Software that helped 2022: Obsidian and Espanso

2022 was a year that felt like ten years crammed into one. It was my first wholly face-to-face year since I started at my current job (the year before was lots of on-campus and off-campus). I found two good pieces of software through Mastodon, and thought I would share them with the two people who read this (and their dogs).

Obsidian: notes with tags

Obsidian is now one of the most often used applications on my computers. I use it to take notes and also write documents that do not need to be shared with co-authors, editors or supervisors. The notes are taggable, and can be visualised in a web similar to spider diagrams. Additionally, when the header system and list system are used, parts that are not being edited right at that moment can be hidden away and brought back very easily. The files are eminently transferable between devices. I choose to not sync but purposefully move data between devices for data protection and also utility. Some devices do not need all my notes, such as my novel in progress does not need to be on my phone or my work PC. Also, getting into Obsidian Markdown has helped me with learning R Markdown considerably. I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface but it is very useful.

The graph view is not very linked on my home PC. But I am at home because I was ill. I might change this image tomorrow when I get to my work PC.


I seem to use Espanso more often than I think. The main useful interface is text documents in which one adds text short cuts. An example might be:


which may then suddenly change to:

Hello world!

It works well, is uncomplicated and allows for subject specific lists to be added. I use a mainly limited feature set but I am very impressed so far. I have a couple of very nascent additions to the Espanso base file, but feel free to use them (these are very much works in progress, and I am unlikely to update them on here). They are text documents, but you can open them and ‘Save as’ and give them a .yml extension.

A set of academic shortcuts, with very nascent shortcuts (only 2) for academic writing advice, because I mainly use Google Classroom comments.

A file that has some language and phonology shortcuts.

On (not) automating ELT materials development

Today I was contacted by someone from an EdTech company. It’s unsurprising, seeing as I am a very online person.

I think they were trying to be earnest when they asked ‘what is the most boring, frustrating or tedious task when writing materials?’

In my reply, which possibly seems snarkier than intended, I wrote:

Nothing is tedious or frustrating. If there is anything boring, it is likely to be boring for students. Anything that is frustrating is normally due to software formatting problems. The materials writing process is not really something that can be automated, because if it were, the only possible responses would be automated. In that case, there is no point in having teachers or students in classes, and we could have two neural nets talk to one another. 

If this is an area that your company has identified as a niche market, I urge it to reconsider. There is already a ton of material out there, more than can plausibly be used. 

I know that somebody is likely to disagree, and that the disagreement likely stems from a different teaching approach. That is fine, I guess. But if you have a bunch of PPP drills and it’s tedious for you to come up with them, then it is highly likely that your students are going to feel the same.

Publication: Accent Difference Makes No Difference to Phoneme Acquisition

As of today, my article with Carolyn Blume from TU Dortmund is available in the special issue of TESL-EJ on Global Englishes and translanguaging. It is open-access so it is available for free.

We used TED talks as online self-study, with one group watching talks by speakers of prestige varieties of English (so-called ‘native speakers’) and one group watching speakers outside of these prestige varieties.

The title says it all: there were no real differences between groups. Somewhat worryingly, neither group made gains in vowel learning, which was what we were intending they learned. Both were the same, although a limitation could be learners cramming at the last minute. However, this is something students do!

The article is here, and check out the whole of the special issue while you are there.

New podcast appearance: Lost in Citations

I gave a presentation at JALT Listening Conference (self-embargoed because I intend to sort it out as a paper for my PhD), but I talked about it in a short interview with Chris from Lost In Citations. There are a lot of other fantastic people interviewed talking about listening research, so you should check it out, seeing as you are probably interested in listening.

The link is here: Lost in Citations episode 120.

New Publication on Teaching Linguistic Landscape Research

Image of signs at Odawara station, Japan. "Think Mirai, Odawara 2030, Sustainable development goals" and some Japanese a bit too small to read clearly. Another sign reads 衆議院議員総選挙及び最高裁判所裁判官国民審査.
A photograph taken at Odawara station, Kanagawa, 2021.

Hello. It has been a while. I am currently busy with PhD study and have been developing a new, old hobby. In the interim, I have been preparing a couple of journal articles and had this conference paper under review.

I have taught linguistic landscape research projects to undergraduates as part of their language studies at universities in and around Tokyo for 4 years now, with one year where I did not teach a course suitable for integrating it. I believe it provides a way to have learners become more aware of the ways in which English as well as other languages are used around them and see greater value in their own language practices, rather than a deficit view. I have been frequently astonished at just how well my students have completed their work, which are typically short group projects with all teaching and learning involved conducted over a four-week period.

I presented this as a conference paper at JAAL in JACET in December. After the review of the proceedings, I gained yet more insight into my teaching and students’ learning through the reviewer questions. The conference paper citation and link are:

Jones, M. (2022b). Teaching Linguistic Landscape Research: Encouraging Learner Cognition About Language Practices. JAAL in JACET Proceedings, 4, 60–64.

I really do welcome comments on this, with the caveat that this was not intended as a full research project, but as a way to show something that is relatively interesting as a classroom practice.