Spring 2016: Learning French in a minority setting

Spring 2016: Learning French in a minority setting

Living in a minority setting, we are aware of the challenge of learning French, especially in our Grandir en Français classes. Since about half of the new children in these groups come from exogamous or Anglophone families, they often did not get a chance to be exposed to French before joining us.

To help children learn a new language, our educators are trained at the beginning of the year on the stages of language learning. We explain to them in detail that children learn at their own pace and that several factors can affect their ability to learn such as their level of vigilance and awareness, attention, concentration, motivation, individual needs, emotional state and the context in which they operate. To support them effectively, we provide them with tools such as visual aids (images, objects, pictograms, etc.) and encourage educators to use strategies such as supporting their words with gestures, using short, simple sentences, rephrasing words expressed by the child, using repetition, music and stories in French, etc. We do our utmost to make the use of the French language fun, positive, stimulating and appealing. Knowing that many children who attend our Centers are Anglophone, our main goals are that they adapt well in their new environment and that they create bonds with the educators and their new friends. Once their adaptation is successful, their emotional bonds are established, and their emotional security is stable, children can devote their energy to developing spontaneous French conversation.

As mentioned earlier, we want French to be taught in a safe, positive and enjoyable environment. Educators use all their skills during periods of small group activities, daily routines and circle gatherings to further encourage children to speak French among themselves and they do it successfully!

Often as a parent, you see children arriving in the morning and at the end of the day while in free play and using their mother tongue in their games (often English). Since this time of the day is requested by the Department of Education to foster the learning of social skills, imagination and the bonds between children in a stress-free environment, educators cannot intervene at all times for them to speak French among each other. We do not want French to become a punishment and a constraint. This would quickly discourage children from learning French and would be counter-productive.

We want to assure and reassure you that our educators work on this cause with all their efforts and that they take advantage of every opportunity to enrich the children’s French vocabulary and develop a taste for learning. They will then integrate the school system with the necessary skills to acquire the necessary learning.