Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Thoughts on French Immersion

Note:  This was originally a note of mine on Facebook, but I thought I would add it to my blog (edited).

Over the years I have been asked by a variety of people, mostly parents, whether I felt French Immersion was valuable in my education. Here is my response:

Why I am glad I was in French Immersion

First of all, yes it was hard, but so was science and math and music. And yes, sometimes I hated French class, but no more than I hated school in general. The difference was that learning French was one of the few things in school that made me genuinely proud. I felt as though I had accomplished something.

Yes I had problems in school. I was an average student in ALL my classes. Very rarely was it because of the language. Usually it was because of the teacher. I hated science with Mr. A. I hated math with Mrs. B. I hated French with Mr. C. Does that mean I hated the subjects? Absolutely not!

And yes there were a few problems specific to language. One was grammar. It’s boring. No kidding. But even the most exciting courses have their boring parts. Second was the transition from French to English. That could have been done much better. Some students had no problem. I had some initial problems in math. Mr. D realized this and sat down with me to help. It was just a matter of translating a few words that I had only known in French. No big deal. My marks shot back up in math from that day on. Problem solved. This is a foreseeable problem and if handled in good time not a problem at all.

That foundation in a second language also gave me a better understanding of the English language. And, when I took Spanish in high school, there was a noticeable difference between the Immersion and Core students. The Immersion students generally picked up the language much more easily and quickly.

Let’s face it. We live in Canada (well you might not, but I do) and whether we like it or not there are two official languages. Knowing both can give you a pretty big leg up. And learning a 2nd language as an adult is very rarely an option.

As for not being able to converse in France, we had five exchange students from Nantes in my Grade Ten French Classes. They had no problem understanding us and vice versa. There were differences, but no more so than trying to speak English in Alabama. They [Alabamians] laughed at some of the things I said as well. But, in either of these scenarios, the versions were close enough that there were no significant language barriers.

(Note that the names of my teachers have been omitted as I don't want them retro-actively failing me)


  1. Hey Keri,

    Just a few questions - did you know french before you went to french immersion (we've thought about this for Cadence, but we are worried that she knows zero french right now)?

    Are you still able to speak french, or have you lost any of it?

  2. I started French in grade 1 half days and had no experience with it prior. My parents know absolutely no French and my sisters were in core. At that age you just absorb it. I still remember the puppets from right at the beginning - "Bonjour. Comment ca va?" "Ca va bien." "Je suis bien aussi." "A bientot." :)

    I've lost a lot of it, but could pick it back up easily if I immersed myself in it again. I still understand it when I hear it spoken, but I have some trouble putting sentences together myself. Funny thing is that I still count in French.