A Look at French Immersion

Don't make any decisions about French immersion until you read this story

A Look at French ImmersionHoused in charming little Elmlea school, set on a tree-lined street in northwest Toronto, Cindy Auwaerter’s Grade 4 classroom features typical clusters of desks, colourful bulletin boards, and a checkerboard-pattern carpet in the centre of the room. But in this serene setting, a remarkable intersection of cultures and languages can be found — the 25 students, in characteristic Toronto fashion, have been drawn from nearly a dozen cultures, from the Middle East to Africa to the Caribbean. They speak English with one another out on the grassy playground, but in this class it’s en français, s’il vous plait. From the decor — posters and handwritten sheets display math (L’arrondissement des nombres), science (Qu’est-ce qu’un habitat?) and language (Les adjectifs possessifs) — to the gentle yet concise words that flow from Madame Auwaerter and the social chatter in the room, the children are completely immersed in French.

And it’s clear that they, in turn, have embraced the language, in work and play. Ten-year-old Ammar uses his French skills as a sibling secret code. “Sometimes me and my brother will be talking and we don’t want Mom to listen, so we just start talking in French,” he says with a broad smile. Some are thinking ahead. “Let’s say you want a job but they only have one place. If there’s another person who only speaks English but you speak English and French, they’ll give you the job because you know more languages,” says Bryan, also 10. “My hope,” says Auwaerter, “is that French immersion will take them anywhere in the world that they want to go.”

A BILINGUAL BRAIN IS BETTER

French immersion (FI) made its debut in 1965 at a single pilot school in an English-speaking Montreal suburb. Enrollment boomed in the late ’70s and the ’80s, with programs opening in school boards from coast to coast as part of the federal government’s newly introduced policies on bilingualism and multiculturalism. Today, FI — a public education program designed for non-French speakers that teaches all or most subjects in French — can be found in every province and two of three territories (Nunavut is the exception). A made-in-Canada approach, this style of education has also been exported to a number of countries around the world. And while the boomtown days are gone, FI continues to show modest growth. At last count, in 2006, some 309,000 students (7.7 per cent of total eligible enrollment) were enrolled between JK and Grade 12, more than a third of them in Ontario. Certain places, including parts of British Columbia and areas of Toronto, are experiencing sharp rates of growth, and some school districts have even adopted lottery systems to allot available places (a better option than parents lining up overnight prior to registration day or registering their child while in utero, which had been happening in B.C.).

The enduring popularity of French immersion can be attributed to a number of proven benefits, some of which are well known. Parents often enroll their children in order to open doors of employment down the road, and at least one study, performed by the Association for Canadian Studies, has validated these hopes. It found that workers who speak both French and English earn almost 10 per cent more than those who speak English alone. There’s also the pleasure of being able to converse in both of Canada’s official languages, and the fact that French speakers have another handy tool when travelling abroad and can make a wider variety of cultural connections. Bilinguals also enjoy certain cognitive advantages, says Ellen Bialystok, distinguished research professor in the department of psychology at York University in Toronto. Bialystok has authored a number of studies in this area, and notes that the benefits of bilingualism include enhanced problem-solving skills, although, she adds, these cognitive abilities only kick in when someone enjoys fully balanced and fully functional bilingualism, and after “massive amounts” of practice.

WHEN TO ENROLL — AND WHAT TO EXPECT

Parents seeking to enroll their kids have three main options (although all three aren’t available in every district). Early immersion begins in kindergarten or Grade 1, middle immersion in Grade 4 or 5, and late immersion in Grade 6, 7, or even later.

Early immersion is by far the most popular, and some 80 per cent of all FI students begin at this point. The amount of French in the classroom upon entry in kindergarten or Grade 1 will vary from board to board, but in many or even most cases it will be total. “The advantage of early immersion relates to children’s brain development,” says Janette Pelletier, an associate professor of human development and applied psychology and a French immersion expert at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. “It is thought that the greater plasticity in a young brain is related to the ability to acquire second, third and fourth languages more easily, without a pronounced accent.” Nathalie Martel-Fairbairn, who oversees French immersion up to Grade 6 for the Halifax Regional School Board, adds that early on “we douse them with language — orally, visually, on the written page. They have to speak the words — eat them, practically, so that they make sense.”

And while experts say that kids don’t find entering an all-French classroom bewildering (having no other experience, they just assume that this is the norm at school), parents should be prepared for their little student to be tired out. “The first few months, they are exhausted, and parents might notice that their kids will be a bit grumpy when they come home,” says Lise Henry, an Edmonton Grade 1 FI teacher and mother with two kids in immersion. She adds that having strong foundations in place (such as a scheduled bedtime, healthy meals and snacks, and even a water bottle to stay hydrated) can help children handle this challenging time.

However, for many parents, the biggest concern isn’t the initial days in the program, but the long-term acquisition of English skills — and the well-circulated rumour that these skills suffer in French immersion. This is, in fact, a myth: studies have shown that the skills of students in the program either match or even exceed those in the regular English stream. But parents should be prepared for a lag in the early grades. Carolyn Meek-Vandervaart, an Orangeville, Ont. mother with two kids in the program — daughter, Jacqueline, is in Grade 2 and son, Charles, is in Grade 1 — is experiencing this first-hand. Although Jacqueline can handle French spelling and conversation easily, she notes that she “heard that children tend to be really poor spellers in English, and that’s the case with my daughter right now — she’s a terrible speller.” The lag usually disappears within a year, says Sharon Lapkin, a professor in the Second Language Education Program at OISE/UT. When literacy skills become entrenched, she explains, kids then use those skills across languages, plus the introduction of classes in English language arts in Grades 3 or 4 also helps. Parents also often fear that their child’s performance in other subjects, especially math and science, will suffer, but the research — including many large-scale studies in the ’70s and ’80s, and an influential update published by Lapkin and her colleagues in a 2001 edition of the Canadian Modern Language Review — indicates that it will not.

Those who enter FI in a middle or late immersion program face a daunting challenge, having spent many years — including those when basic reading and other skills are learned — in the regular English stream. But kids who join at this point often play an active role in the decision, and tend to be very motivated. They will typically be plunged into near-total immersion right away. Jan Claes, who taught in a Grade 7 late immersion classroom for 18 years, and now oversees FI for Grades 7 to 9 at the Halifax Regional School Board, notes that “in September and October, the teachers were more exhausted than the kids because we had to do an awful lot of miming and drawing. We would go through the whole explanation and say, “Vous comprenez?’ and there would be all these eyes blinking at you.” But, she adds, they catch on surprisingly fast. “By January, they always found their rhythm — there was this giant click, and by the end of the year they were quite capable of teasing me in French.”

As kids move up through the grades, the amount of time they spend in an all-French classroom drops, and by the time they reach high school, students will typically be taught two courses in French, aside from French language class, per year (math, certain sciences and other courses are typically taught in English). FI programs tend to have a high rate of attrition, with the greatest number of students choosing other paths as they enter high school. However, once in secondary school, motivated by the prospect of earning a French immersion certificate and the resulting opportunities, students usually remain until graduation. The level of fluency at graduation will vary from student to student, sometimes according to how much time they spent in the program, but most will be functionally bilingual. “They won’t become Francophones, but they will be able to work or study further in French, which is really an asset,” says Halifax’s Martel-Fairbairn.

AN EDUCATION ELITISM?

Since its inception, French immersion has been plagued by the charge that it’s elitist. “Some people call it the poor man’s private school,” observes Vancouver mom Janice Duivestein, whose eldest son, Jared, graduated from FI two years ago and whose younger son, Rylan, just graduated at the end of the 2007 school year. French immersion advocates, including Duivestein, firmly deny that this is the case, pointing out that the program is publicly funded and, where available, open to every child.

However, Statistics Canada, in a 2004 report entitled “French immersion 30 years later,” has documented that kids in the program tend to come from higher socio-economic backgrounds and are more likely to have parents with a post-secondary education. Moreover, the same report notes that “there may also be a tendency for less-skilled students to transfer out of immersion programs if there is a concern about their ability to learn in the second language.” Added to this is the fact that the availability of support for students in FI with learning disabilities varies from board to board, and is often inadequate. Not surprising is a 2007 finding by the Canadian Council on Learning that attrition rates are particularly high among these students.

Connie Bell and her 10-year-old daughter Rachel became part of the attrition statistics when Rachel was in Grade 2. Observing that Rachel had a great command of the English language — speaking by eight months — and after seeing the positive experience of her cousin’s kids, the Whitby, Ont., mother enrolled Rachel in early immersion. By Grade 1, she was struggling mightily with her French writing skills, and as she entered Grade 2, Rachel fell further and further behind. She met with the special education resource teacher, who didn’t speak French. “Rachel would sit and silent-read during their meetings. And I thought, “Well, that’s not helping.” Rachel, she adds, was scolded for asking for help, had papers marked with bright red X’s, and in at least one case was publicly embarrassed by her grade two teacher in front of the class. After meetings with the principal and classroom teacher were unhelpful, Bell figured enough was enough and pulled her out. “Rachel wasn’t eating her lunch, went to school with a stomach ache every day, and had diarrhea,” she remembers. Bell, who works as an educational assistant, feels that early immersion teachers serve as gatekeepers for the program. She believes that kids with behavioural issues were weeded out after Grade 1 (she observed that none returned for Grade 2), and that kids with academic needs were counselled out by the end of Grade 2. “By Grade 3 you have your elite, then they mould them for three, four, five and six.” Rachel, who was never actually identified with a learning disability (because the test was administered in English), is now happy in her Grade 4, regular stream class — and getting top marks in French.

Some would argue that Bell’s experience is a (particularly bad) exception rather than an example of a systemic pattern, while even Bell, who calls French immersion an “excellent program” for the right student, is reluctant to speculate on whether her experience is being replicated in other schools or boards. And FI advocates such as Betty Gormley, executive director of the Ontario branch of the national organization Canadian Parents for French, are firm in their resolve that such special education resources should be available to FI students. “We absolutely believe that children in the French immersion program should have access to any kind of support that is offered for any kind of special need.”

Back at Elmlea, which has a French-speaking special education resource teacher, there is little evidence of elitism. “Take a look around,” says Madame Auwaerter, nodding to her students on the playground. “Our children come from a diversity of cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. When they come to us with strengths, we use their strengths, and when they come to us with needs, we support their needs.”

Contributing editor Tim Johnson retained little more from his core French education than the theme song to Téléfrançais, but gained a working knowledge of the language when he spent several months living, playing baseball and teaching English in northern France.

Keep reading for tips and pointers if you are considering French immersion for your child

French Immersion Tips

[nrelate-related]

26 responses to “A Look at French Immersion”

  1. Stan Marsh says:

    “A BILINGUAL BRAIN IS BETTER” keep believing that rubbish, you just might believe it one day.

  2. *You're says:

    That’s because it is you retard, but immersion is shit, if you wanna see real improvements (what they are saying) you need to be enrolled in a full french school. In 8th grade, full french schools are learning 8th grade french, immersion schools are learning 4th grade french and speaking terribly because their teachers have learned french in immersion while teachers in Full French schools, for most of them, it’s their first language.

  3. Parent says:

    Humble opinion: Same kind of “gate-keeper” phenomenon at ecole Pine Grove in Oakville. No struggling kids wanted.

  4. Lina says:

    Many of the French Immersion teachers in BC seem to be recycled products of the French Immersion system, and their students become competent producers of Fringlish – which sounds very impressive to non-French parents. If you choose this route, have their math skills tested in Grade 3 and be prepared to pay for some remedial tutoring so they do not fall too far what other kids their age are doing. Grade 4 is a common final year in French Immersion as parents get increasingly worried that their children are not receiving adequate instruction to write well in either language.

  5. Parent says:

    We just had a meeting with my daughter’s grade 2 teacher yesterday and the special ed. teacher was also there. I was given clues by these teachers that I should try and move my daughter to an English school since there will not be much French reading help provided in the school. I was told that there can assessment be done but it will take a long time for the results to come out. There was no co-operation from the class teacher. It is quite sad that when I signed up my daughter for this program they paint a pretty picture about the program. They should clearly tell the parents that there will not be any extra help given to your kids if they fall behind because the board has no money. So this way parents are aware. I know my child talks and understand French when it not even our first language. All she needed was little extra help in reading and she can’t get that. They don’t want to work with the kids.

    I agree with Connie Bell. This is what is exactly happening kids with academic needs were counselled out by the end of Grade 2. “By Grade 3 you have your elite, then they mould them for three, four, five and six.”

  6. Joy says:

    I was in the FI program all through elementary (then switched to extended (late immersion) in high school because I wanted to do an specific SHSM and the FI high school didn’t offer it…but that’s not my point), in a probably 50/50 franco/anglophone community in northern ontario. In my opinion, the FI system has changed a lot (at least in my town). When I was in FI, until grade 4 we did not have a single class on English. We were not even allowed to speak english during our breaks/recess. English was our first language (for most of us, myself included) and we were completely illiterate. Then, because we were with an English school board, we took our EQAO (third grade) in English. Not one person passed. We were also never taught any kind of grammar, it was simply assumed that we knew it. For myself, this became a problem when I switched into a lower-level french program were almost all the students were illiterate in french. I almost failed the course because it was mostly grammar lessons and tests, and I knew nothing.
    But things have changed, as I now have a cousin who is in 4th grade in the same FI school I attended and our concern is her french level. She has a horrible accent, and cannot communicate well. Next year she will be switching to a full french school and having a tutor to help her bridge the gap.
    The FI program isn’t perfect, and it could certainly use some work. I think no matter what the education in the two languages will never be equal, but I also think if FI is what you decide, early immersion is the way to go!
    My personal opinion is that students attend a french elementary school , and a french immersion high school. This way they will get a proper french education, but still be able to attend a english/bilingual university if they want.

  7. disqus_j9xAeEtqVI says:

    Right, cause in our world today everyone around the world is rushing to learn French… hahahaha

    sorry, but wake up. What is MORE IMPORTANT to an “education” is learning good english, and cantonese, mandarin, arabic, japanese – heck, spanish – not french.

  8. concerned parent says:

    Parents and I have been having the same experience with grade 2 FI. The struggling kids are falling behind and instead of hand holding their parents are being advised to switch to English. I was given a very rosy outlook on FI by a researcher from UBC who did her PHD on the subject. “everyone catches up with their english counter parts or even surpasses them by grade 4” I’m starting to wonder if the stats arn’t slightly exaggerated by struggling
    children being weeded out in grade 2.

  9. flo says:

    Thanks for sharing. When you say french elementary you mean a program where french is taught as a subject right?

  10. Another parent says:

    If you want your kids to grow up to be like Jean Chretien who could speak out of both sides of his mouth at the same time in neither official language, then go ahead and put them in FI. I grew up in Toronto in an English system where I learned French for 30 minutes a day from grade 4 to grade 12. My French is plenty good enough for reading the parking tickets that I get in Montreal, and plenty good enough for the road signs when I cross the bridge into Hull.
    I know very few people, including myself, who have a full oral and written command of their native language. Being perfectly fluent (oral and written) in one language is an accomplishment that most people fail to achieve. It is a worthy lifetime goal for most of the population. The people who write and speak the most beautiful and compelling English that I have seen and heard are native English speakers. I have to turn off the CBC radio when I hear most of those supposedly bilingual Francophone politicians embarrassing themselves in English, and I’m sure that bilingual Anglophones do the same thing in French.
    I’m a 51-year old electrical engineer working in Ottawa. I know several English-born engineers who took FI. I find that their English and math skills are generally not as good as unilinguals, and they have told me that they have forgotten most of the French they learned.
    It is a well-known fact that as long as children learn at least one language before a certain critical age, that they can then learn any language after that. It doesn’t matter what the language is. If they don’t learn a language before that critical age, then they will never be able to learn any language. The important thing is to make sure that the language centre of the brain is developed before a certain critical age and doesn’t atrophy, and become lost forever.
    In our modern society multilingualism to me extends beyond traditional ancient languages like English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Latin, etc. They are all languages with elements like an alphabet, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and pronunciation which develop more or less the same parts of the brain. There are also other languages that develop other parts of the brain, such as Chinese, music, dance, drawing (art), poetry, math, science, computer programming languages, etc. All these languages allow people to express themselves in different ways using different parts of the brain.
    Why do people think it is so important to spend an inordinate amount of time learning French as a second language, which develops the same part of the brain as English, at the expense of not learning these other languages and developing these other parts of the brain? I would be much happier if the time my kids spend at school learning French in FI was spent learning how to play a musical instrument, learning how to dance, learning how to draw, learning how to write poetry, learning the language of math (distinct from arithmetic), and learning how to program a computer. Half an hour a day for French on top of that wouldn’t hurt them too much if you are afraid they will be missing out on something.

  11. toto says:

    I have 7 year old twin boys in grade 1 FI in York Region. I was very excited about my sons attending FI as I believe in Canada’s 2 languages. I did all my research, most of it was very positive and starting the kids early would make it easier for them. I attended the parents meetings and felt my kids were in amazing hands. They confirmed that by January my kids would understand and speak the language. Well, here is a little of my experience: The boys first test was a cross word puzzle and a picture of a word matching game. Now take into consideration that jk and sk was singing and learning social skills. Now they’re just starting to learn to write letters they are given this kind of test. So needless to say there was a whole bunch of X’s on every line marked with a Red Permanent Marker and a big sign on each page with the letter (F). My sons were so excited to show me their first test and asked me what all the X’s and F”s meant. In January they were given their first math test, it was 4 pages long, The first page was for them to construct a graph of: horses, pigs etc. then the following 3 pages were questions to be answered about the graph on the first page. This is how the system starts to break your kids spirit. Now its February and I received the boys first report card which I am supposed to sign and give back. Both boys received N’s in almost all areas, which is the lowest grade they can give. They say the boys are not getting the language and we should consider placing them back into the English system. Both report cards were identical the grades and comments were exactly the same for both boys. It appears they copied and pasted information and just changed the names. Well, the Principal signed off on this and never noticed that both report cards were identical. My sons have missed 2 days of school this year and were late twice. Yet they say they are not getting it. Everyday, they bring home at least 5 sheets of home work, if they don’t complete something in class they are told to bring it home and I am supposed to help them with it. I have found tutors which charge around $40/hr. and this is for grade 1. I have searched for after school activities ie. sports, book clubs etc. where the boys can complement the French language. I found a gymnastics school where the owners and many of the coaches are French but they refuse to speak French to the kids. So much for a bilingual country. Well, I am not someone to give up, but its an up hill battle where the FI system is against me. Although, I get my kids to school everyday and my boys are rarely sick, they actually want me to teach them French at home. They’re tests make absolutely no sense for a Grade 1 Class: cross word puzzles and graphs written in French and then decorate it with Red Ink. I was TA in University and was not allowed to use red ink to mark papers. As a parent I am very proud of my sons they do understand a lot of French they can watch children programs and understand almost everything, they have amazing accents and are very excited to speak the language. However, they cannot seem to live up to the expectations of the school. So am I going to keep them in there after the school has expressed they don’t want them. So next year they are going to go back to the English system why am I stressing my self about all this French. I’m in HR and I see tons of resumes of French speaking people who cannot find a job here in Ontario.
    In conclusion, I would say that in Ontario the French Teachers may know the language but they no absolutely nothing about teaching. At, least in the English system I can help my kids my self and not have to pay all these high tution fees.

  12. parent says:

    What a terrible experience. I am so sorry that your boys had to go through that. French immersion should be available for all children and the teachers should be as highly trained as their English counterparts. Children who need a little more help should also have the opportunity to learn French immersion and the appropriate supports should be given such as resource teacher time. I would give the teachers and principal of the school the feedback as you wrote it above so that perhaps they can avoid this happening to other children – if you have the energy! I would also inform the teacher’s union if there is one that they belong to. Most teachers want to improve their practice so it should be seen as helpful feedback although I know it must be agonizing for you as a parent. Perhaps there is also an issue with funding cuts to public education that don’t allow for more support for your boys? My 4 year old boy is going to be going to a French immersion school in Vancouver next year. The school has a good reputation but we have had so many cuts to our system over the last 12 years due to a short-sighted conservative government so extra supports from specialist teachers aren’t at the levels it used to be. Class sizes are also larger. Despite these factors, I am hopeful this will be a positive experience but it is good to read posts like this so I’m not going into this experience blindly. Thank you for your post and good luck!

  13. Paula says:

    STOP blaming the teachers. NOT EVERY CHILD has the aptitude toward early language learning. The fact that FI is availabe by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to everyone does not mean that every child will have the aptitude for it. It demands a great deal of extra work and commitment and even with that in place, some children do not enjoy it.

    I applaud any parent for wanting to expose their children to early FI. However, I spend a great deal of time volunteering to try to help children like yours who are struggling. Most, over the course of a years worth of work, really don’t show any great improvement. MANY of the children I volunteer with tell me everyday that THEY HATE FRENCH. Does that sound like a child who is going to thrive in FI…but parents keep sending them back because of their agendas!!! Teachers can do everything and more than they are expected and children can still have difficulties in the FI system.

    You are not being forced out of a system when teachers try to talk honestly about how your children are doing!!! They want to help you make the best choice for your child and it is not a failure on anyone’s part. For now at least, concentrating on English only language would be better for your children.

    I am guessing you are going to see a really big difference next year, in your children’s performances. Doesn’t that mean you simply made the right choice for them…does it have to mean somehow the children who do succeed in the system or the teachers in the system have done anything wrong?

    Many of our friends started their children in FI, with my son. The ones who left the FI (I don’t see it as dropping out, as some of you call it) are loving English only. It was the best choice for their families. They don’t resent me because our son could manage the FI and I don’t think them beneath us because their children changed over to English.

    Do what is right for your children and stop trying to prove anything to anyone else!!!

  14. Paula says:

    It is not that struggling kids aren’t welcome in FI. Ask yourself, why did I sign up for FI, in the first place. Are those things happening for my child? I have seen so many children leave FI and then go on to excel in English and then move back to late FI. SOME CHILDREN just don’t or cannot keep up with the language acquisition required for early FI. IF yours cannot, think about making the right choice for them and stop trying to suggest the parents of children who stay in FI are thinking badly about you, or the teachers aren’t working hard enough or that some “gate keeper” conspiracy exists. What I cannot understand is the number of parents who insist on keeping their children in, even when I hear daily from many children about how they hate FI.

    My son loves FI. That doesn’t make me an elitist – it just means he has always had a tendency toward language acquisition. He can’t do math for his live so we struggle with whether or not to keep him in FI. I am not better than any parent – except I think, those who insist on believing that ever child should be in FI; that is hogwosh, as not all children thrive in the environment.

  15. Andree says:

    ‘Being’ French has no bearing on ones capacity to ‘teach’ the French language nor other subjects within an FI environment.
    That is called curriculum design/development/implementation/student assessment/evaluation etc etc.
    Oh yeah, and the teachers craft of their selected subject’s teaching pedagogy.
    Check the statistics on high school french immersion attrition rates, assume that with the severe attrition rates of 50%+ that to some degree there is instructor deficits, then factor in how many of those high school teachers during those attrition years are french language born and you might realize their birth language has ‘less’ (much) to do with their success/failure as a teacher of french language than their teaching methodologies.

  16. Dianna K. Goneau Inkster says:

    Teachers in elementary school can hardly decide who is achieving or not in FI after all they are working in the classroom not in real life situations and with many other pupils to distract them.. Testing should provide further enlightenment if teachers are trained to understand the reports produced after extensive and expensive testing by school and educational psychologists, audiologists, optometrists, ophthamologists, play therapists, and occupational and physiotherapists as well as special education teachers trained in testing the achievement levels of students.. Do I sound like someone with experience? Indeed, I am. My daughter and son were both diagnosed with non-verbal learning disabilities in their elementary years. My children stayed in French Immersion at my insistence. While my eldest has done exceptionally well both in high school and in university at both the undergraduate and graduate level because of her high I.Q. and academic bent, it was my son a very non-achiever who used his oral French while serving in the Canadian Navy Reserves. to win friends and get free drinks at the Laval Law School smoker. Now, is the season for enrolling your child in EFI and LFI. Consider carefully the course you are embarking on and stick to your guns when teachers who would rather teach the average child want to discourage your child. One good thing about Ontario having 4 publicly funded school boards is the family has lots of programming options.

  17. NoFrenchImmPlease says:

    Too bad that your boys lost a very formative learning year being in FI for grade 1. It is amazing to learn a second language, French or otherwise for all of the wonderful reasons that advocates of FI quote. BUT…kids in Ontario and in Canada are losing ground on the more important things, like mathematics and science, in comparison with the rest of the world. In the early years, learning mathematics in French is detrimental for our kids because they are trying to learn two things at once…language and mathematical concepts. So parents, ask yourself what is the MOST important thing for your kids to get out to school…learning the curriculum and gaining knowledge or speaking French. If you want them to be the very best in the future the way our global world is going, speaking French and not being able to do mathematics will put them at a great disadvantage.

  18. A says:

    Actuellement je me suis enrôlais dans l’immersion français et je peut parler couramment en français alors penser avant que tu parler.

  19. honey says:

    Those who are complaining about their kids never catching on to the language may have to face the simple fact that their children are…not as intelligent. I’m sorry but not all kids are created equal. I’m sure you’re child is the prettiest, smartest, funniest little thing but that’s only to you.

  20. Comptesse Sophia Jane Chilver says:

    I grew up in French Immersion, and I loved it. Now I’m at University studying linguistics and I firmly believe that for me, FI was the best thing my parents did for my future. Of course, that’s largely dependent on me. My sister and brother were also both placed in FI and though didn’t take to it like a duck to water the way I did, they didn’t go on to develop a passion for languages and linguistics either (and, if you’re concerned about overall academic performance, my sister ended up attending High School in English after we moved to Australia and she outperformed me in most areas).

    As far as I’m concerned, the initial lag in skills is completely worth it considering the boost bilingual education gave me. I’m also learning Spanish now, and the concepts make so much more sense to me partially because of my training in linguistics, and partially because of my understanding of French.

    If you’re thinking about it, of course it depends on your child, but I say do it.

  21. Todd Co says:

    Learning some manners could help too.

  22. Todd Co says:

    You wouldn’t know.

  23. Antoine Khoury says:

    Is there any club for parents whose kids are enrolled in JK/SK French programs?

  24. Antoine Khoury says:

    If yes, is anyone interested in learning French on line or improving their French>

  25. Kay says:

    People need to stop ethnicity/race with socio/economic status, you cant ‘take a look around’ and assume that there is a vast socio/economic split in an immersion school, just because the kids are diverse. Many visible minorities who send their kids to French immersion are from higher socio-economic backgrounds, so I am not quite sure what that comment means.

  26. Martin Langevin says:

    Second-language instruction policy as public policy.

    My father is a functionally monolingual British-immigrant English-speaker with a smattering of French that he’d learnt on a taxpayer-paid French-language course while he was in the military. My mother is a Franco-Ontarian who is functionally bilingual in French and English. I am completely trilingual in French, English, and Esperanto, and am mostly fluent in Mandarin Chinese. My wife is a fluently trilingual Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese speaking university graduate and entrepreneur yet knows only a smattering of English.

    Though most of us speak at least two languages (if not three or four), our respective public education systems still failed to ensure a common language between some of us. Clearly the solution is not to just arbitrarily further expand the number of languages that are taught in our public schools for the sake of prestige as is presently the case.

    Right now, most of Canada’s English-medium public schools teach French for show with no concern for whether all of the time and money spent will pay any kind of familial, friendly, cultural, legal, or economic dividend. Even if the child does successfully learn French and ends up choosing a French-speaking spouse, how will this ensure communication between his parents and his spouse? His parents will know English and his spouse French, neither of which is a comparatively easy language to learn. Have policy-makers even thought of this?

    Ditto French-medium public schools in Quebec and Chinese ones in China teaching English. Even French-medium public schools in Ontario engage in the same kind of showmanship by offering Spanish courses that few students will successfully learn well with no thought to how it will ensure communication between the parents and spouses of those who do learn it well. The present second-language education policy was thought out by amateurs with no knowledge of how second-language instruction policy can affect interpersonal relations within the family.

    Due to French being required to access Federal employment and my not wanting my child to be a second-class citizen in his own country, I therefore intend to register him to a French-medium school as it is my Constitutional right as a French-speaker to do. Even if my child does not end up working for the Federal government, French can still serve him as an official language. I’d once witnessed the disconcerting discourse in varying degrees of broken English between an IRB judge, a Minister’s Counsel, and a Chinese-English courtroom interpreter. The hearing had stemmed from a false accusation by a CBSA officer who had herself relied on her extremely broken English to interview the accused through an English-Chinese interpreter which had resulted in her having misunderstood most of the accused’s answers. The officer’s broken English had cost us thousands of dollars in legal fees. Worse yet, we’d later learnt that the courtroom interpreter had corrupted a misstatement of the accused in the accused’s favour without the IRB learning about this until I had mentioned it! Even though the evidence showed the accused to be innocent of the accusations made against her in spite of the corrupted statement, that the interpreter had the gall to corrupt a statement while interpreting under oath was disconcerting to say the least. Have provincial policy-makers even considered the link between second-language instruction policy and its impact on human rights in the legal system?

    Clearly in a state neither official language of which is a comparatively easy one to learn, to not need to rely on an interpreter between English and French in official matters can be very reassuring! In fact, after that experience, I want for my child to never have to communicate with his government through broken English or broken French (Canada’s two de facto official languages).

    Since we want our child to be able to communicate with my wife’s family, we intend to teach him spoken Mandarin and my wife intends to teach him written Chinese.

    According to various European studies, Esperanto is from five to ten times easier to learn than English. Had the British and Ontario public education systems taught my parents Esperanto, I could have then taught my wife Esperanto too. Given that these education systems have not changed much since my parents’ time, I intend to teach my child Esperanto as a practical familial language. This way, should my child later learn a language that I do not know and wishes to marry a person who does not share a common language with me, my child could then offer to teach that person Esperanto as a multiple-times easier language than English, French, or Mandarin Chinese.

    Additionally, this would allow my child to teach my grandchild Esperanto to ensure a common language between him and his child-in-law should his child also learn a language that my child will not know.

    This will leave both of us teaching our child spoken Mandarin and my wife teaching him written Chinese to communicate with her family, my teaching him Esperanto to add an easy language to his multilingual repertoire for the familial reasons mentioned above, and the public school teaching him French and English not only to ensure his equal access to the Canadian job market but also to protect his right to communicate with the Government in other than broken English or broken French.

    In the modern world, given that there is no knowing what additional language our child may learn and therefore whom he may end up marrying, Esperanto becomes the most useful of all of the above languages from the standpoint of ensuring an easy common language within the family.

    In spite of the obviousness of this from my personal experience, schools continue to uncritically waste taxpayer money to teach for show languages that most students just can’t learn. After more than fifty years of official bilingualism, the public education system does not possess the competence to ensure a common language between its own compatriots and correct language among Federal law enforcement officials! Yet it pretends to know how to prepare our students to access the global markets of the twenty-first century. Even if it succeeds in doing so, it will remain oblivious to the potential effect of this success on the family!

    It would seem to me that it is time for ministries of education to re-examine the sandy foundation on which their outdated second-language instruction policies of the 1960’s are built and to promote a more co-ordinated second-language instruction policy with ministries of education worldwide to better reflect the global linguistic reality outside of the classroom today.

Close