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.
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.
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.).
After 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.
However, 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 your 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.