Parlez-vous français maman et papa? French courses offered to parents

The province's largest francophone school district is welcoming new students into its system.

The province's largest francophone school district is welcoming new students into its system.

However, these students aren't pint-sized children packing into classes. Instead, they are anglophone parents of children enrolled in French schools.

School District 1 is offering parents an eight-week course in basic French so they can communicate better with their kids and their teachers.

Wally Roach is one of about 75 parents in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John who have signed up for the eight-week basic French courses.

His five-year-old daughter is in kindergarten at École Amirault in Dieppe. Roach, who practises his French by describing one of his daughter's drawings to his fellow anglophone classmates, said he decided to take the class so he can better understand her teachers and his fellow parents.

"I want to talk in French, but if I don't know the words, it's hard. But I'm going to try," Roach said.

Offering parents help

Gilberte Godin, a spokeswoman for School District 1, which includes francophone schools in Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton, said the district is actively recruiting students from families with only one French-speaking parent. 

But she acknowledges that the anglophone parent of the family sometimes needs a little extra help to feel welcome.

"They cannot help with homework most of the time. They cannot read the cafeteria menu. They cannot figure out the bus schedule," Godin said.

"So we sort of thought it would be a good idea to have a course specifically on that."

The eight-week basic French course costs parents $20.

New Brunswick has a dual education system, meaning the French and English systems are separate. The Department of Education's guidelines indicate that children can enter a school system if they speak its language, both official languages or neither language.

The only difference comes in the francophone system with regard to the ayant droit, which is based on the constitutional rights of minority language groups. In that situation, a child could enter the French system even if he or she didn't speak French.

District 1 has had a special effort to attract these children especially at the kindergarten level, providing special courses to raise their language proficiency if they are not fluent in French.