World Book Day: One Third Stories teaching language through books

  1. Jonny And Alex

    RPower UKBF Regular Full Member - Verified Business

    355 72
    6 |

    As it's World Book Day today, we spoke to an entrepreneurial startup that's teaching languages through storybooks.

    One Third Stories writes digital bedtime tales that start in English and end in a different language, by gradually introducing foreign words.

    1. When and why did you set the company up?

    One Third Stories was set up by Alex Somervell and Jonny Pryn. Somervell is a "multilingual wizard" who grew up in Paraguay and has lived in the UK, Italy, Brazil and Denmark. Pryn is an educator who has always struggled with languages.

    They met almost eight years ago during 6th form when Somervell moved to the UK. They started a Young Enterprise Company with 10 other friends and then started working on One Third Stories as a ‘side project’ at university before incorporating in April 2015 while Somervell finished university.

    2. What particular problem do you aim to solve?

    We aim to solve the broken language learning system by inspiring children in the UK, and beyond, to love languages.

    The aim is to implement our methodology to stories children would read anyway, imagine Winnie the Pooh starting in English and ending in German. This way we will truly inspire the mainstream population.

    3. What kind of funding do you receive?

    We have received a £2,000 University of Exeter Innovation Grant, a £300 O2 Think Big grant, £30,000 pre-seed investment from the Ignite 100 Accelerator and are currently waiting to receive £10,000 Virgin start-up loan.

    All these have been achieved by getting out there and putting this idea in front of the right people, and by following all the usual application routes. There is a lot out there to help small startups like ours and it's about getting out there. We don’t sit still and are always looking for new opportunities as this is an idea we are passionate about and can really transform the way children learn a second language.

    We will also be launching a KickStarter campaign in April to raise some more funds so we can take our plans to the next level. 

    4. What kind of marketing do you do?

    As we have a very limited budget, we have been focusing on as much ‘grass roots’ marketing as possible. We have held competitions in schools up and down the UK to try and engage our target market, and encourage everyone we meet to get involved!

    We have been lucky enough to meet some great people and companies along the way that have believed in One Third Stories and what we are trying to achieve – from PR companies to bloggers, and journalists – and they have been helping us to get our message out to more and more people every day.

    Social media also plays a big role in our marketing plans. This is a great avenue to connect and share, and we would be lost without it! It takes time, but we know that it is worth it. 

    We are also currently giving away known audiobooks of fairy tales such as Goldilocks and The Three Bears & The Three Little Pigs with our methodology to give a taste of our work.

    5. Do you have a customer base already?

    We have engaged 1,522 children in the creation of a story through a campaign to crowdsource ideas during December 2015 and January 2016.

    We are currently building a community of engaged parents before releasing our first story on Kickstarter in April. We are reaching out to the education sector too to spread the word and get teachers and more schools involved.

    7. Do you have a mentor and what's your team like?

    We have mentors including entrepreneurs with a successful exit in publishing, linguistic professors, the branding director for one of the ‘Big 5 Publishers’ worldwide, an educational advisor for the Spanish Embassy. Besides Alex and Jonny we are working with Pied Piper Communications who are working on our blogger outreach and PR campaign.

    8. Finally, as it's World Book Day, what books have inspired you?

    The original inspiration for the methodology comes from ‘A Clockwork Orange’, a book on extreme violence and a dystopian future. It's the standard source of inspiration for a children’s book, as the author introduced words in a Russian dialect, Nasdat, into English contexts.

    From a business perspective our reading list is very limited. However, the ‘Mom Test’ by Rob Fitzpatrick was excellent.


    UKBF members have also been sharing their favourite reads in the Time Out forum. What are your thoughts around World Book Day? Login or sign up to comment!

  2. beasty

    beasty , Full Member - Verified Business

    2,104 521
    Hm, i do not understand that at all

    If i am reading an adults novel and all of a sudden it switches language, but my standard is not good enough to follow, then i stop reading.

    If i can read a portion of a novel in a foreign language, i can read a whole novel in a foreign language.

    This makes zero sense to me, i cannot understand how it is beneficial

    Enjoying my book, **** i cannot finish it
    Enjoying book, still enjoying book, i am fluent

    Really do not see the point and I live abroad a book written to your level has always worked
    Posted: Mar 3, 2016 By: beasty Member since: Feb 4, 2013
  3. RPower

    RPower UKBF Regular Full Member - Verified Business

    355 72
    @beasty Morning - I say don't knock something until you try it! :)

    Where do you live, out of interest - is it somewhere that requires you to learn a foreign language? I lived in Vienna for a bit, and found it so hard starting out to read books which were totally in German!
    Posted: Mar 4, 2016 By: RPower Member since: Oct 15, 2012
  4. beasty

    beasty , Full Member - Verified Business

    2,104 521
    I live in Italy mostly

    It makes no sense to me sorry, I am a reader, beside me i have The Throwback by Tom Sharpe, this has much olde English language introduced as it is about a very old man who lives in a Stately home on the moors, it is well written and takes you there. Now if that switches to ITALIAN, my italian would have to be at the level of a native for the book to continue with the same style. If this were the case i could read a whole novel in Italian or English.

    I really do not get it, i would like to think useful, but i just do not see how it would be of use.

    If you are going to learn, LEARN and use a book that is aimed at your level

    I wish this was a great new way to learn a language as i would be a customer.

    I have The Firm by John Grisham in both English and Italian, the WHOLE BOOK.. if i chopped it in half and swapped the halves and called it a training aid people would think I had lost the plot.
    Posted: Mar 4, 2016 By: beasty Member since: Feb 4, 2013
  5. RPower

    RPower UKBF Regular Full Member - Verified Business

    355 72
    Hmm, it depends. Look at the success of shows such as Dora the Explorer for kids, teaching them Spanish and English side by side.

    Italy sounds lovely, you are very lucky to live there! Sounds like you're doing very well with the language too!
    Posted: Mar 4, 2016 By: RPower Member since: Oct 15, 2012
  6. Alexander Somervell

    Alexander Somervell UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    0 0
    Hi @beasty thanks for your comments! I'll add to what @RPower has said and do my best to address them.

    It's important to point out that we are creating are digital bedtime stories, which lends themselves much more for the gradual, incidental type of learning we are trying to encourage. Illustrations, the repetitive nature of the stories, the fact that children read the same book again and again and again in a single week all serve to provide context for the gradual introduction of foreign words that build throughout the story from page 1 with a single word, to around 30 on the last page. The fact that it is digital, interactive and has audio helps make it an educational tool, which we've trialled with around 100 children in schools and there was a clear educational outcome. However the biggest factor for us was that quite a few (not all) of the children had a more enthusiastic approach to languages because they were more engaged than through standard grammatical and classroom led approaches. It's also important to point out that we are working with teachers and linguistic professors who have been really encouraging so far, at the same time we have a lot to learn and iterate to get where we want to be.

    Does this help? If you want to see a sample, please drop me an email and I'll send it over.
    Posted: Mar 4, 2016 By: Alexander Somervell Member since: Mar 4, 2016
  7. beasty

    beasty , Full Member - Verified Business

    2,104 521
    That makes more sense to me with that explanation
    thank you
    Posted: Mar 7, 2016 By: beasty Member since: Feb 4, 2013