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Focus on immersion!

Dr. Sylvie Roy
Faculty of Education
University of Calgary

2010-04-19

This is a summary of an article written in French by Dr. Sylvie Roy of the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary. The article appeared in the Immersion Journal, published by the Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers. You can read the entire article (Available only in French) in the Immersion Journal, Fall/Winter 2007 (PDF Version Approx. 3.49 MB) (Help on File Formats) (www) English Hyperlink Notice on the Association's Web site.

French immersion is still the best way for anglophones and allophones outside Quebec to learn French. This article discusses the importance of focussing more on immersion—to an even greater degree than we have in the past. Teachers must teach (and speak!) in French, and students must speak (not just listen!) in French. Moreover, Lyster (2007) showed the importance of striking a proper balance between language teaching and content-based instruction.

Other points to consider:

1. We need immersion schools where everything is done in French and where the school community is proud of its French: not the French of others, of Quebec or of France, but of the French learned together at school, within a bilingual community. Students can become highly skilled in French if we focus on French. From kindergarten through Grade 12, they are up to the challenge!

2. We must continue providing students with real opportunities to speak and interact in French in and out of the classroom.

3. Teachers must take pride in teaching French immersion, be equipped to teach it and know the theories of second or additional language learning. They must also know and put into practice the pedagogical skills specific to French immersion. It is important that they speak French and get students to do the same. Practice makes perfect.

4. French must be “tackled on all fronts” (Csorba, 2007). That is, we must focus on teaching all the components of the language or counterbalance form with content in teaching (Lyster, 2007). We focus on reading, writing and oral comprehension and too often forget oral expression as a learning process.

5. Immersion students might not speak French like native speakers nor act like them, but they will gain skills important for their intellectual, cultural and social development. If we have a positive view of bilingualism and multilingualism, our aim will not be to have our students speak like native speakers (they can always reach this level if they want to). We will teach them instead to reap the benefits of speaking two or more languages, and thus the bilingual and multilingual segment of the Canadian population will grow. More young people in Canada will be able to say they are bilingual, without always worrying about not speaking French well!

In this era of globalization, more and more immersion students want to learn French and use it to enter the world market. Let’s not discourage young people who could contribute to today’s bilingual and multilingual Canada. To enhance linguistic duality in Canada, let’s focus on immersion.