Using Evernote and Skitch Together for Learning and Practicing Sign Language

Tips & Stories

Using Evernote and Skitch Together for Learning and Practicing Sign Language

Posted by Laura Lippincott on 21 Nov 2011

Posted by Laura Lippincott on 21 Nov 2011

Name: Laura Lippincott
Profession: Sign Language Interpreter
Location: Los Olivos, California


Laura Lippincott has been learning sign language for the past 30 years. She works for a non-profit organization, interpreting for clients in a variety of settings ranging from doctors’ offices to work environments.

I use Evernote, everywhere

I use Evernote for…

Evernote for keeping track of vocabulary

Most sign language interpreters will be hired to work with a client the day before they’re needed. For example, I could be be at a doctor’s office one day and at a job site where a client is interviewing the next. Every day is different, meaning I have to know how to adapt to my environment, which often times includes knowing the right vocabulary.

Depending on where I’m interpreting — a physics class, doctor’s office, or in a legal setting — I need to be armed with the right terminology. Given that I’m always on the move, I need to know that I always have access to the vocabulary terms whenever I’ll need them. Evernote is the perfect tool to help me be able to access my notes and files anywhere I happen to be — even if I just have my phone with me.

Evernote + Skitch: A Sign Language Interpreter’s Killer Combination

Before I realized I could use Evernote and Skitch together for learning new signs, I actually drew them out. I can draw, but drawing people’s hands and faces in 2-D is pretty time-consuming. When I realized I could use Evernote to take a picture of hands and then use Skitch to show which way they were moving, the pieces all fell into place for me. Here are some of the ways Evernote and Skitch work beautifully together in the context of my work:

  • A picture speaks a thousand words. Learning sign language is an ongoing process. When I come across a new sign, I’ll often just take a picture of my hands with Evernote and annotate the image in Skitch using arrows to show the way that my hands are supposed to move.

  • Getting your point across. There are some deaf people in the US who don’t use sign language. They may have come to the U.S. from another country at a later point in life, so when they get to America, they turn to mime and gestures. A lot of times, the easiest way to communicate with these people is to share a picture. I was working with a client who was being trained on how to stock shelves at a department store when his boss asked him to get a uboat. There was no way I’d be able to explain to him what this object was, so I snapped a picture of one in the back with Evernote on my phone and showed it to him.

  • Creating a visual dictionary. Since I’m always taking photos and annotating them in Skitch, I’ve accumulated quite the collection. I have photos of myself and people I work with. With sign language, it’s not unusual to have multiple signs associated with one word, so I’ll keep track of which clients prefer which signs. Evernote and Skitch, together, have helped me created an archive of signs that I can always reference, and be able to associate with different clients. When I come across a sign I don’t know, I always snap a photo, annotate it, and save it to Evernote.

Keeping it all organized

In order to stay on top of my work and my clients, I’ve created a personal organization system in Evernote.

  • I have notebooks and Notebook Stacks of annotated photos. One of these notebooks contains all of the new signs that I’m learning.
  • I have a notebook for each deaf person I’m working with so I can keep track of their preferred signs.
  • I have notebooks for sites that I’m frequently traveling to, which contain my annotated maps.

Making your own annotated maps with Skitch

Since my ‘office’ can be anywhere from a naval base to a hospital, I can’t just fall into a routine of driving to work and knowing exactly how to get from point A to point B. I use Skitch with Evernote to remember how to get to locations. I use Evernote to take pictures of sites and mark them up with Skitch showing, for example, which gate I need to go to enter the site, where I’ll need to show my ID, etc. I’ll also save maps of specific sites in Evernote. I take a picture of the map and then use Skitch to mark it up.

As a sign language interpreter, I’m always on the road. Since I work under a grant, before I can take on a new client, I have to receive what’s called an authorization. Working with multiple clients, it’s hard to keep track of all of my authorizations, especially when I’m on the go. Evernote is the perfect way to keep track of authorizations.

Evernote for carrying your memories with you

I use Evernote to capture and remember so many different things — from taking pictures of products to remember where I bought things and how much they cost so that I could comparison shop, to what cereals my kids will and won’t eat.


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23 Comments RSS

  • scollins01

    This was great to read. I too am constantly learning new signs, etc. I like the Skitch idea for annotating the signs but I’m not sure why she didn’t mention using short video clips of individual signs. Perhaps her phone doesn’t have video. Great ideas though.

    • baritone6foot4

      Video files are larger, so by using just photographs, she minimizes her carbon footprint.

  • Ann Price

    Man, when do the rest of us get Skitch?

    • Kasey Fleisher Hickey

      We’re working on it!

  • Eric S. Mueller

    I second Ann’s comment. When do those of us who use platforms other than Mac and Android (Like Windows, iOS, or even web) get to try Skitch? It sounds really useful. Or could you at least build it INTO Evernote?

  • Linda Vich

    Really great use for this—thanks for sharing!

  • Maripat

    I must admit, I couldn’t wait to convert to Mac, in part because of Skitch. I have a tutorial based website and I need to annotate the photos to make the instructions clearer. Thank goodness my 5 year old pc finally crashed;) This post gives me inspiration. Thanks.

  • Jim Sewell

    This is a great use-case for Evernote and Skitch! I was a sign language interpreter years ago and now my church uses sign language in their worship services. It was before Evernote but I wish that I had kept a notebook like Ms. Lippincott’s when I was involved in signing daily. I recall a lot but it is terribly frustrating to have a sign on the tip of your hands and not remember it.

    Thanks for another great article! The uses of Evernote are truly endless. Add in Skitch and they can do even more.

  • Dror

    Can you share the signs notebook ?

    • Renea Millette

      i am very interested in building a signing notebook as i am very new at signing. hearing all the wonderful insight i am excited in using this in my new hopes in learning to sign

  • Pamela McCree Sampson

    Hi, Ms. Lippincott,

    So glad I opened this blog! I’m also an interpreter and I welcome any help I can get to remember signs. I encounter different signs when I visit different churches, and it would be wonderful to be able to catalogue the signs I learn. Evernote is new to me, and I’ve never even heard of Skitch. I’m going to research all this and take my findings back to my interpreter group. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and God bless!

    -Pam McCree Sampson

  • Jeff welborn

    Can skitch be used with eve note on my iPad yet?

  • Pam F

    What a great use of Evernote! This was really interesting and a wonderful story too! Thanks

  • Pandora

    Please, please, please make Skitch usable in Evernote on the iPad! I use my iPad daily at work in order to be as paperless as possible, but I’m often stymied when I can’t draw right onto the document the way I can a piece of paper. Having this functionality in Evernote would truly be the icing on the cake of an already-fabulous program!

  • Sarafina

    I am an interpreter and I have to say that this approach to developing sign use and interpreting astonishes me. Interpretation is so much more than having a vocabulary tool! Also I cannot imagine wanting to process and retain all of this data electronically. I cringe at the thought of an interpreter pulling out their iPhone to decide what to sign or to show photos of objects because we don’t have adequate skills to communicate in ASL! And keeping files on consumers?! Call me old fashioned but I was trained I use my brain for all of these functions and I find it works quite well!

    • Laura L

      Dear Sarafina,
      That is great that you can hold all that information in your memory. I can’t and that’s why I love Evernote. After thirty years of interpreting, one day in a Physics class, another in an operating room, and the next in a prison therapy group, I am always learning something new. Isn’t that why we love our jobs? : )
      Also, Evernote has password protection so any vocabulary list or other information related to consumers is safe.

  • Debra Beckman

    I use my iPad with caregivers to show oral motor interventions. I would love to be able to use Skitch to make the movements more clear for them to replicate at home. When will we be able to use Skitch with iPad?

  • Reza

    Good job and u gave me just the idea for me to learn sign language. Thank you. And thank you Evernote 🙂

  • Enrico

    Nice way to use Evernote!
    Do you know, european project?

  • Enrico

    Cool! Nice way to use EVERNOTE feature!
    About sign languages, do you know ?

  • Juan A Flores

    Is There Any Way you can help me learn sign language. You see i work in a pharmacy and ive been wanting to learn sign language. Although it is taught in my college, it is i the afternoon, which is when i go to work. Please e-mail me if anything.

    • Laura L

      Hello Juan,
      The best place to learn sign language is either directly from a deaf person or your local community college. When I first started learning, I paid a deaf person to tutor me. It’s great you want to learn! I would caution you however (you undoubtedly already know this ) to not trust your signing skills as a beginner to discuss medicines, dosages etc.with your customers. You would need to not only have many years of signing under your belt, but also understand specialized jargon related to medical terminology. If you are mainly wanting to say,”Good morning”, “Have a great day”, that is awesome!

  • Benjamin Lawless

    Great use case! Never thought about using evernote products to help learn sign language, but that’s quite a wonderful use of the tools.

    BTW, I live just down the street from that map of SLO that you’ve got. I started thinking, “Hey I know Marsh Street.” Made me feel at home… at home.

    Cheers from SLO.