Parent of the Month for March is mum-of-two Raquel Lores from Madrid.
Hello Raquel – thank you for taking part in Parent of the Month. Tell us about your bilingual family
We come from Madrid and we have two children aged 6 and 1. My husband works for a Spanish engineering company and travels extensively for work. I studied Business Administration in UK. I live in Madrid with my family and run a small family real estate business. I also developed my own website called Kids Meet Kids, which helps parents find children’s activities locally in the UK and Ireland.
Where did you learn English? I studied English at school in Madrid. From the age of 11 I spent a month of my summer holidays in the UK, Ireland or USA, staying with a host family and taking English lessons. I also studied Business Administration in England and afterwards worked in London for two IT companies before returning to Spain.
How did you become a bilingual family?
I started talking to my daughter in English when she was 6 months old, after taking advice from a friend in the UK. Now I continue to talk to her and my younger son in English. We follow the OPOL method – One Parent, One Language. I am now completely used to speaking to my children in English. What I find difficult about talking to my children in English is negotiating with my eldest child in English when I am tired. Her speech is getting more complex, and she often answers me in Spanish rather than English. It takes perseverance to keep the conversation going in English.
Do you have any practical tips to share with fellow readers?
Yes, I do! The sooner children get used to listening to correct English pronunciation, the better. Bilingual children should watch television in English – controlling the amount of time they are in front of the telly, of course! There are sounds in English that do not exist in Spanish, and that only young learners can capture and thus learn to pronounce well for the rest of their lives. Kids also need to listen to native speakers in conversation. If you can have a native speaking babysitter, send them to a bilingual school, listen to the radio. I also recommend singing as much as possible and listening to songs in English in the car. I read out loud good night short tales in English.
Finally, from experience I can say that your child might answer in Spanish but you can translate their answer to English, so she/he can see that you listened to what she/he said, and that way your child learns the way to express themselves properly in English.
What leisure activities do you do in English?
My eldest child has taken part in English playgroups and workshops. We also went on holidays to the UK and she joined some group activities there. Here in Madrid my daughter goes to an afterschool fun and fitness class twice a week in English.
Why do you think it is important to talk to your children in English?
Children will find it easier to learn English if they have been hearing it at home. English becomes familiar to them. Furthermore, growing up with two or more languages is beneficial for a developing child’s brain. I am sure that bilingual families help broaden their children’s communication skills.
Have you faced any criticism for choosing to talk English to your children?
Some friends and family find it impolite that I talk to my children in a language that they don’t understand. However I explain that it is not recommended to mix languages when talking to small children, as I use “One Parent One Language” method.
Several people advised me not to speak English to my daughter because English is not my mother tongue and in their opinion it could have harmful effects.
Once a friend told me that I am not showing “my real me” to my kids by speaking to them in a foreign language.
Do you have any anecdotes or funny stories you would like to share with readers of Kids in Madrid about your adventures as a bilingual parent?
Sometimes when my daughter doesn’t know a word in Spanish, she converts English words:
For example, “Me lendas ese juguete” or “Este regalo hay que wrapparlo”.
What is your proudest moment as a bilingual parent?
I feel proud when we meet kids that only speak English and my daughter goes to speak to them. She can communicate in simple English and – importantly – she can enjoy herself in the company of English speaking children easily and happily.
Thank you Raquel, keep us posted with your bilingual parenting tips!
Interviewed written and prepared by Dominique White