As a parent with young kids, you may have heard about the French Immersion Program. If you’re considering enrolling your child in this stream, but don’t know much about it, 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:
- Early immersion (Kindergarten – Grade 1)
- Middle immersion (begins in Grade 4)
- 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):
- Cognitive benefits
Based on studies, learning a new language especially between the ages of five and seven improves the working memory. This is responsible for tasks such as reading and math. Also, being bilingual enhances mental flexibility, leading one to develop critical and creative thinking skills better. 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).
- Educational and economic benefits
Being knowledgeable in English and French will allow your child to have more educational opportunities. He or she can have the option of attending any of Canada’s post-secondary institutions/universities. And according to the Canadian Census 2001, bilingual (English/French) individuals have higher employment rates and earn 10% higher than those who speak English only (Canadian Census 2001).
- 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 when you make your choice.
How can I support my child if I don’t speak French?
This is the main concern of parents who do not know French themselves. How will they help their child with school work if they 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 he/she 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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1. The French Immersion Program is intended for students:
2. A child will only be able to enter the French Immersion Program at Grade 1.
3. Another word for “curriculum” is:
4. Select the correct definition for the word “cognitive”.
5. Some studies have shown that multilingual adults have an easier time coping with unfamiliar and unpredictable situations.
6. According to the Canadian Census 2001, individuals who speak both English and French had a ________ employment rate and earned _____ more than those who spoke only English.
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