enter Evernote.  Using webcam, digital camera or scanner, you can paste an image of handwritten notes into Evernote.  Even handwriting can be searched effectively so you will never have trouble finding your notes.

Create a learning log
Good learners take control of their learning through recording it.  The best textbooks, language-learning software and language courses in the world cannot replace having your own personal record of learning.  In addition to pasting your vocabulary and grammar notes into Evernote, you can create a learning log where each day you type your thoughts about what you are learning into a note, and save it with a tag such as « journal » or « learning log ».  As the notes are date-stamped all your learning is available to you in chronological order.   This is a useful way of managing notes from a language course, for example.  You can also paste images of course materials (handouts etc) into the note.

Turn vocabulary and grammar points into tags.
Adding tags to notes is not essential because Evernote can search the text of your notes efficiently.  However, tags will speed up evernote-tagsyour searches considerably.

It’s frustrating when you need a word or a grammar point that you know you have learnt, but it’s has gone right out of your head.  Turn these learning points from your notes into tags.  This way Evernote becomes your own personalised dictionary and grammar reference.

In the next post in the series we will look at bookmarking, becoming a better reader and learning language from your social networks with Evernote.

A fun way to develop listening comprehension

Every language learner has used video at some stage in their journey, and with the explosion of video on the Internet there is a huge amount of material to work with.

But have you ever been on YouTube and found that there are so many videos that you don’t know where to start? Which clips are good for my level?  How do I know that they will be interesting?  What if the sound quality isn’t good and I find it hard to understand?
If you have asked these questions, then there is a site that is specifically designed for you :

Yappr was designed by a guy who found that watching local television in his second language was the most fun and productive way to study.

On Yappr you can view funny or interesting videos uploaded from people all over the world, that are appropriate for language learning.  Yappr members transcribe the videos and add the text, and may even post translations into 7 other languages.

yappr-video1As you watch and listen to the video you can pause it or replay the sentence you just heard as you follow the text.  This exercises your reading and listening skills at the same time, and the video material helps your comprehension.  It is a very low-stress and enjoyable way to learn.  You can even download the full transcription of the video in .pdf format for vocabulary work.

The videos are graded according to their difficulty, and site members can rate the videos so you can see which are most popular.  Learners also add their comments to videos, and can add them to their own favourites.
When you’ve had enough of watching videos, you can move over to the chat page where you can chat with other Yappr users.  There are rooms for three English levels, and 7 other languages.  You can leave messages on a forum, and search for other Yappr fans in your country.

If you are an English learner of any level, you need to have Yappr in your language-learning toolbox.

Build an external brain with Evernote

Have you discovered Evernote yet? If so, have you made it part of your toolbox? If not, read on, as it will transform your Internet experience, and especially the way you use the Internet to improve your language learning.

FACT: the Internet has completely changed the way we learn. It has enabled us to take full responsibility for our learning, and to advance in our field whether or not we have a teacher to help us.

Web 2.0 has made knowledge accessible to everyone, not just to the experts.  However, the accessibility of knowledge can lead to the destruction of knowledge if we don’t find ways to manage information overload, and efficient methods for the retrieval of what we learn.

Evernote claims to help you « remember everything ». It is like a kind of external brain where you can store any piece of information that you would like to find again later. The great thing is that there are several ways of « capturing » this information:

• making notes using desktop, web or mobile phone versions of Evernote
• uploading snapshots from your camera phone or webcam
• adding clippings of anything you can copy on a webpage
• dragging and dropping content from your own computer
• emailing directly to your account
• scanning printed material
• recording audio notes

Great, but what’s to stop you just piling up information that you’ll never be able to find again?  I remember in the days before Internet stuffing printed material and notes that I wanted to keep into endless folders where they just gathered dust because I never had the time to search through them for what I wanted.

With Evernote you will never lose anything. You add tags to all your clippings, notes, audios, scans etc. for easy retrieval. Even if you forget to tag, you can just use the powerful search function. Evernote will even recognise text in an image (scan or photo) that you have uploaded – even if it’s handwritten! You needn’t worry about being away from your computer, as the desktop and Web versions of your Evernote account will automatically synchronise every time you log on.

How to use Evernote for language learning?

The possibilities are endless. It’s too much for one post, so click through for More ways to learn language with Evernote.

How do you use Evernote? goes live!

Only four days into the new year and the first resolution for 2009 is already accomplished: is live to the world!  This site will not only become the portal for a number of language services, but we are planning for it to be a space for learning about what web 2.0 can do to help us learn and teach languages.

So what can you expect if you come back to the blog?

If you’re a learner of English you can find tips on improving your reading, writing, listening and speaking, and my favourite aspects of language learning: grammar and vocabulary development.  It’s amazing the free tools that are out there to help us.

If you’re a language teacher you can follow my adventures as a face-to-face EFL teacher translating his skills to the live online environment.

You can find out a little more about who I am in the about page.  logo_simon

Why don’t you subscribe to my feed?  If you haven’t got into using a feedreader yet, it’s really time to start.  It’s the only way of keeping yourself from Internet information overload.  I use Google Reader, but there are many other options. is still in beta (isn’t everything?), and as I find my rhythm for posting new material, I won’t bombard you with too much information.

This site is also available in French, although there are a few more bugs in the French version that I’ll be working out over the next few days.

Thanks for your visit – stay tuned.