Parents in Madrid: Natalia Sancho – December 2017

Welcome to “Parent of the Month”, our monthly column featuring Spanish families that have chosen to bring up their children in a bilingual environment despite not being native speakers. Pick up some tips and check out their routines!

Our parent of the month for December is Natalia Sancho from Madrid, mother of two little girls.

Natalia Sancho - Parents in Madrid

Hello Natalia, thanks for taking part in “Parent of the Month”. How did you find out about “Kids in Madrid”?

In September 2012 when my eldest daughter was 2.5 years old we decided to move to England for a few months but which actually turned out to be four years. Our second daughter Isabel was born in England and we moved back to Madrid when she was a year and a half old.

When we knew it was time to move back to Spain I began to look for English-speaking activities in Madrid so that my daughters – especially the eldest – could keep practising her English and thus not forget what she had learnt. It was then that I came across “Kids in Madrid”.

Tell us about your bilingual family.

Jaime and I live in the centre of Madrid with our two daughters Marta (7) and Isabel (2). Jaime is a fiscal consultant and I teach Art and English. I began talking in English at home three years ago so that Marta wouldn’t forget her English and so as to ensure she could still continue chatting to her English friends when we moved back to Spain.

How did you learn English?

I began studying English years ago at college. When I was 18 I went to England for a few months to work as an “au pair”.  After finishing University I returned to London for a few months and afterwards I kept up my English studies at a language academy until moving to England with my husband and small daughter a few years ago.

How do you find chatting to your daughters in English on a daily basis?

What I find the most difficult is using colloquial language in English. I am much more colloquial in Spanish!

Tell us about your bilingual family lifestyle.

The girls do not go to day care or school in English. Instead, they have an American friend who comes around and chats with them in English. They play games together and cook and do all sorts of activities whilst she talks to them consistently in English. My eldest daughter is a member of the British Scouts of Madrid. She also acts in English language theatre. Whenever we can we try to go to English language storytelling at the American Institute. We have foreign friends here in Madrid with whom we always speak in English. We like to travel abroad. We also read books in English and like to listen to audiobooks so that the girls can hear native English narration.

Are they learning any other languages?

Yes, they are both learning Chinese too.

Have you ever been criticized for having taken the decision to talk to your daughters in English?

Someone once said to me that my eldest daughter might feel different to the rest of the children she knows because I talk to her in English in front of them and that also she thought it strange I do this when I’m not a native English speaker. Someone else asked whether I could still feel the same about my daughters if I spoke to them in a foreign language.

Do you have any anecdotes or funny stories to share with the readers of Kids in Madrid about your bilingual adventure?

My younger daughter mixes English and Spanish in the same sentence. The other day she was asking me to give her a seat but at first I couldn’t understand what she was saying because she was calling it a “chair-ita”!

When do you feel most proud of the bilingual family you have created?

We feel most proud when, after hearing so many stories of young children forgetting a language they had learnt upon returning from a foreign country at the same age my eldest daughter was when we came back, we have found that with just a little bit of effort on our behalf she continues to be as happy in English-speaking environments as when we lived in England. We have also noticed that our younger daughter is just as capable of talking English even though it is not her mother tongue either.

Thank you Natalia! Congratulations on keeping English alive and relevant in the daily lives of your daughters.

Interview written and created by Dominique White

Check out our blog for more stories on parents in Madrid and Spain.