Language Learning and Evernote

imperialI just got back from the CIBER 2009 business language conference.  I learned a lot and had a great time.  OK, today’s topic: Have you ever had a great idea for language learning, but you’re just not sure how to implement it? That’s my current situation.  Hopefully some of you who read this blog will have some great ideas to help me out.

Here’s the situation:  A couple of months ago I was introduced to evernote:  http://evernote.com/.  It’s a website and application that allows users capture information (webpages, pictures, files) which are then accessible and SEARCHABLE from anywhere, anytime, all free by the way.

It’s the SEARCHABLE part that has me going crazy with possibilities for language learning.  Because the text is searchable, I can now collect pictures of signs, banners, billboards, anything that has text, and then ask my students to search those pictures for certain words.

You’ve got to check it out.  So, I have made a small public site (which BTW, is another cool feature of evernote) where I have placed 20 photographs that have text in them.

http://www.evernote.com/pub/orkelm/CultureTextPictures

If you go to the site, click in the search button and try any of the following words: eternal, cafe, amable, caja, fio, buzzed.  These are all words that are found in some of the pictures.

I’m just positive that this is going to be a great tool for language learning.  I’m especially excited to use it in the teaching of culture.  For example, imagine the cool pictures that I can take in Brazil where things are written in Portuguese and then have students better understand culture and language via the signs.  Problem is, I just can’t figure out what to do exactly with my new-found cool toy.  If any of you have ideas for how this would help learners, I’d love to hear from you.

P.S.  The photo was taken at the imperial palace in Beijing and is a wonderful example of high context speech.  For those of you with low context brains, the sign means “stay off the rocks.”

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10 Responses to “Language Learning and Evernote”

  1. Tommy Says:

    Dr. Kelm,

    I really like this idea and I hope you can figure out a way to implement these pictures into some learning module. By the way, if you would like a Tokyo scout, shoot me an email – the trains alone here have a wealth of interesting language ideas going on.

    For example, a few weeks ago I saw this canned coffee advertisement at a kiosk on a train platform: “はたらく人にyes we 缶” (“to the working people, yes we can”). The pun is on the pronunciation of the character 缶 (kan) which actually means “can” like a can of soda or coffee. It’s kind of silly, but I thought it was a good (and timely) illustration of the mix of Japanese and English in a lot of pop culture media in Tokyo.

    At the same time, I feel that commercials and advertisements and other pop culture media are best as reinforcers of already learned and imbedded information, especially if you have physically been to “the scene” of the action.

  2. John Says:

    Evernote is definitely cool and offers a variety of interesting learning opportunities. As far as I know, though, it doesn’t support OCR for Chinese (in other words, no Chinese text will be searchable). I tried it out, and my brief experiment seems to confirm this. Do you know otherwise?

    Should be great for Spanish and Portuguese, though…

    My initial thoughts for how to use this would be some kind of scavenger hunt or competition. I guess it would also work well to compile some kind of user-generated “encyclopedia of must-know signage.”

    Hmmm… will give this some more thought.

  3. Orlando Says:

    True, I also tried Chinese characters and it couldn’t read them. Too bad.
    On the positive side however, Evernote does recognize hand written text. The “cafe” example was a sign written in chalk that was in front of a restaurant.

    Tommy, what a great example, especially for language learners, understanding puns in another language is a great way to build proficiency.

  4. Travis Says:

    First off…what an impressive program evernote is! I would simply echo the sentiments of John and Tommy. Seeing signs and hearing announcements in Spanish my entire life has really helped my vocabulary, and especially my confidence because I see these things in practical use. In the same fashion, being able to search for these words on real signs is a great way to learn.

    I like the scavenger hunt idea, because using this tool to create a fun game would make language learning less of a “chore” (although most of us enjoy learning a language 🙂 If you created a game where people could try to find a new word in these pictures, and then try to make an educated guess at what the word is, that would hopefully make the word stick in their memory.

  5. Keene Haywood Says:

    Hi Orlando,

    Glad to see you are diving into Evernote and discovering the possibilities. One thought that might be interesting to consider is using your cultural text images combined with geospatial data. I noticed that your buzzed Austin picture is geotagged for Austin, but perhaps other images could be geotagged when you or your students are exploring a new area. Then, one could compare or contrast the nuances of similar cultural signs and language for different locations. This could could be done for different neighborhoods around a city or if you looking at larger region you could compare and contrast similar signs that are unique for particular areas. Perhaps you have small groups of students go to different areas of a city, take images, geotag them and compare them via Evernote’s note publishing capabilities that you are using. Evernote seems to take good advantage of geospatial data and this might be another way to tap into this along with its picture search feature.

  6. Minjung Says:

    Hi! Dr. Kelm
    Friday class of Issues in the Langguage Pedagogy really inspired me to look at the technological tools for practical uses. Regarding the use of evernote, I was making connection to “Adventure learning” and contribution that all those exchange students for study abroad program can make to the students in their home countries. Exchange students are often times thrown to the foreign countires without a proper guidance on how to maximize their learning opportunities within the limited time in a foreign countiry. It would be beneficial for them to keep track of their learning as they build their electronic portfolio using evernote with their product of culture & language exploration. All of these precious recourses can also be used for the students in their home country who lack the direct exposure to the targe culture and authentic language use. So to speak, the exchange students perform the role of expert who is in adventure of the target culture to share their learning and to interact with their colleagues in the home land. It would be nicer to make it synchronous project where two groups can interact
    I haven’t figured out all the technology for this project yet. But certainly connecting the images to the geospatial data(such as googleearth) is useful. I’m planing to do this adventure learning project for Korean students learning English in Korea. In this case, I’ll be the one who does the exploration and upload the cultural artifacts which will be used in their English clalsses. One of my UT student learning Korean is leaving for Korea as an exchange student. He is very willing to report his exploration to the UT learners of Korean. I guess all the possible technology such as Evernote, blog, googleearth will make the project successful. I”ll keep you updated with the progress.
    Minjung from FLE

  7. Marisa Bellini Says:

    Professor Orlando,

    Foi muito ter te conhecido na Conferencia de Linguas em Kansas!!! Como aprendi com todas as palestras e gostei especialmente muito da sua!!

    Desculpe-me por meu computador nao ter acentos.

    Um otimo fim de semana!

    Marisa
    Japanese & ESL teacher

  8. Bethany Womack Says:

    lol yes, I’m definitely a low context learner…oh man…

  9. Orlando Says:

    You know Bethany, I don’t know how long I’ll look at that picture without it bringing a smile to my face. It still makes me smile every time. Those signs are all over the place in China. For example, I saw another in a bathroom in front of the urinal that said, in essence, “a step closer makes it cleaner for all.” It just cracks me up!

  10. Bethany Womack Says:

    lol that’s awesome! i’d like to see that myself at some point. I actually have a good friend who just got back from about 3-4 weeks in Xi’an, China (I think that’s the right spelling) so I’ll have to ask him if he saw stuff like that.

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