Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers
As French immersion teachers, we all help to shine a spotlight on Canadian Francophonie. How do we do this in regions where francophones are few in number or even non‑existent? First of all, we teach the language—but we also help learners discover Canada's francophones by using modern technology, such as YouTube and Skype. In addition, we teach the culture of Canada's founders and encourage learners to discover Quebec, New Brunswick, Manitoba and even African and European francophone countries. Francophonie extends beyond the boundaries of the classroom.
We know that learning another language necessarily involves a large cultural element. Manitoba's Curriculum Policy for the French Immersion Program states that "it is very difficult to separate language from its cultural component. Students in the immersion program are introduced to francophone cultural life, as found here in Manitoba and elsewhere, and to the cultural practices found in the French‑speaking world." Some learners have also made the same observation, like this former immersion student: [Translation] "French is more than just the grammar you learn at school.... It's also culture, literature and a lot of other things. We don't learn enough about francophone culture at school—maybe that's why students don't always want to continue learning French." 12
In the curriculum's general learning outcomes, the importance of culture is discussed under Values: the French immersion student will learn to "demonstrate an appreciation for the French language and the cultural diversity of the French‑speaking world" and "value the learning of French as a tool for personal, intellectual, and social growth." This means having fun when speaking or writing in French, appreciating cultural products such as French movies, music, magazines, television and books, and even seeking out native speakers. 3
It was only when I lived in Quebec that I came to appreciate the importance of speaking a second language. Today's young people do not understand how privileged they are to be educated in French—and that's unfortunate.4
Here's the million dollar question: Are you a professional francophone? Of course, we all are to a certain extent. However, we can't be limited by this marketing label. Those of us who work in immersion are much more than that! We enkindle the love of French in our schools from morning to night. We encourage our students to reflect on the role of French at school. Our identity as "francophile" teachers is well established with all learners. We invite youth to be aware of their emerging identities as young Canadians fluent in both official languages. In our classrooms, we respect effort, we have fun, and we're proud of it! We never miss an opportunity to get our students speaking French. In immersion, we believe that anything worth doing is worth doing in French.
Let's open ourselves to the francophone world and invite our students to come along for the adventure!