French Immersion

French Immersion

In Canada, French-English bilingualism carries a number of benefits:

  • Economic benefits:  Canadians who speak both official languages earn more, on average, than those who speak only English or only French.
  • Cognitive benefits: A number of studies have documented the cognitive advantages that speaking a second language confers. For example, many bilingual people have enhanced problem-solving skills because of their ability to attend to relevant information and disregard misleading information.
  • Cultural benefits:  French-English bilingualism enhances Canadians’ ability to participate fully in Canadian society.

What is French Immersion? In French immersion programs, French is not only a subject, but also the language of instruction and a means of communication — much of the regular school curriculum is taught in French.  Provinces and territories, as well as school boards and individual schools all have helped to shape immersion programs, so that the percentage of French language instruction may vary.

French immersion programs are designed to provide non-francophone children with a high degree of proficiency in the French language.  The goal is to equip the graduate with the ability to communicate naturally in French using a wide range of vocabulary.  A high school immersion graduate should be able to function well in a French-speaking community, accept a job where French is the working language, or pursue university or college education in French.

  • CPF commissioned Ipsos Reid to conduct a national survey of about 500 supervisors of bilingual employees outside of Quebec and outside of the public service.  Findings suggest that: – Bilingual employees are equally represented in entry – and mid-level positions, while 21% are senior-level positions; – Just over 80% of supervisors consider bilingual employees to be a valuable asset to their company; – Seven in ten say that even a basic ability to communicate in French is an asset; and

– Very significantly, almost half of the respondents have difficulty finding bilingual employees.

Value of French Immersion — testimonials by former students and parents of former students

Bonnie Blenner-Hassett

Mitchell graduated in 2007.  Mitchell has really valued the French immersion program.  He complained when he first started and into Grade 2 and 3.  But by the time he was in Grade 6, he could see and appreciate this educational experience. and he never complained again.  The students and parents, I think, are amazed how fluent the students are by Grade 7 or 8.  Mitchell was able to converse in French with staff at the Canadian pavilion at Epcot at the age of 13.  So you never know when a second language will be beneficial.  He enjoyed the opportunity to use a second language on a trip to France when he was in Grade 11.  He enjoyed Europe so much he went back for 2 1/2 weeks in fall of 2007.  He said that he used his French more this time.   He is planning to work/travel throughout Europe for the next couple of years.  He will be leaving in February of 2008.  He now wants to learn a 3rd language.  Mitchell says that there needs to be increased time for French at the high school level.
Also, our daughter Olivia, who is Grade 9 is really enjoying the program.  When I look at her written homework completed in French, I am impressed with her knowledge.
I strongly encourage parents to consider this program for their children.

Mrs. Cudmore…

My daughter Natalie utilizes her French language skills working as a flight attendant for WestJest.  My son James also uses his French working as a marketing agent for the Regina Inn.  The French immersion program is a valuable educational opportunity for students of all ages, especially in this day and age where people travel and have great employment opportunities any where in the world.

Sayward Krofchek …

I am a former French immersion student.  I began my immersion experience at the age of 5.  By the age of 7, I used my French out in the world.  While travelling with my family to Edmonton, we stopped at a park for a picnic lunch.  While my sister and I were playing, I could see a young girl, my age, sitting with her grandparents.  As I ran by, the grandmother said, “Bonjour,” and that stopped me right in my tracks.  I answered in French and began a little conversation with them.  I was so excited, I ran to tell my mom right away.  She went over to visit with the French couple and found out that while the grandparents spoke some English, their granddaughter did not.  This little girl had not spoken to anyone her own age since they left Quebec (about one week).  I made a difference all because of French immersion.
By the time I graduated in 2002, I had used my French for many, many things.  I’ve sung the national anthem for many grand openings and events, including the Motherwell Homestead’s anniversary, which involved a government representative from each province and territory, the Parkland Regional College opening, the RCMP Musical Ride and many hockey games.  I’ve had the opportunity to travel all across Canada and meet hundreds of people, order from French menus, listen to French music, watch French movies, etc.  French people tell me how much they appreciate that I speak both official languages. We’ve had students from Mexico stay with us over the years, and French even helped me understand Spanish.
Since I graduated, I have worked in the education system with French immersion students to help them not only learn French but to learn  to appreciated different languages and cultures as well.  The doors are open for your children, why close one when their life has just begun?

Daphne Krofchek …

As a parent of 3 children who participated and gained their education in the French immersion program, all I can say is, ‘JUST DO IT!”  I and my husband are English speaking only.  We were excited to give our children the chance to learn another language.  All of them have used their language throughout their life.  They have helped French visitors with purchases, directions, or fulfilling friendships by helping those who speak only French feel welcome and less lonely.  We have traveled many places where they have enjoyed theater in French that we, my husband and I, could not understand.  They have been able to translate at national events such as the junior national baseball event held in Saskatchewan and sing the national anthem at various events.  They have been able to obtain employment in the fields of travel and education and have found their language skills beneficial as a hair stylist as well.
Today in the financial industry, where I work, in education, in the public service sector, all are asking for employees who speak both official languages.  Language is a life long skill that you will always take with you.  There is absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

French-immersion education in Canada

When French is not a language used in the home, formal instruction in school is often the most convenient option for children to learn it.  French immersion is one of several French as a second language (FSL) program options available in elementary and secondary schools across Canada.  Canada saw its opening of its first French-immersion class in 1965, St. Lambert, Quebec.  Since then, French immersion has become available in all provinces and two territories.  Most programs were developed following parental dissatisfaction with the traditional core French programs and the desire to encourage bilingualism.

In French immersion, all classes are taught in French, usually for the first three years of the program.  English language arts classes are introduced in the third grade, followed by a gradual increase in English instruction for other subjects.

Does French immersion work?

French Skills

Research conducted in Canada during the past 40 years has shown that French immersion students outperform English students in regular core French programs in all types of French-language tests.  Immersion students, especially those in early immersion, have been found to perform as well as native French students on tests of reading and listening comprehension.

English-language skills

Since immersion programs focus on curricular instruction in French, a natural concern, is that students’ native language development may suffer.  Typically, students in total early immersion receive no instruction in English until the third or fourth grade when English language arts are introduced for the first time.
During the first years of their immersion programs, early total-immersion students tend to score lower than students in English school or English language testing of literacy skills (such as reading comprehension, spelling and written vocabulary).  However, most studies indicate that they show improvement in these skills after the first year of English language arts instruction (introduced in grade 3 or 4).

Academic skills

In French immersion programs, the same academic content is taught as in the regular English program.  Since the language of instruction in French immersion programs is the students’ second language, it is important to determine whether these students perform as well as students in non-immersion programs who are being taught in their first language.  Generally, research indicates that French immersion students perform as well, and in some cases better than English students on tests of science and mathematics.

More information can be obtained from the Canadian Council on Learning
also from  Christ the Teacher School Division #212

Some of their accomplishments are:
Concours d’art Oratoire – (annually since 1985) This is a national public speaking competition sponsored by CPF for core French, French immersion and French first language students.
~ Over 40,000 young Canadians and their families take part in extracurricular activities in French (summer and winter camps, film and theater events) which are sponsored by CPF.
~ CPF has also purchased French materials for the resource center.

CPF (Canadian Parents for French)- Canadian Parents for French is a Canada-wide volunteer network of individuals and families who are interested in the improvement of French second language opportunities for young people.  Each province has a volunteer Board and local chapters at a community level.

CPF is a very integral part of the French immersion program.  You can get involved with CPF; you do not need to know French. You only need to have an interest in making the French experience for your child the best it can be.

Immersion is the most effective methods known for teaching a second language. It works well at an early age because young children do not have any inhibitions or negativism. Immersion provides more time working in second language and that results in more learning. The aim of immersion is functional bilingualism, full

mastery of the English language and an understanding and appreciation of French culture.

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.

  1.  What are the advantages of French immersion?
    It enhances self-esteem and develops learning skills that they can use for the rest of their live.  Research says that children who learn a second language have improved problem-solving skills and they find it easier to learn a third or fourth language.  Graduates are able to communicate comfortably in the second language while maintaining the same fluency in their mother tongue.  Students acquire knowledge and cultural understanding of other people.  Advantages for your child include preparing for the world of work, enhancing personal and cultural experiences and improving overall communicative abilities. which does not require assistance in French such as math is sent home.  Talk to parents of immersion students.  Rest assured that immersion has been successful for many years because teachers modify their expectations of parent assistance.  However, reading with your child at home or drilling them with their number facts are all beneficial.  CPF has more information on how to be an immersion parent.  Even if you do not speak French, you can help by taking an interest in your child’s progress in French and encouraging activities that enhance language learning such as French songs, TV programs and games.
  2. How can I help my child if I don’t know French?
    Immersion teachers are aware that children live in homes where French is not spoken.  Often homework
  3. How much instruction is in French?
    Currently for the students in Grades one to six, 85% of the week is studied formally in French.  The other 15% encompasses subjects taught in English and they vary from year to year and from class to class.  The students in Grades seven and eight receive 55% French instruction.
  4. When does the formal instruction of English language arts begin?
    The students begin to study English as its own subject in Grade three.  Since they already received training in French language arts, it is most natural for them to read in their first language.  The focus is on spelling and writing because this is where the need tends to be.
  5. Would the study of a second language cause some confusion?
    It is amazing how students can learn to read English without formal instruction.  Learning to read in French automatically teaches them how to read English.  English and French have Latin roots so studying one language can enhance the other.  A study in 2004 indicated that in all but one province (Manitoba) students in French immersion programs performed significantly better in reading than other students.
  6.  What are class sizes like?
    Class sizes range depending on our numbers from year to year. Split classes do allow students to become independent learners and it also allows the older students to become leaders.
  7. Can students experiencing difficulty be successful in immersion?
    Immersion is not a program for gifted students.  Many students in the immersion program have resource room help and some of them have been successful while coping with learning disabilities.  However, ambiguity is a normal learning environment in the immersion classroom and some students do not react well in such a setting.  This can cause stress for some students and their behavior may be affected.  If this should occur your child’s teacher will consult with you.
  8. Do students “lose out” on their English skills by being in immersion?
    Immersion students have been tested using standardized tests.  Their performance has been compared to English students at the Grade four and Grade eight levels.  There is some difference at the Grade four level where the students had only been exposed to English language arts for only one year, but by the eighth grade there was no significant difference in the test results.
  9.  If I don’t live in the St. Michael’s attendance area, what are the arrangements for transportation?
    Bus transportation is available to all students registered in immersion, and their siblings who may be registered in English, if they live out of St. Michael’s attendance area.  Transportation for French immersion rural students is also provided.
  10. What about siblings who are not in the French program?
    If you have children who are registered in another school in the English program, they may register at St. Michael’s School in the English program if a sibling is registered in the French program.

Immersion is the best way to acquire a second language.  It has many advantages for your child that will pay off in the future.  If you have any questions please contact the school at 782-4407.  If you have questions that you would prefer to ask of other parents, please call Tammy Plews at 783-3211.

Also, if you are interested in seeing a French classroom in action, you are welcome to come and observe.  Please call before you come.  (St. Michael’s School 782-4407)

Special Events:
~ Jour de Ste Catherine – The students love this day.  They get to learn a little history and they get to try out their taste buds.
~ Concours d’Art oratoire — Another CPF sponsored activity giving the students the opportunity for public speaking.  It is always fun to hear the different stories and speeches.
~ Les amis de lecture — The students from Grades 6, 7, and 8 pair up with students in Grade 1 to do reading together.  they all have fun and learn at the same time.
~ Junior Concerts — The immersion students enjoy two French junior concerts each year.
~ Clin d Oeil — This is a French journal that invites students to submit work to be published.
~ Motherwell Homestead visit –The Grade 4 students travel to the Motherwell Homestead every year in June.  They learn about life of the pioneers in the early days and get to have an interesting field trip.

Links to cool web sites for games, learning activities and cultural activities.
Radio Canada / Festival du voyageur

Canadian Parents for French-Saskatchewan (CPF-SK) – About Us
Canadian Parents for French is a national network of volunteers who value French as an integral part of Canada and which is dedicated to the promotion and creation of French-second-language learning opportunities for young Canadians.  The Saskatchewan Branch of CPF, with its office in Saskatoon, works in partnership with local chapters to organize events, promote French-second-language learning opportunities, and advocate for quality FSL programs in Saskatchewan.  The majority of members of CPF-Sk do not speak French, and are parents who want to provide their children with opportunities for learning French and becoming bilingual.  Every new member of CPF-SK adds their voice to a growing number who advocate for quality FSL programs in the province and support students, parents and educators in this endeavor.  You can join CPF by using the membership form available on our pamphlets and publications, on the web site at or by calling CPF-SK office at 1-800-561-6151 or 244-6151 in Saskatoon.  Become a CPF member today.

From the CPF National Fall/Winter Edition …..
I don’t speak French; can I still help my child?
YES – Immersion teachers know that most parents do not understand or speak French.  The world-renowned program was designed specifically for children of anglophone parents.  There are many things you can do to help:

1)  Be supportive and enthusiastic.  Research shows that students whose parents have positive attitudes toward French do better in immersion programs.
2) Provide lots of opportunities for your child to learn English.  Skills learned in one language are transferred to the other so read to your child in English, encourage your child to write in English, and encourage English-language word games like crossword puzzles, word searches, and Scrabble.
3)  Make French a part of your child’s life by providing opportunities for you child to use French outside of the classroom: borrow or buy French books and videos, watch French TV with your child, expose your child to French-language events and activities.

Tips on helping your child learn French
* Children will notice words which have the same or similar form in both English and French, (e.g. six, France, letter) in texts, and can guess meanings from contexts.
* Help your child to read and understand written text in the foreign language.  Different sound-spelling rules apply in French (e.g. the silent ‘s’ at the end of words, the nasal sounds of ‘en’, ‘an’, etc.) and careful reading and repeating of written texts will reinforce correct pronunciation.
*  Singing in French can help to develop self-confidence, as children focus on the music or rhythm rather than worrying about pronunciation.
*  Children enjoy the challenge of learning and practicing new language on their own.  Although they need support and encouragement initially, they progress to become independent, autonomous learners.  soon they are able to work alone with a PC and dictionary, developing their French skills and knowledge in the same way as they do for other subjects.
*  Ask your child to find examples of French words in everyday life, e.g. cafe, cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, instruction leaflets.
*  Looking at books in French is a valuable activity and these are obtainable from internet book sites or bookstores.
*  Using DVD’s allows the possibility of watching a French film in English, then French, and swapping between the 2 languages, at the pace of learning or length of concentration appropriate to an individual child.
*  Using puppets allows children to practice new language, e.g. questions and answers, in different situations, without inhibitions, acting out roles and putting on different voices and characters.
*  Encourage your child to use e.g. ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir’ to visitors and ‘encoure’ at mealtimes when second helpings are required.
*  French picture dictionaries can be used for finding new words which relate to children’s interests (e.g. stick, insect, mountain bike).  Bilingual dictionaries can be a useful tool, but children may need help in finding their way around.
*  Links with pen-pals abroad, via email or letters give a real purpose to learning faster, photos and pictures, postcards, maps, diagrams and audio cassettes exchanged with children abroad impart much additional knowledge about the foreign culture and environment.
*  Many internet sites allow children to explore, with guidance, their own particular hobbies, e.g. French skateboarding or football club sites.  The internet can also help children investigate different Francophone locations.
* Children can use IT skills to produce labels in French for different places and objects around the home, (e.g. cuisine, television, table).
* Visiting a foreign country, hearing and beginning to speak the language, is both motivating and satisfying.  A small amount of French goes a long way and a child’s self-esteem increases when an ice cream or hamburger is a result of a short dialogue.  Even ‘bonjour’, ‘merci’ and ‘au revoir’ will be appreciated by the locals.
* Children can personalize the printable activity sheets, coloring them in before putting them into a ‘French folder’, to which they may add other material.
* Support from parents and teachers can make a big difference to children’s confidence, especially with linguistic skills.

Did you know that Canada is a leader in the language industry?
The Industry Canada website says that “Language capability is required to reach across continents and conduct business internationally.  The language industry has experienced consistent growth, with annual rates ranging from eight per cent for traditional translation to twenty-five percent for the technology segment of the industry.”
Canada, as a trading nation, has the clear advantage of pioneering new technologies for its official bilingualism and its multiculturalism.  As a result, Canada is a major player in the world’s booming language industry.
“Canada is home to under one per cent of the world’s population yet it ranks among the world leaders in translation and language training sectors.  Canada’s translation sector accounts for a remarkable six per cent of the world market … while Canadian language training specialists serve approximately twelve per cent of world demand…. “
Adapted from an article in the 2007 CPF – Alberta News

French Immersion Brochure