The 8th of September 2012 I started to work intensively in an idea I called Vocabulary Notebook. With that idea I was planning to solve a problem that myself and many other english students experience while learning vocabulary. It has already been a year since then and that idea is now a real platform used by thousands of students and teachers around the world. I must say that I’m quite proud of what we have achieved during this year, both as an entrepreneur and as an engineer. Although I don’t have much free time now, I have forced myself to write this post to summarize what has happened around Vocabulary Notebook during this year, from idea to reality. Since there are so many things that have happened, I’m afraid this post is going to be quite long, but I think that the anniversary deserves it.
Honestly, in this year I have worked a lot. A lot means an average of 80 hours a week… But this post is not about all the time I have worked and all the things I have learned. This post is about the first year of Vocabulary Notebook. It’s a summary of what have happened this year around our product, from the very beginning to the full platform we have today. I will probably publish another post soon in which I will talk about all I have learned during this year, doing some retrospectives about my decisions and describing all the tasks I have had to accomplish and all the roles I have had to play. But today I want to review what has happened to Vocabulary Notebook during this year in which it has been built.
I had the idea of Vocabulary Notebook in my mind since 2011. We were living in Cambridge, UK and besides working remotely I was preparing the CAE Exam in an English School. Our teachers suggested us to use a paper notebook where we could write down all the words (phrasal verbs and idioms) that we were learning everyday; with a sample sentence and a definition. I had tried those notebooks before several times and they always failed for me. After a few days, the vocabulary was always messed. No alphabetical order, no topics order, difficult to edit, uncomfortable to carry… I tried it again, saving several pages for each letter this time, to have some alphabetical order. It failed again. They are uncomfortable. In this case the problem was that I had a lot of white pages in the middle; while editions were still messy and all topics were mixed… I asked my partners in the course and most of them had the same problems.
You could think that the problem is that Vocabulary Notebooks are not useful; that it’s better to do nothing. However, there are several studies  that prove the benefits of these notebooks in the Vocabulary Acquisition Process. Significant benefits. The base of the improvement is the personalization of the learning process. If you write your own definitions and sample sentences you tend to remember the word easily afterwards… You understand the word deeply and you won’t forget it easily. And it is true. If you read a definition from a dictionary, you will forget it quickly. If you create your own, first you have to understand the meaning and then you will generate your own definition. You have learned during the process. If you see the word again, you will remember instantly.