French Immersion

Learning a language is like giving a gold deposit to your children, but without risk, because while gold may decrease in value, knowledge will not. Gold can be stolen, knowledge always grows

– Dr. Roseann Runte, President of Victoria University, Toronto

What is French Immersion?

French Immersion is an educational program in which a child whose first language is not French – studies in French. All activities and learning during elementary grades, except for English language arts, are in taught in French.

At Barrhead Elementary School French Immersion starts in Kindergarten and carries through until Grade 6. Students can also be accepted in to the program in Grade 1, or in later grades if transferring in from another French Immersion in an Alberta School District. Students then have the option of continuing their French Immersion studies at the local Junior High/High School.

The Benefits of French Immersion

French Immersion can open more doors for your children and for their future well-being. Graduates of a full Immersion Program can expect increased appreciation of other languages and cultures, enhanced career potential, a greater facility for learning other languages as well as a more global view of Canada and the world.

Is French Immersion right for my child?

French Immersion is suitable for children of all academic abilities. French Immersion may present an additional challenge to your child but it is not to be confused with enrichment. It is a program developed for the specific purpose of giving English speaking school children the opportunity to become bilingual, while still maintaining their English skills.

Will my child learn the same as their peers in an English Program?

Yes, children in a French Immersion program follow the same curriculum as students in the English program. The only difference is the language of instruction.

Understandably, in the first two or three years (primary grades) of French immersion your child may show a small lag in certain areas of English-language skills such as spelling, capitalization, etc. These lags are temporary and usually disappear when English language arts are introduced. It is not uncommon to see immersion students reading English fluently even though no formal classroom English instruction has yet been introduced. This is due to the phenomenon of transfer of reading skills from French to English. Having the same alphabet makes this process of transfer much easier. Various studies have shown that immersion students perform as well as English-stream students in all school subjects such as math, science, etc.

In standardized tests of language and math skills, that are conducted in English, French Immersion students consistently score higher than their peers in English language reading, vocabulary and spelling and in math. French Immersion students in grades 3 and 6 also perform above average on provincial reading and writing tests. These tests are also conducted in English.

What if I as a parent don’t speak French?

You do not need to speak French yourself for your child to have a positive experience in French Immersion. The biggest factor is your encouragement and the positive support that you provide your child. Approximately 85% of the students in French Immersion at BES have non-French speaking parents at home. The program is designed with non-French speaking parents in mind.

There are many resources available to you and your child should they experience problems, starting with your child’s teacher.