Web-based training for ELAN

ELAN is a Multimedia Annotator tool used by researchers for analysing sign language and gesture data. The training is given in English (with English subtitles) and in the Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT).

Principal investigator
  • Beyza Sümer
Research domains
  • Linguistics
Resource types
  • Tools
Research activities
  • Annotating

Recent years have witnessed increasing momentum on sign language related studies, which has resulted in an accumulation of sign language data to be analysed. The ELAN Multimedia Annotator tool (2020) has proved to be very efficient for research involving visual corpus data, in particular the annotation of videos with sign language data. Increasing availability of sign language data requires more people who are trained on how to use ELAN effectively. ELAN training, however, can be time-consuming due to its broad range of functions and features. Carefully prepared manuals of ELAN provide significant insights into its specifics but becoming a skilled ELAN user requires a more “hands-on” training since ELAN is best learnt via practising rather than extracting knowledge passively by reading manuals. Unfortunately, apart from very few sporadically organized events, a systematic practical training for this highly convenient tool is currently lacking.

About the project

This current project aims to fill this gap by creating a web-based platform through which interested parties can have access to a systematic “hands-on” training in using ELAN. In this way, the proposed project will contribute to the accessibility of ELAN training to a wider audience from all over the world, including scholars from countries in which ELAN is not yet commonly used. At present, ELAN is usually taught in face-to-face settings (e.g., classroom) by people who have extensive experience with it. Such training sessions may involve travelling of the ELAN instructor to different parts of the world, which might be severely restricted for an unforeseeable period of time currently. Creation of a web-based training platform for ELAN is thus a timely and important endeavour, as it facilitates continued knowledge transmission without interruption, as well as makes the learning process for learners more flexible.

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Fellowship presentation by Beyza Sümer

Now, a web-based portal, ELANport, offers a platform with educational tools such as videos with the aim of providing basic training on ELAN. These tools can also be used as supplementary materials, which can be incorporated into already existing ELAN courses, which will beneficial for both the trainers and the trainees. These videos are short (max. 5 minutes) and targeted towards answering specific ELAN-related questions / issues (e.g., how to create a template, how to export data).

It is also important to note that sign-language-related projects often employ deaf researchers, whose native language is a sign language. For many of these deaf researchers, learning ELAN by reading the manuals is not optimal. Therefore, the videos include English subtitles as well as interpretation in International Sign, which will increase the accessibility of ELAN trainings to the deaf population, thus making an important contribution to inclusivity by promoting the diversity of its user profiles.

ELANport now hosts 21 training videos that introduce basic training on using ELAN. The content is being explained in English in these videos, which also include subtitles (in English). All the content in each video has also been translated into the Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT) by Ellen Nauta (Hogeschool Utrecht). The training videos are presented in three categories: Introduction, Annotation and Corpus Search. ELANport can be found using this link.

Project info


Beyza Sümer
Beyza Sümer

University Lecturer, University of Amsterdam