Debunking The Myths: Why You Should Not Pull Your Child Out Of French Immersion

To continue with French Immersion or not – that is the question!

As the director of a long-running French camp in the GTA, concerned parents of children in grade 6 and 8 often approach me looking for answers to this important question:

“Why should I NOT pull my child out of French Immersion?”

puzzled mother about their child in French immersion

There are a number of reasons parents are concerned about keeping their children in the French Immersion program. In my experience, most of these myths start in the classroom. Or in other cases, the issue centralizes around transportation. In today’s post, you’ll understand why French Immersion is worth the extra driving time!

If you or someone you know is currently grappling with this all-too-common debate, then this post is for you! I’m going to share the conversations I have had with parents just like you so that you can be better equipped to make an informed decision.

Sound good?

Let’s get started…

“My child has already learned French, so why continue?”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that argument, I would be a millionaire!

There is one big hole in that argument and it is this: Language is not something that you ‘have’ or that you possess. Unfortunately, you can’t put French in your toolbox and then wield it out whenever you need it.

In order to truly master a language, it takes consistent practice, time and effort. Once you stop practicing, you lose the language. You would be surprised at how quickly your vocabulary, comprehension and grammar plummets.

This phenomenon is known as language attrition. In other words, “use it or lose it!”

If your child quits French at grade 6 or 8, then by the end of high school they will likely have very little French left.

“If my child leaves French Immersion, their grades will improve.”

improved grades in French immersionSeveral research projects have shown that immersion students succeed in mathematics, social studies and the sciences. In fact, studies have also shown that immersion students are as successful as those in an English-language program.

Certain studies also show that immersion students have greater success than students in the regular program and even those in English language arts (Turnbull, Lapkin and Hart 2001; Lapkin, Hart and Turnbull 2003).

“My child plans to pursue engineering, science or math – so why should they continue with French?”

If your child wishes to pursue a scientific or mathematical field, then having French on their University or College application has a significant advantage. French Immersion will help your child stand out among other unilingual applicants with similar grades.

“I understand the benefits, but I still want to switch my child to the English track.”

Regardless of the flurry of benefits in keeping your child in French Immersion, you might still feel that it would be best that your child move to the English track.

Does that sound like you? Often time, this is motivated by the fact that your child wishes to attend a specialized high school for arts, music or another specialty. Also, sometimes the distance to the French immersion high school is a barrier to attend since most school boards do not provide transportation after grade 8.

If that is the case, you should be aware that it requires significant effort to help your child maintain their French. Luckily, I created a shortlist of tips you can use:

  • Enroll your child in a weekly French program,
  • find a French elementary teacher who is prepared to accept them as volunteers once a week to continue speaking French regularly,
  • challenge them to read one French book a month,
  • use some of the apps available online to practice the language, and
  • find opportunities in the summer where they can practice their verbal skills.

Do you have any other major concerns about keeping your child in the French Immersion program? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Whether your child remains in the French Immersion program or not, it is vital to set your child up for success in French. And one excellent way to help your child skyrocket their French skills is to keep them immersed – even when they are outside of the classroom. You can do this by organizing French-only play dates, watching French television and signing them up for Camp Tournesol’s French Camp.

7 thoughts on “Debunking The Myths: Why You Should Not Pull Your Child Out Of French Immersion”

  1. We are very lucky to have both a French Immersion Public School and High School in our hometown! I am a francophone from Québec and if you do not use your French, you truly will lose it. I am a tutor and really encouraged by the number of parents who want summer classes so their kids retain their level over summer! Loved this article! My kids go to French Immersion and will be staying in even though they are francophone.

  2. Dianna Goneau Inkster

    I recall years ago when the FSL consultant at the head of the room said something like,”I guess transportation to the extended French programme could be problematic if you don’t have a second car.” A parent’s acid retort was, “Some kids in our school don’t have a 2nd parent let alone a 2nd car!” The board was keeping numbers down by situating immersion programes in middle class schools and not providing transportation to their own programme which began in grade 5, but was providing transportation to francophone kids to the R.C. FFL school!!! Only carefully selected students got to go to that school though. You don’t mention exchanges. I think summer programmes in Quebec and exchanges really help you master the French language. My son profited enormously from working at Minto as a grounds keeper in Ottawa where a lot of the workers were French-Canadian! You don’t talk about the less than stellar student who may be unkindly treated by the classroom teacher and feels that he should leave a poor learning environment for greeener pastures and more understanding from classroom teachers in the English language stream.

  3. Unfortunately where we live French Immersion also means being excluded from the kids in English speaking classes. They are few opportunities to make new friends. My son has been bullied by a boy in his class and there are no other classes to transfer him to. He does well with the French curriculum but his mental health is more important then him learning to speak French.

  4. Sharon McInnes

    Use it or lose it is the phrase that comes to mind. I don’t see how someone who is speaking and reading and writing French at an elementary or intermediate level could function in an environment where French is required. I find now, at a point in my life where I use French infrequently, I am rapidly losing the breadth of vocabulary I once enjoyed. Using French as often as possible, with as many people as possible is the best way to keep it up but outside of school, most children just don’t have those opportunities. Parents need to know that the longer that child is exposed to French and using French, the better chance he or she will have to be truly bilingual.

    1. Magda Snioszek

      Hi Heather,
      While we feel that French Immersion can be beneficial in many ways, the needs of each individual child should be taken into account. There is always an option to enroll your child in an occasional French class or immersive experience where they can learn French at a pace that works best for them. We hope this helps, thank you for reading!

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