Flickrpoet and the Language Classroom

I became aware of FlickrPoet via a tweet on Twitter, and have been playing around with it a bit.

Here is how it works: you type in a poem or a phrase and it searches Flickr’s public collection for images tagged with those words, and then voila! it constructs a series of images in a “photo poem”.

It works quite well in English. But how about other languages?

This evening, during a snowsquall and while I was waiting for my teenage son to get home ( i.e. to distract me from worrying), I decided to play with it a bit…here is what I found:

Using the first few lines of Pablo Neruda’s “Oda a la alcahofa,” Flickrpoet created this image:

Click on the images to enlarge

alcachofa big

(Note if these were “live” pages Flickr poet would let you click on an image and it would take you to the Flickr foto)

I then used Google translator to translate Neruda into English and then ran it through Flickrpoet again. Here are the results:


How about French?


How about a less commonly taught language, like, say, Russian?

russian big

Undaunted, and thinking the googles might have munged that one up, I tried another sentence in English and then converted it to Russian. “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs” or “Быстрый булок ленивые собаки” in Russian.

And the Flickrpoet result?

lazy dogs

(I am thinking this has less to do with Flickr or Flickrpoet and more to do with my lack of Russian skillz)

In any event, it is an interesting tool. I am thinking this might work as a beginning of the semester icebreaker for students who are reluctant to blog and instead might be more comfortable with their words represented by images. Through the images, we can create more stories, or click on them and make connections to the actual people who took them. Who knows.

In the meantime, please help us out and give it a whirl in less commonly taught languages…and let us know your findings.

(PS the kid made it home just fine, thanks for asking 🙂 )

Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!

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  1. Thomas Sturm · December 31, 2009 Reply

    Hi Barbara,

    I’m the developer behind FlickrPoet and first of all: Thanks for taking your time in reviewing FlickrPoet! 🙂

    Your blog post points at a couple of interesting questions… while Flickrpoet more or less accidentally may be useful in the classroom, there may be an opportunity to create a similar application that better fits your needs as a language teacher. Feel free to email me (or post on your blog) with suggestions – while I’m probably not able to respond with a perfect app immediately, I’m always interested in making my web experiments (more) useful for teachers!

    The Stories In Flight site (where FlickrPoet is hosted) is a new place that I’m now populating with small web experiments whenever I have something interesting to show, and I’m always looking for a good reason to try something new there…

    As far as the slightly flaky results with different languages in FlickrPoet are concerned, my guess is that there are just not as many photos on Flickr with Russian descriptions and the Flickr text search probably just times out after giving it a heroic effort. 🙂

    Best regards,


    • barbara · December 31, 2009 Reply

      Hi Thomas!

      Well thank you for stopping by and commenting on the post. Your work is lovely!!

      Speaking for myself and the classes I teach, I am excited about the possibilities of being able to create stories through visual images as well as through words. In my Spanish conversation classes I find that images are terrific at kick-starting a conversation, especially when (as is the case here) you don’t always know what kinds of images you are going to get when you are pulling from a database as large and as vibrant as something like Flickr. (As you may have seen in previous posts on this blog, this past semester I took my students to our college museum and had them use voice thread with their own images as well as the museum’s images…the language they produced through these multimedia opportunities was impressive!)

      Indeed we (I am speaking for myself as well as the other language teachers/technologists out there who are interested in tools such as yours) would be delighted to give you a reason to develop more fun (and beautiful) tools.

      Happy New Year!


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