Friday, 20 May 2016

Changing the story of language learning for British children

As you may already know little L is a bilingual toddler, we try to encourage Russian as it's my mother tongue and we would like her to speak fluently in both English and Russian. When I came across One Third Stories and their idea of language learning for kids I thought that it would be particularly interesting and useful for L and kids like her.

"Language learning is something that as Brits we struggle with from an early age. We’ve heard again and again that we aren’t good enough, we don’t need to learn a different language and frankly it’s just not that entertaining.

Language learning is flawed, especially in English-speaking countries like the UK. Despite the fact that it is compulsory in primary schools at Key Stage 2 in 2014, almost 60% of schools don’t have a specialist teacher capable of teaching them (BritishCouncil Report, page 54). It is, therefore, hardly surprising that around two thirds of adults in the UK regret their poor language education and wish that they could speak another language (BritishCouncil Report 2). 

Jonny Pryn and Alex Somervell are close friends, yet represent opposite ends of the language learning spectrum. Jonny, grew up in the UK failing to learn French, “it wasn’t for lack of trying, but I started off with a French teacher with a cockney accent and most of the resources available were either boring or didn’t help me learn very well”. Alex on the other hand grew up bilingual in Paraguay, South America. “English and Spanish came naturally to me, and having working in language education in the UK something really needs to change”.

They recently founded One Third Stories while at university, with the aim to revolutionise change language learning for children. The way they do so is through stories that start in English and end in a different language, by gradually introducing words in the foreign language using their innovative Clockwork Methodology®. It represents the first book of it’s kind, and is designed to make learning a language as simple as reading a story.

“Our Clockwork Methodology is inspired by Anthony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’, a dystopian hyper violent novel I read while studying Linguistics at University,” said Jonny. Strange inspiration for a children’s book, however Jonny found there were words in a made up Russian dialect that he could actually understand. “Jonny came to me, being one of his only friends who could speak languages and we started working on the concept,” said Alex.

The pair have tried out various prototypes with over a thousand children, parents and teachers that have helped validate the methodology and give them the confidence do it full-time. One Third Stories has launched on Kickstarter to offer everyone the chance to learn a language through various products including a large hardback version of the story, audiobooks, apps and even the chance for you to become one of the characters in the story.

“Our mission is to inspire a new generation of multilingual children, and we’re looking for help in making this dream a reality,” said Alex. “We’re hoping we can hit our target of £10,000 to order the first print run and produce the app”, said Jonny".

Let's wish Jonny and Alex all the best with the project! 

"Further details can be found on the One Third Stories website or by following them on twitter @onethirdstories and Facebook".  

1 comment:

  1. Pam Francis Gregory23 May 2016 at 14:52

    Yes agree, all the best Jonny & Alex!