Pieces of paper with fruits written in English and their French translations below on a desk amidst notebooks


What To Know Before Enrolling Your Child in French Immersion

Apr 25, 2017

I’d like to say like we spent a lot of time researching French immersion before making the decision to enroll our daughter — but that would be a lie. After reading some not-so-stellar reviews of our local school, we began looking for alternatives. When we learned that a charming century-old school near us had a French program, we were like, ooh là là! How cute would it be to have a French-speaking child?

That was six years ago. My perspective is a little more informed now; my French-English dictionary, a little more dog-eared. If you are thinking of enrolling your child in French immersion, here’s my personal opinion of what you should know:

You’re Going To Have To Brush Up On YOUR French

“Leave the French to us.” That’s what they told us at our daughter’s SK orientation. My husband and I quote this whenever we find ourselves Google translating our kid’s homework. The reality: if you are cruising on grade 9 French, you may find yourself lost in translation.

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Your Kid Won’t Be Able To Spell In French OR English

I found a note my daughter wrote to us from camp last year. Every other word was spelled wrong. When a child is learning a second language, you’ll have to accept that spelling in both languages will lag. Don’t worry. They'll catch up.

It’s Not For Every Child

Each year, my daughter loses some friends from the French program. The truth is, it isn’t right for many kids. When students enter in SK, their learning issues may not have been identified. And while a learning disability doesn’t necessarily mean having to leave the program, French adds an extra layer of difficulty. Statistically, about half of students drop out of the program.

Your Child Will Have A Beautiful Accent

Learning a new language at the ripe age of five makes for a lovely accent. I never grow tired of hearing my daughter speak French, and her ability to converse easily is one the best things about the program. The writing, however, takes more time.

Your Child Will Have A Deeper Appreciation of Language

My favourite thing my daughter says these days is, “How do you say this in English?” I love that she has thoughts and ideas that she can express in another language. Having an intimate knowledge of French is a gift that will enrich her entire life.

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Your Child Will Become Bilingual – Sort Of

You might think that being immersed in French all day would make your child fluent. Not so. The truth is, while immersion provides a solid foundation, its not enough to be truly bilingual. That said, you will have given your child every advantage in reading and writing — and ultimately mastering — a second language.

The Benefits Won’t Be Immediate

My daughter is in grade five, and so far she is doing well. The outcomes I hope for — greater career opportunities, enhanced brain development, ability to learn other languages — won’t be realized for years to come. But I’m grateful she has this opportunity.

Would I do it again? Mais, oui!

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the Co-Artistic Director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the Co-Host and Producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and pre-teen daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

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