Revolutionising how children learn languages!
Interview with Alex Somervell - One Third Stories
Those who entered had the opportunity to choose from three different language options to get their children off to a great start.
The winners will receive their books shortly but keep reading for one more little surprise at the end!
So how did the excellent One Third Stories project come about? I haven't come across anything quite like these beautiful books before so I wanted to learn more from one of the founders Alex Somervell.
Alex, you and Jonny have been friends for a long time, have you always known you wanted to do something with languages and education?
I was lucky enough to grow up bilingual in Paraguay, speaking English and Spanish, so I think I always saw myself using my language skills later down the line in some way or another. Jonny (Pryn), on the other hand never enjoyed learning languages when he was younger, so I doubt he ever thought they would become such an important part of his life!
Since we’ve known each other I think we both had a passion for education and after finishing school we took a year out to work as teaching assistants before going to university. After graduating, Jonny went back into education working with children and adults with learning difficulties. I considered teaching myself, before realising that One Third Stories was even an option.
- Are you language learners so you understand the process of mastering a language yourselves?
That definitely does play a part, but more than mastering a language at a young age we’re all about inspiring a love for language learning. Jonny and I have had such contrasting language learning upbringings, which means we can approach everything from a different angle and focus on making it as enjoyable as possible for the kids.
When it comes to understanding the process, we look to our amazing network of teachers, parents and their kids who help us understand what works and doesn’t.
- How do you think learning languages has shaped your own life? Has it opened up opportunities to you such as a desire to travel or giving you a different mindset?
I genuinely can’t imagine who I would be if I didn’t know other languages. They are an essential part of my identity and have really helped to build my confidence and understanding of other cultures (and my own).
Thanks to my languages I’ve traveled all around the world and met some of the most amazing people. I’ve had opportunities to work at Armani in Italy, at the World Cup in Brazil and also at a multinational business in Spain (as well as One Third Stories of course). It has opened so many doors, and I’m still only 26!
- Can you explain to us how children learn languages using your books? I understand you have a special method!
We do indeed have a special method called the Clockwork Methodology. It basically allows us to create unique stories that start in English but end in a different language, by gradually introducing foreign words. The story starts out by introducing the individual words, that rapidly build into phrases, sentences and eventually the last page in the foreign language. Our aim with our books is to help them learn a language as a consequence of enjoying a story!
- The stories themselves are wonderful and beautifully illustrated, how do you come up with the ideas for all of the characters?
Thank you! We’re really lucky to be working with the incredibly talented Hannah Hutchings. Jonny is the writer and creator out of the two of us and he takes a lot of inspiration from fairytales and well-known stories that children love already, as well as crazy ideas he comes up with.
For our first book ‘The Great Word Search’, we actually enlisted the help of 1,532 children who took part in an amazing ‘kidsourcing’ campaign where they submitted their ideas for the characters that would feature in the story. We had so much fun with it and can definitely see ourselves doing it again sometime soon!
- Do we as parents need to speak the language of the book in order to help our children?
Not at all, we design our stories and resources with beginners in mind, therefore there is no need for a parent to speak the language. With each book, we also include an audiobook that is narrated by a native speaker so kids (and parents) become used to the sounds and can start to mimic them.
We also really encourage parents to embark on this experience alongside their children. They might not learn as quickly, but it represents a great opportunity to bond over a bedtime story and gives the kids a real confidence boost!
- Which languages can children learn in your stories?
Our one-off book, ‘The Great Word Search’, is available to learn Italian and German.
We also have a subscription service to learn French or Spanish where we send a Story Box to your doorstep each month, with a new story, activity book, and audiobook.
- What does someone receive when they purchase one of your books and do you offer any other resources to help children along the way?
A few days before the book arrives they will receive an audiobook of the story, narrated by a native speaker. If someone subscribes to our Story Box they will also receive an activity book and flashcards each month to reinforce the learning.
- I'm really excited about seeing these products in little hands! What's next for One Third Stories?
Great question, at the moment we’re developing our Story Box alongside teachers so our stories complement the curriculum. In the future, we will be adding other languages to the subscription, including Italian and German!
- Lastly and most importantly where do we find your books should we wish to buy them?