I’ve recently been working at a tech firm called Applingua where I’ve had the opportunity to experience what it’s like working in a business – a non education business that is. As part of this, I’ve had the opportunity to use several tools I had never used before. One of which was Trello: a note-taking tool to help organize yourself and projects, available as both a web-app and a native app.
From what I understand, many startups and entrepreneurs use Trello for Project Management. Although there are many different ways it could be used for managing a project, examples of which you can find following this link, one of the most common I’ve come across is the Do-Doing-Done set up, as in the image to the right.
This approach is very simple but effective: you write in the Do list what you need to do, move it to the Doing list when it’s underway, and finally move it to the Done list when it’s complete. For short and quick tasks, you’ll probably just skip the Doing column. An example of this would be Send Mary a thank you e-mail.
The example of the Trello board in the image is from my personal board, containing the lists of things I’m currently working on: I call it my Task Board. I have other task boards for work: one for all the things I need to do concerning content curation, another for social media and marketing, and another for the projects I oversee.
Recently I was writing up some notes in my language notebook. It’s a traditional school-style notebook, which I have divided up into sections for the different languages I’m learning. As I was doing this, a question dawned on me: couldn’t Trello be used for Language Learning?
Yes, it can!
So the short answer is: yes, of course! Trello is an excellent tool not only for being organized but also for the following:
- Note keeping
- Saving links
- Storing photos and videos
- Keeping files
This means it lends itself very well to language learning. Particularly in the 21st century, where language learning is no longer exclusively about attending courses and following the coursebook from beginning to end.
Nowadays, learners make use of a wide range of online resources for learning a language. I’m currently learning Welsh, Turkish and refreshing my French. In both cases, I have done the following:
- Downloaded PDF’s with grammar explanations
- Found websites with useful examples
- Saved a link to a TV channel
- Made notes of vocabulary
- Taken note of useful phrases
Trello allows you to do all of this, like in the example to the right, where I came across the phrase Je jetterai un coup d’oeil – I saved it as a note in my French Trello board under the Phrases list and added a note: the translation in English.
What’s the best way to organize lists in Trello?
There’s probably a thousand ways to do this, but at the moment I’m currently using the format below for the languages I’m learning.
I personally find this particularly, as it means I can keep note of the useful vocabulary, phrases and constructions I come across. What’s more, I can also test myself, as many of the notes you see above have an additional comment – click on it and the comment is the translation into English, just like in the example of Je jetterai un coup d’oeil above, which I’ve amplified and you can see to the right of here.
This system of adding in a note is not only good for testing yourself but it’s also useful for delving deeper into a topic.
For example, let’s imagine you come across a useful grammatical construction, such as Je viens de + inf in French. What you can then do is add examples of this construction as and when you come across it. What’s more, the examples you do find don’t even have to be written: they can be links, files or even screeenshots.
When it comes to the notes you keep inside a label in a Trello list, they could be a translation, as suggested earlier. However, when it comes to grammar, a translation is perhaps not the best solution: an explanation or some examples might be more useful.
One of the languages I’m learning is Turkish. I’m right at the beginning, so I’ve got a long way to go. Turkish is incredibly different to the European languages I’ve learnt. As such, the smaller things in grammar are a lot more difficult for me to learn than say if I were learning Portuguese, for example.
In the two screenshots below you’ll see how I’ve used the notes to delve deeper into the grammatical topics of Turkish pronouns and conjugating verbs.
Peer learning and teaching
One of the best features of Trello is the fact it’s completely free. Yes, there is a premium version but it includes things which might be more useful to a business than a language learner. So this means that you can invite your friends or peers to get involved. They can look at the notes you’ve made and do the following to help you and themselves in the language learning process:
- Make corrections
- Leave comments
- Provide explanations
In short, you can make language learning a lot more communal, which is often said to be a very good thing. It’s certainly what Duolingo encourages. What’s more, language is all about communicating, so getting your friends and classmates involved will help to make it more communicative.
I hope you might consider trying out Trello for organizing your language learning after reading this post. If you need further encouragement, then why not read this post by the founder of Duolingo on using Trello for learning a language.