French Immersion

Whispering Hills Primary School offers French Immersion from Kindergarten to Grade 3. 

  • Knowing another language can increase your child’s understanding of and respect for other peoples and cultures.
  • The process of learning another language can increase your child’s cognitive abilities, making them a more flexible and creative thinker.
  • Learning a second language makes learning a third or fourth language much easier for your child.*
  • Learning a second language opens the door to travel and work opportunities in other parts of Canada and the world.*

What is French Immersion?

French Immersion gives students from non-French-speaking backgrounds the opportunity to become fluent in both French and English. Typically, all subjects are taught in French except for the formal study of English. All communication with parents is in English.

You don’t have to speak French! Most parents with children in this program do not speak or read French. 

How does French Immersion work?

French Immersion follows the same natural process as a toddler learning to speak. Even in English, children are comfortable with not understanding everything adults say.

In a typical French Immersion Kindergarten classroom, the teacher speaks French most of the time, using repetition and role modeling.  The children may respond in English.

Children learn to be good listeners, paying close attention to the teacher’s gestures, movements, intonation and expressions.

Between the first day of Kindergarten and about the middle of Grade 1, the child’s language skills evolve from listening to understanding, to responding with words and phrases, to being able to carry on a simple conversation.

Students do not just study the language but use it in meaningful ways.

Children learn language easily. The brain is most receptive to language learning before the age of 10.*

What are the advantages of enrolling your child in French Immersion?

  • Cognitive advantages: Second language learning has been shown to increase brain activity. In other words, learning a second language means that your child will be getting more exercise for the brain. Consequently, second language learners develop increased problem solving skills and adaptability skills; these are key skills for learning.
  • Scholastic advantages: French Immersion students test really well. Across Canada, French Immersion students regularly outperform their single-language counterparts in all standardized tests (including English Language Arts tests). Athabasca is no exception to this.
  • Additive bilingualism: First language skills improve when learning a second language; this is called Additive Bilingualism. Second language students typically read, write and speak their first language better than their single-language counterparts.
  • Career advantages: Learning a second language is a great level of opportunity for all students because any student can learn a second language and reap the benefits. Jobs requiring second language skills are increasing in demand. These jobs are both professional and in the trades. Businesses know that students who have a second language are typically the ones who can more easily pick up a third language; this is a highly sought after skill in the business world. In Alberta alone, we have hundreds of businesses that compete internationally; with French Immersion experience, our Aspen View graduates can better compete for jobs in our globalized economy.
  • Cultural advantages: Sensitivity and understanding of other cultures pays off in financial and humanitarian terms. Costs of cultural strife throughout the world reach into the billions. Research shows that knowledge of other cultures (of which language is the key) greatly assists in cultural harmony.
  • Self-confidence: You will notice that your French Immersion child will learn to adapt very quickly to new situations; they are learning subject matter in a foreign language, after all! A typical French Immersion student needs to concentrate and listen very carefully; even then, they will not always understand. This happens often throughout the day, and this is where the extra brain exercise transforms your child into an excellent learner. Because they have had to solve this type of problem often, your child’s self-confidence will grow. Parents’ confidence in their child’s ability to work it out will grow. These are extremely valuable skills to have.

French Immersion: Commonly Asked Questions

Is French Immersion for everyone?

The French Immersion program is open to all children.  Students of all abilities can be successful in the program.

When can my child enter the program?

Generally, children begin the program in Kindergarten or Grade 1. However, students may be permitted to enter the program in later grades at WHPS if they show an interest in French and are motivated to learn.

Will my child learn the same thing as children in the English program?

Yes. French Immersion follows the same curriculum as the English program.  Only the language of instruction is different.

How will I be able to help my child if I don’t speak or read French?

As a parent, you are expected to work with your child at home, just as you would if your child were in the English program.

  • Read daily with your child in English.
  • Ensure your child reads daily in French beginning in Grade 1.
  • Help your child to develop good listening skills, work habits, study skills and a love of learning.

Your encouragement and belief in the value of a second language is key to your child’s positive learning experience in the French Immersion program.

What if my child has difficulty learning?

Academic ability is not related to the ability to understand or speak a language. An immersion student experiencing difficulty will very likely exhibit the same difficulty in an English program. Some individual accommodations and interventions may be necessary and should be available as with the English-only programs.

When is English introduced?

Formal instruction in English begins in Grade 3.

Will my child’s English be affected?

There may be initial delays in certain English language skills, however, research indicates that by the end of the elementary grades, children in French Immersion perform as well or better than those in the English program, as most skills are transferable.* Students are surrounded by English at home, in the community, and through the media.

* Based on research cited in “Yes, You Can Help!” A Guide for French Immersion Parents”, Alberta Education
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