Early French Immersion

Beginning in Kindergarten, the Early French Immersion program is designed to provide non-French speaking children with intensive learning opportunities to attain a high level of fluency in the French language by the end of their secondary school studies. Additionally, the program fosters favourable attitudes towards the French language, its speakers and their culture.

A World of Opportunity

Apart from being one of Canada's official languages, French is spoken by about 120 million people worldwide. It is the official language in about 30 countries and commonly used in another 12. French is also an official language of the European Union, the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee. English and French are the main languages of diplomacy on the global scale. All embassies of all nations use either English or French, or both, as languages of communication.

French is a relatively easy second language for English speakers to learn because of the close historical relationship and shared alphabet. In addition, many English words come from French or Latin, a common root of both languages.

This is not to ignore other languages. Research in education has shown that mastery of a second language can make it easier to learn a third and fourth!

Q. What is the purpose of an Early French Immersion program?

A. Designed for non-French speaking children, the French Immersion program will provide intense learning opportunities for students to attain a high level of fluency in the French language by the end of their secondary studies. In addition, the program fosters favourable attitudes towards the French language, its speakers and their culture.

Q. What linguistic goals can be achieved?

A. The successful graduate of this program will be able to:

  • Participate easily in French conversation
  • Continue post-secondary studies with French as the language of instruction
  • Accept employment requiring French fluency;
  • Develop French linguistic skills and cultural knowledge with a spirit of positive appreciation and respect.

Q. What are the advantages of an Early French Immersion program?

A. Knowing a second language can

  • Increase your child's personal pleasures such as the enjoyment of literature, art, music, theatre, travel and personal relationships
  • Increase your child's understanding of and respect for other peoples and cultures
  • Help your child understand more about themselves, their country and fellow Canadians
  • Give your child access to a larger pool of information and to more educational and career opportunities.

Q. What is the percentage of French instruction?

A. The model we generally use is as follows:

JK/SK (full day) 50% 50%
Grades 1 and 2 90% 10%
Grades 3 to 6 70% 30%
Grades 7 and 8 50% 50%

Q. What can be expected of my child by the end of the Kindergarten years?

A. With the completion of the Immersion Kindergarten program, the children will have developed a very high level of comprehension in the second language. They will be able to imitate particular French sounds and words with accuracy and produce simple sentences correctly. Some may begin expressing themselves by using basic structural patterns and vocabulary that that they have previously learned.

Q. How does the Immersion Kindergarten program compare to the regular Kindergarten program?

A. In terms of goals, content, structure and early childhood approaches to learning, the French Immersion program closely follows the regular English Kindergarten classes. The major difference is that French is the language of communication and instruction in class. Following a brief introductory phase, the teacher who is the primary model for the new language will continually address the children in French; however the children will more often respond in English during the Kindergarten years.

Through persistent exposure and gentle encouragement, students begin to develop second-language skills that focus on listening, understanding and limited oral expression. This is accomplished as each child moves through various routines, instructional experiences and "play" learning activities.

Senior Kindergarten learning is also activity-based with "circle time" structures to promote the acquisition of new vocabulary and expressions related to a particular theme. Songs, poems, drama and stories are integrated into each theme along with a variety of learning centres provided to encourage and enhance the learning experiences. At this level as well, preparatory lessons and activities for basic reading and mathematics skills and introduced.

Q. How will this affect my child's English language progress?

A. Research has shown the Early French Immersion students suffer a slight lag in their English language skills up until formal English instruction is introduced in Grade 3; however this gap is only temporary. Barring any severe learning difficulties, Immersion students should be on par with their English counterparts in all areas of study by the end of Grade 6 or earlier, with no adverse effects on their first language skills. In fact, acquisition of a second language is proven to enhance first language expression and mastery.

Q. Are Immersion programs suitable for all children?

A. With proper motivation and support, the Early French Immersion program can be a viable option for nearly all students; however, certain 'at risk' factors have been identified for those few children for whom the program may not be suitable. Please contact the school principal to explore the possibility of Early French Immersion for your child.

Q. What can I do to prepare my child for this experience?

A. To make school entry a positive experience for both you and your child, a number of suggested pre-school activities could be considered.

  • Talk about school in general and describe what will take place in a kindergarten class. The songs, stories, the art and play activities are a few that spark interest.
  • Explain that a French Immersion Kindergarten class is the same as in the regular program except that the teacher will be speaking French and that soon they will be able to understand all that she is saying.
  • Expose your child to French television programs and, if possible, borrow French musical tapes from the municipal library. This will be helpful to introduce the child to words and sounds of the new language.
  • Use a few basic expressions in French such as Bonjour and Comment ça va? With the help of a book try saying the colours or a few numbers together in French. Make it fun and show that you are interested in learning some new French words too.
  • Express how pleased you are that they will soon be going to school. Explain how proud you are that they will be learning French and how enjoyable it will be.

Golden Rules for Parents of French Immersion Students

The following adapted guidelines were first offered to Immersion parents by Canadian Parents for French, a national organization that supports and promotes second language learning.

  1. Be supportive at all times. Remember that your child's success in the program will be greatly influenced by your attitude and your encouragement.
  2. In the interest of your child, establish a cooperative, honest and open rapport with the teacher. Support the teacher, the program and the school.
  3. If your child is eager to share what was learned in class, encourage it, but never force him or her to do so.
  4. Do not attempt to correct your child if you are uncertain of the correct expression or pronunciation. Give the child the benefit of the doubt.
  5. Do not hesitate to expose your child to French television programs or to borrow French books and musical tapes from the library.
  6. On special occasions accompany your child to a school book fair or to a French bookstore and help him or her select a book or recording of their own choice.
  7. Take advantage of opportunities offered in your community that will increase your child's exposure to French language and culture.
  8. Be proud of your child's achievement. Let your youngster know that you are pleased with the progress being made.
  9. Remember that the success of the Immersion program depends largely on the efforts and mutual support of all involved.

Further information regarding the Early French Immersion Program may be obtained by contacting the Board's Coordinator of FSL Programs at (705) 472-1201.