Phrase nerds with a love for linguistic curiosities and novel nomenclature that’s extra fulsome than their capacity to make attention-grabbing new phrases stick will likely be thrilled by Yak Tack: A neat little aidemémoire (in Android and iOS app type) designed for increasing (English) vocabulary, both as a local speaker or language learner.

Yak Tack makes use of adaptive spaced repetition to assist customers keep in mind new phrases — drawing on a system devised within the Seventies by German scientist Sebastian Leitner.

The app’s core mechanic is a course of it calls ‘tacking’. Right here’s the way it works: A person comes throughout a brand new phrase and inputs it into Yak Tack to lookup what it means (definition content material for phrases and ideas is sourced from Oxford, Merriam-Webster, and Wikpedia through their API, per the developer).

Now they’ll select to ‘tack’ the phrase to assist them keep in mind it.

This implies the app will instigate its system of area repetition to fight the routine drawback of reminiscence decay/forgetting, as new info tends to be jettisoned by our brains except we make a devoted effort to recollect it (and/or occasions conspire to make it memorable for different, not essentially very nice causes).

Tacked phrases are proven to Yak Tack customers through push notification at spaced intervals (after 1 day, 2,3,5,8, and 13; following the fibonacci sequence).

Tapping on the notification takes the person to their in-app Tack Board the place they get to re-read the definition. It additionally shows all of the phrases they’ve tacked and their progress within the studying sequence for every one.

After the second repeat of a phrase there’s a gamified twist because the person should choose the right definition or synonym — relying on how far alongside within the studying sequence they’re — from a multiple-choice listing.

Selecting the correct reply means the educational proceeds to the subsequent fibonacci interval. An incorrect reply strikes the person again to the earlier interval — that means they have to repeat that step, retightening (as a substitute of increasing) the information-exposure interval; therefore adaptive area repetition.

It’s a easy and neat use of digital prompts to assist make new phrases stick.

The app additionally has a easy and neat person interface. It really began as an email-only reminder system, says developer Jeremy Thomas, who made the device for himself, eager to develop his personal vocabulary — and was (deliberately) the only real person for the primary six months after it launched in 2019. (He was additionally behind an earlier (now discontinued) vocabulary app known as Ink Paste.)

For now Yak Tack is a aspect/ardour venture so he can preserve coding (and indulge his “entrepreneurial proclivities”, as he wordily places it), his day job being head of product engineering at Gusto. However he sees enterprise potential in bootstrapping the educational device — and has integrated it as an LLC.

“We now have simply over 500 customers unfold the world over (17 totally different timezones). We’re largest in Japan, Germany, and the U.S.,” he tells TechCrunch.

“I’m funding it myself and don’t have any plans to tackle funding. I’ve realized to understand expertise firms which have an precise enterprise mannequin beneath them,” he provides. “There’s an magnificence to balancing progress and enterprise fundamentals, and given the low price of beginning a SaaS enterprise, I’m shocked extra firms don’t bootstrap, frankly.”

The e-mail-only model of Yak Tack nonetheless works (you ship an e-mail to with the phrase you’d wish to be taught as the topic and the spaced repeats occur in the identical sequence — however over e-mail). However the cellular app is way more widespread, per Thomas.

It’s also (inevitably) extra social, displaying customers phrases tacked by different customers who tacked the identical phrase as them — so there’s a little bit of phrase discovery serendipity thrown in. Nonetheless the person who will get essentially the most out of Yak Tack is unquestionably the voracious and lively reader who’s ingesting plenty of textual content elsewhere and taking the time to lookup (and tack) new and unfamiliar phrases as they discover them.

The app itself doesn’t do main lifting on the phrase discovery entrance — however it should serve up random encounters by displaying you lists of newest tacks, most-tacked this month and phrases from another customers you comply with. (There’s additionally a ‘final week’s most tacked phrases’ notification despatched weekly.)

Taking a step again, one of many merciless paradoxes of the COVID-19 pandemic is that whereas it’s made schooling for youths tougher, as education has usually been compelled to go distant, it’s given many stuck-at-home adults extra time on their fingers than normal to place their thoughts to studying new stuff — which explains why on-line language studying has seen an uplift over the previous 12 months+.

And with the pandemic remaining the brand new dystopian ‘regular’ in most components of the world, market situations appear fairly conducive for a self-improvement device like Yak Tack.

“We’ve seen plenty of good person progress in the course of the pandemic, largely as a result of I feel persons are investing in themselves. I feel that makes the timing proper for an app like Yak Tack,” says Thomas.

Yak Tack is freemium, with free utilization for 5 lively tacks (and a queue system for another phrases you add); or $5 a 12 months for limitless tacks and no queue.

“I determine the worldwide TAM [total addressable market] of English-learners is basically huge, and at that low value level Yak Tack is each accessible and is a large enterprise alternative,” he provides.