Should my child be in the French Immersion Program?

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You may have heard about the French Immersion Program and considering whether it will be advantageous for your child. If you don’t know much about French Immersion, read on:

What is French Immersion?

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.

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 (of course, except English Language Arts). They are also encouraged to use French to communicate within the school (and at home).

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)

Regardless of entry point, it is intended to continue thru Grade 12. 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, read and download French Immersion Schools in Manitoba.

Benefits of French immersion

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

  1. Cognitive benefits
    Based on studies, learning a new language especially between the ages of five and seven improves the working memory. This is cognitive system is responsible for tasks such as reading and math. Being bilingual also enhances mental flexibility, which leads to the development of critical and creative thinking skills. Another study states that speaking more than one language from childhood increases cognitive flexibility later in life. This means that bilingual or multilingual people have a better ability to adapt 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 knowledgeable in English and French will allow your child to have more educational opportunities. They 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 child to more cultures and expand his global view.

Download Canadian Parents for French (CPF) Manitoba’s pamphlet LIFE in Manitoba (Linking Immigrants to French and English) to get a full appreciation of the history and relevance of Canada’s official language. This will help you make a fully informed decision.

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

This is the main concern of parents who do not speak French. How will you help your child with school work if you don’t know the language? Watch this video from Canadian Parents for French for some tips:

There are many resources for French as a Second Language (FSL) that could help you. For other guides, you can 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).

Know when it’s too much

If you have enrolled your child in the program and the child seems to be struggling with it, talk to your child and to the teacher. Find out the areas of difficulty. Provide solutions and continue supporting your child. If you have tried all means to remedy the situation and it’s not working, it’s time to take your child out of the program. Everyone has a different learning style. The program might just not be for him/her.

Also, acknowledge that newcomer children do not only need to adjust to the language but to their environment as well. In this period of adjustment, they will need your understanding and support. Anyway, your child, most probably is already bilingual. Adding another language to two or more languages he/she already hears at home may just be too much to handle.

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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Community Resources

Canadian Parents for French in Manitoba is a great source for information on the French Immersion Program. It has many FSL resources for parents, students, and educators.

Another website with resources for parents with kids in French Immersion is Voilà Learning. It has articles and video resources that could be helpful for you.

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