The latest in our Bluewater District School Board ‘Parent Tips’ series focuses on the importance of learning French and some ways you can support your child(ren) in acquiring and appreciating the value of French language proficiency.
In addition to gaining an edge in the job market, the Ministry of Education cites the following advantages for students who learn a second language:
- better problem-solving, reasoning and creative thinking skills
- improved confidence, literacy and first-language skills
- more understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures
- a strong foundation to learn more languages.
According to The Ontario Curriculum Grades 9 to 12 – French as a Second Language:
The ability to speak both of Canada’s official languages helps prepare students for their role as active and engaged citizens in today’s bilingual and multicultural Canada. Moreover, the language learning strategies that students develop in the FSL program can contribute to an interest in learning languages throughout their lives and provide them with the skills to do so. Such abilities benefit the individual; but Canadian society – as well as the global community – also stands to gain from having plurilingual citizens.
Bluewater District School Board has developed and shared with elementary and secondary principals a series of quick facts to demonstrate how learning French gives students a big advantage in tomorrow’s world. Here are just a few:
Savez-Vous…? Did you know…?
Over 7 million Canadians speak French as a first language and French is an official language in over 30 countries. 1, 2
A 2010 University of Guelph study shows that bilingual employees earn an average of between 3.8% and 6.6% more than workers who only speak English. 3
French and English are the only languages spoken on all five continents. Wherever you are in the world, if you speak French and English, you stand a good chance of being understood. 4
French and English are the main official and working languages of most international organizations and are the source of the major world law systems. Learning French opens the door to a wide range of international careers. 4
Students with special needs often benefit from participation in FSL programs. Learning a second language helps students develop their language awareness in their first language (e.g. understanding the relationships between letters and sounds, parts of speech and grammatical structures). It also reinforces comprehension and communication strategies, supports overall literacy development in English, and helps students learn to take risks and experiment with language. (Supporting Students with Special Education Needs in French as a Second Language Classrooms, 2015)
In Bluewater District School Board, there are ample opportunities for elementary and secondary students who wish to pursue French as a Second Language. French Immersion is currently available at nine elementary schools, while four secondary schools offer 7 and 10 credit French courses.
At the secondary level, Bluewater District School Board is helping to inform future practices in Ontario associated with a world recognized French exam that assesses second language proficiency. The DELF (Diplôme d'études en langue française) is once again being offered in May 2016 to grade 12 students enrolled in either a core French or French Immersion course. This exam, which is available in 173 countries and administered by the International Centre for French Studies, assesses language skills in the areas of oral and written comprehension and expression. Students who do not speak French as their mother tongue are able to gain internationally recognized accreditation from France’s Ministry of National Education that will support them in gaining employment that requires French language proficiency.
Bluewater’s DELF pilot project in May 2015 resulted in twenty-two students receiving certificates at their selected level and fourteen earning B2 level certificates, which is the highest level that students are eligible to take.
For parents of students pursuing French as a Second Language, Bluewater educators offer up some helpful tips on supporting learning at home:
- Explore French culture together in the home. Why not try to make crepes together or read about the poutine festival (Ottawa or locally in Port Elgin) before trying some together?
- Watching French cartoons and children's shows online can be a great way to develop a student's listening skills. The storylines are simple enough for non-French speakers to follow along, and you can practice your own skills at the same time!
- Encourage your child to share what they are learning in school. If you don't speak French, learning alongside your child can be lots of fun. You could even ask your local Canadian Parents for French chapter about French courses for adults.
- Read to your child and talk about books in either French or English. Developing a love of books will help your child develop a broad vocabulary in both languages and spot similarities between French and English words that may support their comprehension. (e.g. fatigué and fatigued, au contraire and on the contrary)
- Encourage your child to read to you in French and then explain it in English, if you don't speak French.
- Talk about strategies a good learner uses. (e.g. re-reading, summarizing, highlighting, persevering, etc.)
- Share ways that non-verbal communication, such as facial gestures and body language, can help us understand what someone is trying to say.
- Talk with your child about why it is important to learn a second language and how this may help them in the future.
(ideas adapted from the Ministry of Education publication Supporting Your Child’s Success in French Immersion and Extended French - A Parent Guide)