Frequently Asked Questions about French Immersion
Q: How much French in spoken in class by the teacher?
A: This is a great question, and the answer will vary from teacher to teacher. It is my personal teaching philosophy that students need to feel safe and comfortable in their classroom in order to reach their full potential as learners. At the beginning of the year, I will speak a bit of English to address things like classroom and school rules, expectations and routines to ensure my students feel safe in the classroom and familiar with me, their new teacher.
As the year progresses the amount of English I speak in the classroom decreases quickly as the students comprehend much more and feel more comfortable in the classroom. There are however times, to ensure the safety of students, I will have to say some things in English.
Other teachers have differing views on this subject, which reflect their own beliefs about teaching and learning.
All subject areas (math, science, art, language arts etc.) are taught in French.
Q: When will my child speak in French?
A: Your child will not, all of a sudden, one day come home from school and start speaking in full sentences in French. What you can expect is a more gradual progression of French oral expression skills. In September and October, as a class, we will be learning and reviewing basic and key vocabulary and phrases. During these months, you can expect your child to say French words alone (colours, numbers, school related vocabulary etc.). November and December is when, as a teacher, I see the most progress in speaking French. Students will begin saying simple sentences in French. For example, “Je vois une étoile.” (I see a star.) or “Voici un chien brun.” (Here is a brown dog.) By January, students are communicating with their peers using basic French vocabulary and sentence structures. By the end of the year, students can engage in simple conversations with the teacher or their peers about school related activities and age appropriate experiences in French.
The amount of French spoken by a child will depend on a number of things that should be taken into consideration. These things include:
How much previous exposure to French your child has had?
If your child attended French preschool, then you can expect your child to speak French sooner than a student who has just begun learning French in Kindergarten. Similarly, if you have been speaking French at home with your child already, then they will progress much faster than a child that has had no exposure to French.
Your child’s personality…
Confident and outgoing students tend to be those who aren’t afraid to take risks speaking in a new language. These students tend to be those who will speak French more quickly. Students who are more shy, quiet, and less confident will wait until they feel more confident with French before they come out and use it publicly. It doesn’t mean they aren’t learning as much as the more outgoing child, they just want to make sure they feel more secure before they will come out and speak it.
If your child feels lots of pressure from being put on the spot to translate words into French for you, you can imagine why they might be less prone to speak French freely in your presence. Please refrain from asking your child questions like “What is this in French?” or “How do you say that?” How would you feel if someone was constantly nagging you to translate words for him or her into a language you are just learning?? A better approach is to say things like: “How would I say this colour in French?” as if you’re talking to yourself. Wait a few moments and if your child hasn’t already interjected with the correct French colour, continue on by saying: “I’m going to go look on the Internet…” Then, the interaction becomes a joint learning experience.
Q: Does my child receive instruction in English?
Your child will not receive any formal English language instruction until Grade 3. In Grade 3, your child will be taught 20% of the time in English, learning the English language arts curriculum. The percentage of time spent in English gradually increases with the next grade level.
Q: Will my child be taught how to read in English?
There is no formal English reading instruction until your child enters Grade 3; however, this does not mean that your child will not read in English until he/she is in Grade 3! Reading behaviours like reading left to right, understanding concepts of print, decoding skills, punctuation, prediction skills, picture clues etc. can be used when learning to read in most languages. These skills will transfer from reading in French to reading in English. This is another great reason why you should be reading in English as well as in French at home. Find English books that are at an appropriate level for beginner readers. And remember, learning to read is hard work, so read for pleasure with your child as well!