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How placing our children in French Immersion has impacted our family!

Catherine McNally
Nova Scotia
Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers

2015-03-16

Any one of our three kids could easily write this article in French. But neither my husband nor I, who both took Core French all through high school, could do so, even with a dictionary and a Bescherelle at our disposal. The experience of our kids has been very different, and for this we are very thankful. All three have been, or are currently in, Early French Immersion in Nova Scotia. For them, interacting in French and understanding the French cultures of Canada seem natural.

Rachel is currently in first-year university studying Political Science and International Development, with French courses along the way. All of her previous French acquisition was through immersion classes at school and two weeks of summer camps run by CPF Nova Scotia (the Nova Scotia branch of Canadian Parents for French). Learning French has literally opened the world to Rachel. The prize for winning the Nova Scotia Concours d'Art Oratoire in Grade 9 was a week at Encounters with Canada—a bilingual week in Ottawa where she learned about arts and culture alongside teenagers from across the country. Her interest in language having been kindled, she did an Independent Study credit in Spanish and then volunteered in Guatemala in the summer. This past year, on the basis of her record high score on the B2 DELF French competency exam, she won a trip to Génération Bilingue in France along with 60 French-second-language students from 32 different countries. She is certain that she will use her passion for French, and her enjoyment of other languages, as a major part of her life and vocation.

Nathan is in Grade 10 and is also hoping to graduate with his high school French Immersion certificate. He has won the Concours provincially three times. The prize for one of these years was a week at a CPF French camp. He chose a kayaking trip around Îles de la Madeleine and loved it. Every time Nathan gets up to speak in French, I remember our concerns about putting him in French Immersion. He had a very difficult time learning to produce the sounds of the English language as a preschooler and needed a fair bit of speech therapy. However, he wanted to try French Immersion like his sister, so we agreed. Now, he speaks very well publicly in both languages and apparently has a good French accent. No one would guess his speech challenges as a young boy. He can get lost in a French novel just as much as an English one. His future dreams currently involve engineering and music, but he thinks that French is a "handy tool for life."

Samuel is in Grade 8 and plans to continue French Immersion throughout high school. Last year, he went to Quebec for a week with some of the students from his school as part of the SEVEC exchange program. I delighted in seeing him excitedly talk in French with Acadian and Quebecois kids, even though I couldn't understand most of what was said. This past summer, he enjoyed a nautical CPF camp. With both opportunities, he was pleased with how easy and natural it felt to speak and even to think in French. He has had fun and done very well with both the Concours and Face aux Questions. He tells me that he thinks his French has helped him in other subjects and with learning new things in general. Although math is his favorite subject, and I can see him pursuing a math or science career, he knows he will have occasion to use his French throughout his life.

We feel very blessed that our kids have been able to participate in early French Immersion taught by superb, committed teachers. We have been excited to watch them develop cultural interest, awareness and appreciation for French cultures and for other Canadian and world cultures. Our kids' communication skills have flourished in both English and French. It is wonderful that our children have received the gift of a second language (and even my husband and I have picked up a few words from them over the years). The whole family has been enriched by this shared experience.