Should my child be in the French Immersion Program?

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You may be wondering whether enrolling your child in French Immersion will be a good decision. With English and French as Canada’s official languages, having proficiency in French might be advantageous for your child. If you don’t know much about this program, read on:

What is French Immersion?

The French Immersion Program is a second language program designed for students whose first language is not French and have little or no prior knowledge of French. Students receive instruction in most or all of the subjects in the French language (except English Language Arts of course). They are also encouraged to use it to communicate at school and at home.

French Immersion is one of the four school programs available to Manitoban students. The other three are the: English Program, Français Program and Senior Years Technology Education Program (available for the English, French Immersion, and Français Programs).

It has three entry points:

  1. Early immersion (Kindergarten – Grade 1)
  2. Middle immersion (begins in Grade 4)
  3. Late immersion (begins in Grade 7)

It is intended to continue thru Grade 12 regardless of entry point. If you want to see how the curriculum looks like, go to this link: French Immersion Program curriculum (Manitoba.ca). To find the nearest schools in your district offering the program, go to French Immersion Schools in Manitoba.

Benefits of French immersion

There are many benefits to learning Canada’s official languages (and to language learning in general):

  1. Cognitive benefits
    Findings show that learning a new language especially between the ages of five and seven improves the working memory. This is the cognitive system that is also responsible for tasks such as reading and math. Bilingualism (and multilingualism) enhances mental flexibility as well, leading to the development of critical and creative thinking skills. Meanwhile, a separate study found that speaking more than one language from childhood increases cognitive flexibility later in life. This means that bilingual and multilingual kids are expected to be better at adapting to unfamiliar or unexpected circumstances when they become adults. (2013 Journal of Experimental Child Psychology and 2013 Journal of Neuroscience).
  2. Educational and economic benefits
    Being skilled in English and French will expand your kids’ educational opportunities. They’ll have the option of attending any of Canada’s post-secondary institutions/universities. Bilingual (English/French) individuals also have higher employment rates and earn 10% higher than those who speak English only (Canadian Census 2001).
  3. Social benefits
    Having knowledge of French opens up many options for travel, not only within Canada but to other parts of the world. This will expose your kids to more cultures and expand their global view.

To get a full appreciation of the history and relevance of Canada’s official languages, read the pamphlet LIFE in Manitoba (Linking Immigrants to French and English). This will help you make a fully informed decision.

How can I support my child if I don’t speak French?

There are many resources for French as a Second Language (FSL) that can help you. Download: Supporting students with special education needs in French as a Second Language. A Parent Guide (Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic School Board) and Working with parents in French Immersion (Manitoba.ca). You can also check out several websites that support parents and students of FSL:

  • Canadian Parents for French in Manitoba has many FSL resources for parents, students and educators.
  • French for Life contains practical content such as videos, activity booklets, even homework help for both students and parents.
  • Voilà Learning has many helpful articles and video resources.
  • Watch this video from Canadian Parents for French for more tips:

    Know when it’s too much

    If your child is already in the program and struggling with FSL, initiate a heart-to-heart talk. Ask which areas they find difficult and what you can do to support them. Collaborate with the teacher as soon as possible to come up with strategies to help your child get over this slump. Sometimes, a little support and motivation are all that’s needed. Continue to monitor performance and always check-in with your child.

    If you see no progress and your child continues to struggle, don’t consider it a failure if you decide to move them to another program. Everyone has different learning styles and preferences. Besides, your child is probably already bilingual. Adding another language may be too much to handle. Acknowledge too that your child is not only coping with learning a new language but a new environment as well. They need your full understanding and support in this period of adjustment.
     
    Article updated September 3, 2020.
     
    Sources: Top 10 benefits of early language learning, Early-advantage.com; Should you put your kids in French immersion? Nancy Ripton, Today’s Parent; LIFE in Manitoba (Linking Immigrants to French and English).

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