The startup

I’m determined to gracefully quit my job so I can stop working to get paid and start getting paid for doing what I like. My passions right now are languages and web design, so what better way to do it than by launching a startup?

I’m building an application to see how other people learn a foreign language; this provides a significant advantage because the learner can build on top of what others have already found useful. It is done by allowing each user to write down what they find difficult about the language as well as the information that helps them understand it in a personal notebook. All the notebooks are shared, and instead of finding out how to understand a particular difficulty, a user can just see how another person solved the problem. Moving from difficulty to difficulty is the best way to explore the language, improve motivation and guarantee true learning.

I’m on the initial stages of the application and in order to do it properly I would need two partners to help me with the design and the coding (Ruby on Rails). If anybody is interested drop me a line at nachocab at) gmail dot com.

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There is a single place for everything

my old to-do list

I just finished watching Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero Talk and I realized that the reason why my initial attempt to integrate language learning with my daily to-do list had failed (the picture is just an extract from my 300 item list at todoist. I was mixing the things that I needed to get done (ACTION) with the words that I needed to study (LEARN). If there is a single place for everything, acting and learning should never go together. The only moment where action is related to learning is when you actually decide that you have to start studying. But once you have initiated this action, what you need is a proper environment for learning.

This is definitely not a to-do list. I still have to figure out what it will be, but it will probably be called asimilia 😉

Balancing my day job, my app and my blog

My original resolution of writing 5 times a week is proving to be quite unrealistic :). I work from 9:30 to 18:30, so the only time I have left is 5 hours between 19:00 and midnight. This would appear to be a decent amount of time but, even if I sit down in front of the computer as soon as I get back from work, it never feels like I accomplish much. If on top of this I have to do some other kind of chore (e. g. cooking, laundry, sweeping, mopping and a long etcetera) time literally flies. I doubt it’s a lack of GTD discipline, but I’ll keep it in mind.

Yesterday was a very productive day in particular. The electricity in my house went out and, even though I was surprised that anybody worked in France on a Sunday afternoon, somebody from EDF eventually came to fix it. The rest of the day I spent downgrading Rails from 2.0.2 to 1.2.6 because I got tired of not being able to follow Ryan’s Railscasts. A very productive day, indeed.

Anyway, on Thursday I’m going on vacation to Brazil and that means +7 days to the first release date. Naturally, in this case, I think it’s worth it.IpanemaIpanema

When learning a language stops being a linear experience

During the first year of high school Spanish the average student learns around 400 new words and expressions in only a few months. Many of these words are learned without an incredible amount of effort from the student’s part. This is a pretty good number if we consider that classes are an average of 40 minutes long and filled with inattentive teenagers. This shows that vocabulary learning at the early stages is a linear process: if you put in an average amount of effort, you will get a decent retention rate in result.After we learn enough words—around 1,000 for Spanish—the learning curve goes up exponentially. The amount of time we put in is no longer proportional to the number of words we can remember. This is because the way most people learn new words is by repeated exposure. We don’t go running to the dictionary every time we hear a word that we are not familiar with. But if we hear it three or four times, we might actually look it up. The same holds true for learning words in a foreign language: the words that get learned first are those that get repeated the most. When the percentage of repetition gets too low–that is, when we don’t get to see or hear the word very often– it keeps getting harder and harder to find the motivation to actually pick up the dictionary and look it up. Especially if the meaning can be guessed from the context.

This means that if we found a way to give more focus to less frequently repeated words, we could still learn them as fast as we did in the beginning. This is what I am currently working on: decreasing the difficulty bump that comes after the initial stages of the learning process.

The first step

This is the most important step, so I’ll make it short but to the point. I love learning languages and I want to share what I know so other people can benefit from it. Eventually, I’d like to make this my day job. But in order to do that I need to:

  1. Create a revolutionary product that others can use to learn languages.
  2. Gather a community of people around it.
  3. Quit my current day job.

This is the plan (at least I have a plan). Step one: done! The journey has begun 🙂