Parents in Madrid: Javier Zabala – January 2018

Welcome to the second year of our monthly “Parent of the Month” column! This is a space dedicated to Spanish families who have decided to bring up their children in a bilingual environment. Pick up some tips and follow their lead!

Our “Parent of the Month” for January is Javier Zabala, who lives in Bilbao and is part of a trilingual family.Javier Zabala

Hello Javier – Welcome to Kids in Madrid! Tell us about your family.

My wife Elena and I are parents to Javier who is three years old and we are expecting his brother Aitor to arrive in February.

How did you learn English?

I learnt English at school and I also spent some periods of time in Ireland during my youth.

When did you start talking to Javier in English?

I began to talk in English to Javier when he was about nine months old. To begin with I only used English in the mornings but I soon started talking to him in English throughout the whole day. When Aitor is born I plan to talk to him in English from birth.

Why do you think it is important to use English at home?

I think that speaking English at home will help him develop and improve his skill with this language in the future. He will find it easier to learn and understand. Furthermore I think that speaking to our child in different languages is intellectually stimulating and helps enhance cognitive abilities.

What difficulties have you faced in talking to Javier in English?

I’m not as fluid in English as I am in my mother tongue and often have problems finding the right words for child’s talk!

Have you got any tips to pass on to couples who are thinking of bringing up a bilingual family?

I personally find it very useful to watch films in English with my son as this helps me with pronunciation and vocabulary. I’ve also found a couple of apps on my phone helpful too.

Is Javier learning any other language apart from English?

Yes he is learning Spanish and Basque. His Mum talks to him solely in Basque and the rest of the family in Spanish.

Do you have any anecdotes to share with us?

Yes! Sometimes when we are out with friends and they hear me talking in English to Javier they start chatting to him in English too. By the end of the day we find we are having parallel conversations in Spanish and English – and sometimes in Basque too – which can be really quite hilarious at times!

When do you feel most proud of being part of a trilingual family?

Seeing my little boy perfectly capable of understanding what I’m saying in English at the same time as chatting away to his Mum in Basque is enough to show we are doing a good job!

Interview written and created by Dominique White.


If you’re interested in more stories from bilingual parents in Madrid, check out our blog.