This week we spoke to Alex, the second half of One Third Stories. Alex and Jonny met when Alex moved to the UK from Paraguay age 17. They have contrasting language learning experiences and founded One Third Stories to inspire children to learn them by creating stories that start in English and end in a different language. Find our interview with Jonny here: http://passportnottingham.co.uk/blog-post/jonny-pryn-co-founder-of-one-third-stories/
My name’s Alex Somervell, and I was lucky enough to grow up bilingual Spanish-English as I was born in Paraguay, South America to British parents. I moved to England to go to university where I studied International Relations with Italian and Portuguese.
How did it feel to be named Virgin Media Pioneer of the Week last October?
It was awesome, I’d seen previous nominees beforehand so it’s great to be a part of the community. They provide some great resources for young entrepreneurs and I’ve got to know quite a few people through it.
You speak four languages and grew up in Paraguay speaking English and Spanish – what benefits have you found?
There are so many cognitive, emotional and professional benefits to learning foreign languages. Personally, the main benefit I’ve seen has been social, I have friends in all corners of the world, which presents a great excuse to travel and see new places (and also makes it considerably cheaper). From a professional perspective I received 3 job offers because of my language skills, which I otherwise wouldn’t have, including working for Armani in Italy and Telefonica in Madrid.
What sort of feedback have you had from parents and kids who have tried your books?
The feedback from both parents and kids has been amazing. We’ve had so many of them express how easy and fun the stories allow learning a language to be. We always had faith that there was something in the idea, but we never expected the response to be so positive. With our Kickstarter campaign we exceeded any expectations we had and can now ensure we will produce more stories going forward.
What is it like setting up a business with a friend?
It has its benefits and drawbacks, but I genuinely can’t imagine doing it with anyone else. We do get on each others nerves from time to time, but because we have such a strong relationship in place we both trust each other implicitly and have never had any problems. We’ve also got contrasting experiences in language learning, which means we can combine different approaches to create something unique.
You’re planning on creating hardbacks and digital versions – can digital technology help with language learning and your project?
Correct, we really think digital technology is a fundamental part of the offering because it enables us to integrate native speaker narration, interactivity to enable kids to interact and quizzes to measure progress. The technology available presents us as the creators with so many opportunities to implement innovative ideas too. Originally, we weren’t going to produce print books, but we realised that it was something that parents and children were really keen on so we followed their advice.
Your stories are currently in French, Spanish, Italian & German but you’re aiming to expand into other languages. Which languages would you like to offer in the future?
From a personal perspective I’ve always thought doing a Klingon version would be super cool… On a more serious note we’re going to look at languages with similar alphabets first (including English as a Second Language) and then hopefully move into the more different languages like Chinese, Arabic and Russian (which I’m currently studying).