Is French Immersion a good choice for our family?
The other day we went to register our daughter for Kindergarten. This is a big deal, she’s growing up so fast! We also attended an Information session about French Immersion with the Vancouver School Board where parents expressed their doubts about adding French as a third language and the possibility of English reading and writing skills lagging. As I mentioned in a recent post, French Immersion is one of our top choices, but I’m not sure that I’m 100% committed to that choice.
Inspired by Roma’s blog about her hypothetical children’s linguistic repertoire I began to question whether French is the most important in our list of languages for our four-year-old and I started doing some investigating.
Why did we choose French?
We chose to include French in our action plan because she is interested in it, I speak it, it’s an official language of Canada … and, who knows, maybe one day we’ll move to Montreal.
My Experience with French
I graduated high school with a bilingual certificate for my hard work in Ontario’s Extended French program (grade 7 entry). I loved it at first but then I remember toughing it out through the essay-writing and presentation-making processes with the Immersion students (who had been in the program since Kindergarten) because I was holding on to the idea that French would help me get a job one day. And I watched as many of my classmates dropped out and went into the English stream before graduation.
I also took Spanish in high-school and later in University, and my third language has been much more relevant than my second since I moved to the West Coast after graduating from high school. I do still believe that speaking more than one language will help children later in life and I am desperately trying to uphold my Canadian ideal of English-French bilingualism and pass it on to my child.
Is French Immersion Elitist?
Canadian Family’s A Look at French Immersion goes in depth about the history and structure of French Immersion in Canada as well as the pros and cons that have been observed over the years. One thing that was noted in the Statistics Canada publication French Immersion 30 Years Later is that the students in the program “tend to come from better off families than non-immersion students” and that “girls account for 3 of 5 students in French immersion programs”. It has also been pointed out that the French programs lack support for students with different learning abilities and learning styles. All of these factors together create a classroom setting different from the English stream. Whether “elitist” or weird (I remember being called a “Frenchie” by non-Immersion students), the distinction between the programs is obvious to parents, teachers, and the students themselves.
In mid-January we will put our name down for three specialty programs and then by mid-February we will know if we were chosen in the lottery. Choosing a Kindergarten seems like such a big deal, when really it’s only just the beginning.
Until next time!