Parenting a French Immersion Student
August 23, 2004 4:49 PM   Subscribe

My son starts grade 1 French Immersion next monday, and I was wondering if anyone here has experienced it first hand or have placed their children in it.
posted by Quartermass to Education (8 answers total)
I went all the way from Kindergarten through G12 in French Immersion - what do you need to know?
posted by some chick at 5:05 PM on August 23, 2004

Response by poster: What was it like? How long did it take you to adjust? Did you like it?
posted by Quartermass at 5:42 PM on August 23, 2004

I was in from Kindergarten to G5. It was fine -- I don't remember how long it took me to adjust, but it wasn't more than a few weeks, I don't think. It's hard to say how I liked it, as I didn't have anything to compare it to.

It was a positive thing, in the end.
posted by Jairus at 7:47 PM on August 23, 2004

I went to a bilingual french-american school from Kindergarten through 5th grade. I liked it, mostly because it was a small school. Unfortunately, because I was so young I don't have much info for you on how I ajusted, I didn't know there was any other way to do it. I definitely appreciate it now that I'm older though.
posted by soplerfo at 7:49 PM on August 23, 2004

I don't know how I adjusted because I was really young. I think I also did french pre-school. I'm really, really glad my parents put me through it; it seemed that the best teachers were teaching at the french immersion schools (even if they were the english teachers), and the kids I met are still my friends to this day. 10 years after graduating, I can go to Montreal and hold my own.
posted by some chick at 8:11 PM on August 23, 2004

I was in French immersion from kindergarten to grade six. Great experience. We were all French until grade three, and then they brought in English so that we were 50/50 French/English by grade six. I did a bit of French in preschool so that helped, but at that just adjust, at least I think so. As per the others, I was young. But no one failed out, or anything - we all continued through together, so obviously it worked out. The level of immersion was high - the kindergarten teacher introduced herself in English and then that was that for the whole year, so you learned fast, especially the basics (like bathroom!)

I think the only downside was we learned math in French as well, and I don't think I ever really grasped the basics as I was busy also paying attention to the French. Given my natural total ineptitude at math as well, I think it may have compounded the problem. So I guess my advice is just that you may need to pay more attention than if the child was in non-immersion, particularly to the other subjects like math and science, to ensure the child is really learning what's being taught there. Nothing really to worry about, though.
posted by livii at 7:58 AM on August 24, 2004

Best answer: Born and raised in New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province in Canada, I was put into French Immersion in grade 1 and stuck with it until grade 11, which was when I was allowed to ditch any remnants of the French. I don't blame my parents, because it was Common Knowledge that if you wanted to get the good jobs (good jobs in New Brunswick? Ha!), you had to be bilingual, but if I could've chosen, I would've just done English.

Why? Two reasons really, the first being that we didn't start learning English until grade 4 or 5 and just had the one class in English. I guess that's where the 'immersion' in French Immersion comes in, but I'm very grammar-damaged due to it, and it's something I've tried to improve, so I can just imagine how bad my former fellow students' English is now.

Secondly, since I had to take a lot of other classes in French (though less and less as I went on to Junior and then Senior High) the subject matter was (perhaps necessarily) dumbed down, so that for example, in my French grade 10 history class, we were using a textbook meant for grade 8. You know, a lot of people in my class couldn't have given a shit about this, but as I was actually interested in history, I was pretty pissed off that I wasn't learning at a level I should've been. This is basically what prompted me dumping as many French classes as possible (even though I tried to in grade 9, but my guidance councellor wouldn't let me).

But the real kick in the pants is this: I'm 28 now, and returned to New Brunswick last year for a temporary exile and got a job in which I'd get the occasional French customer. 90% of the time I had to speak to a French customer I couldn't carry on a basic conversation with them without embarassing myself. This pissed me off so much. I spent 11 years of sub-learning for this? My former classmates who haven't had to use their French are in the same boat. Now, I will say that if I had to use French more frequently, it'd more than likely come back, and I can read French fine, but if it's not used, it can really go to shit. Now granted, I lived in Texas for three years previous to this, and if any place is going to scour French from your brain, it's there, but still!

Eleven years damn it!

Yeah, sure it's 'neat' to have a kid who speaks another language, and there are some subtle advantages to it, but my advice is to put your kid in late immersion (if that's an option, sounds like it's too late), so they can learn basic English. I have two friends who did late immersion and they can speak French just as well or better than myself and my fellow early-immersion-damaged friends.

Maybe it was the education system up here, but if anywhere in the world should do French immersion right, it should be New Brunswick. Wouldn't surprise me if that wasn't the case though.
posted by picea at 9:47 AM on August 24, 2004

I spent a year in FI in Switzerland as a teenager (equivalent of my sophomore year in HS). It took, and I still speak a semi-coherent variety of French today. As picea notes, exposure improves access to the French parts of my brain - so, interestingly, does drinking.

The key benefit and feature of French immersion for me was that I was led to begin thinking in the language and still do so today, about as easily as i do in English, if with a smaller vocabulary and shakier grammar.
posted by mwhybark at 10:12 AM on August 24, 2004

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