French Immersion F.A.Q.s

Every year, the Richmond School District gives presentations about Early French Immersion.  Here are the slides from this year’s presentation.  There is lots of useful information and the slides may answer some of your questions about the program.

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.  The ideal answer to this question would be “the teacher only speaks in French in the classroom”, but this is not always the case.  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, (the first 2 or 3 weeks of school) I speak quite 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 dramatically 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 momentarily have to say a sentence or two 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 review 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.  You cannot, at the end of grade one, expect your child to be able to have a conversation in French about business with an adult.  They have not acquired that level of vocabulary or sentence structure yet.

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 Immersion Kindergarten or a French preschool, then you can expect your child to speak French sooner than a student who has just begun learning French in Grade one.  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.  Don’t worry if Grade 1 is your child’s first time being exposed to the French language.  They will do just fine!  Kids are amazingly good at learning new things!

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.

Parental pressure…

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 Grade 1 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??  I would feel like a frustrated human dictionary because I only knew a few words!  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!  In grade 1 French Immersion your child will be taught to read in French.  The great thing is that all of the strategies and principles of reading transfer to other languages.  Things 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 another language.  These skills will transfer from reading in French to reading in English.  You will probably notice that soon after starting grade 1, your child will start reading in English (if he/she isn’t already doing so).  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!

Q: Do I have to teach my child English at home?

You may have never considered this, but you are always “teaching” your child at home.  Every interaction you have with your child is an opportunity to teach them about things.  This is happening when you have conversations with your child, when you ask them questions, when you read with them, when you go shopping or to visit a relative.

The point I’m getting at is, you already are teaching them English!  Keep it up!

If you have other questions about French Immersion, please feel free to post them in the comments section at the bottom of the page and I’ll do my best to answer them!


4 responses to “French Immersion F.A.Q.s

  1. How about if we don’t speak either English or French at home?
    Is the Early French immersion recommendable or may be I should do it at a later stage?

  2. Would it be helpful or perhaps harmful to actively teach our french immersion kindergarten twins to read in English before they are are getting this instruction at home?
    I’m thinking English phonics will be different from French and may confuse them if we get things out of sync.

    • I don’t think it would be harmful to teach them to read in English at home. Yes the phonics are different but there are also a lot of similarities too! I would focus on reading strategies (they can be useful when learning to read in both English and French).

      Hope this helps.

      Mme Robinson

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