French Language Education Choices

Canadian Parents for French works with teachers, principals, administrators, trustees, parents and other community leaders to maintain and strengthen French second-language programs. There are questions you will encounter when deliberating about enrolling your child in a French Program. The following information will hopefully address some of your concerns.

What is French Immersion

French Immersion is a Canadian made educational program in which a child whose first language is not French – but studies in French. French Immersion began in PEI in 1975 in response to parental demand. Research shows that French Immersion is the most effective way for an Anglophone child to become functionally bilingual.

Here on Prince Edward Island:

Early Immersion starts in Kindergarten

Mid Immersion starts in Grade 4

Late Immersion starts in Grade 7

Ideally, in French Immersion programs all activities and learning during elementary grades, except for English Language arts, are in French. Canada’s French Immersion programs have attracted positive attention from many countries around the globe. For the last decade some countries, particularly in Europe and the United States, have been offering immersion programs often patterned on the Canadian model. The goal of the French immersion program is to graduate students who are functionally bilingual. This means the graduates are able to communicate effectively in French as well as in English.


Why learn French?

Learning a second language is an intellectual exercise for the brain, a challenge, it’s like a crossword puzzle and it stimulates your mind … we are given certain capacities and we were given those capacities to use! Learning French is also a discipline: you learn grammar, structure, vocabulary, and you also learn humour and so much more about another culture! Being bilingual is a definite asset when seeking employment, it helps you in international travel, it helps you undertake more responsibilities, and it builds confidence. Today’s students have been, either in reality or virtually, around the world, and languages, including French, are not going to disappear.

Learning French helps you to understand other people and their culture. For example, the word “to eat” in Chinese really means “to eat rice.” Similarly, in English we say, “to break bread.” By learning a language we gain insight into a whole different culture, geography and economy.

Learning French gives you the ability to discover new ideas and new thoughts, to look at things in a different perspective. Language is about discovering a new world, and that new world will certainly be one where ideas, knowledge and communication will be the currency.

Learning another language is like giving a gold deposit to your child, but without the risk. Knowledge does make people happy, there’s a joy to learning, the great “eureka!” feeling of understanding, the happiness of discovery, the satisfaction of knowing that one has done one’s best for oneself and society, no one has ever regretted the opportunity to learn another language …

Being bilingual opens more doors for your children and for their future well-being. Graduates of a full Immersion Program can expect increased appreciation of other languages and cultures, enhanced career potential, and a key to learning other languages as well as a more global view of Canada and the world.

For additional benefits of learning a second language, see: Benefits of Second Language Learning

Will my children learn the same things as their peers in the English program?

Yes, the curriculum is the same. Research has shown that throughout Canada French Immersion students perform as well in many aspects of English-language achievement as those who are enrolled in regular programs. Understandably, in the first two years or three years (primary grades) of French Immersion your child may show some lag in certain areas of the English-language skills such as spelling, capitalization, etc. These lags are temporary and usually disappear when English Language arts are introduced around grade 4. By grade 6 the French Immersion students have comparable or better assessments in English Language Arts.

It is not uncommon to see Immersion students reading English fluently even though no formal classroom instruction has started yet. This is due to the phenomenon of transfer of reading skills from French to English. Having the same alphabet makes this process much easier.

Should I register my child in Early Immersion or Late Immersion?

It is estimated that about 80% of all French Immersion students are enrolled in early Immersion programs. The popularity of this program can be explained by many factors …

• Studies have shown that it is easier and more “natural” for a child to learn another language at a very early age. In Finland, for instance, a Swedish Immersion program is offered to children at age three.

• Early French Immersion teachers are very conscious of the fact that at first children do not understand the language. The teachers provide clear explanations using various communication strategies and by making experiential activities meaningful.

• Research has shown the positive results of language immersion programs in Canada and other countries.

• While it is “natural” for children to learn French in early Immersion programs, it requires motivation to work harder when immersion starts in later grade (6 or 7). Students in these grades will want their opinion to count in the decision to enter French Immersion programs and that decision will be dependent on their attitude towards the French culture.

How available is French Immersion?

Over 250 school boards and districts across Canada offer French Immersion programs. Check the CPF Immersion Registry at our CPF National Site which will list the schools that have French Immersion programs in every Province and Territory. In PEI, Early and Late Immersion are available in both English School Boards, but not in all Families of Schools.

French Immersion Schools on PEI (* last update December 2011)

Western School Board

Eastern School Board



When is English introduced?

This varies from province to province, in PEI it begins by grade 4, when students are exposed to one period a day of English language arts. Within a year or two, they should be reading in both languages. Skills in one language are transferred to benefit the development of the other.

What is Core French?

Core French, also known as basic French, is taught as one subject at the Grade 4 level and is mandatory until Grade 9 in PEI schools. Core French programs would be unrecognizable to most parents who remember the rote learning and drills of their French classes. Language skills are now taught through themes based on a child’s own interests and experiences. Learning activities focus as much on listening and speaking as on reading and writing. The amount of French studied in a school year per week varies from province to province. French is usually (and should be) offered as an option at the high school level.

In Core French, the second language is taught in periods that vary in length from school to school. Provinces may recommend a basic Core French structure, and school boards may also contribute to the shape of the program.

Core French should prepare students for basic communication, balancing grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Children should acquire core knowledge of the language. Like any other subject, the learning of a second language depends on the teacher and the amount of instructional time as well as the interest, effort and ability of the student.

After participating in a quality Core French program a student should be able to:
• understand key ideas of written instruction
• follow oral instructions
• take part in simple conversations
• write short messages and letters
• appreciate the value of learning a second language

Graduates should have a good foundation from which to purse fluency through post-secondary courses or by living for a time in a French speaking environment.

Canadian Parents for French supports all French second language (FSL) programs in Canadian schools, so that all students may have the opportunity to develop skills in both of Canada’s official languages.

Has Core French changed since I went to school?

A five-year research project recently examined how to make Core French more effective by adapting and improving on immersion research and classroom practice. The final report advocated an approach that includes much more than grammar instruction. Since the study’s publication in 1990, education authorities have allocated a great deal of time and money to implement the report’s recommendations. Consequently, Core French now aims to expose students to more spoken French; Core French curriculum now requires students to use their linguistic and cultural knowledge to communicate in real-life situations. Newly-created teaching materials support the new Core curriculum, and most schools are now using these materials at all grade levels.

What should happen in a Core French classroom?

Core French should be much more than grammar drills and translation exercises. Learning activities should balance listening, speaking, reading and writing. In the beginning, curriculum emphasizes listening and speaking. Later, the emphasis on reading and writing increases. Students should actively participate in tasks and projects. Curriculum should be based on fields of experience or “themes” that consider the learner’s life experiences, intellectual development, and interests. Research has shown that using theme-based tasks is effective for teaching a second language (Skehan & Foster, 1997; Turnbull, 1999a; Turnbull, 1999b).

Activities in Core French should prepare students for real-life communication. This makes grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation relevant to real communicative needs. To this end, Core French curriculum should integrate learning about Francophone culture, with an emphasis on French-speaking Canada, especially in the beginning. Teachers should encourage students to think about ethnic diversity and stereotypes. Programs should also include student reflection on their learning, self- and peer-evaluation, and strategies to enrich learning and communication. French should be the language of communication in the classroom, wit

What is Intensive Core French / Extended French (not available in P.E.I.)?

Intensive French is a literacy-based approach to teaching French as a second language that is incorporated into the Core French program for five months of the school year at grade 5 or grade 6. It is based on the use of French for authentic communication in the classroom and the development of literacy skills in French. Classroom activities are related to projects and there is a high degree of interaction between teacher and students, as well as among students. Intensive French was piloted in PEI in Morell, Cardigan, Bloomfield and O’Leary in 2009-2011 ut is currently on hold while a new Core fench is being piloted. At the intermediate level, students take Enhanced French; a follow-up program to Intensive French, in which French as a second language continues to be taught by means of a literacy-based approach. For more information on Intensive French and the success of the program go to: Intensive French Brochure

What is Enhanced French (not available in P.E.I.)?

Enhanced French follows the intensive period with a minimum of 11% of the school cycle during the full school year from the beginning of September to the end of June being allotted to Enhanced French. For example, if the Basic French course is offered at 40 minutes per day, then a block of 80 minutes of Enhanced French is recommended every other day to maintain the intensity of time required for the proposed teaching strategies. Enhanced French continues to build on the communicative experiential approach.

Enhanced french is avaialbe in grade 7 in the feeder schools where Intensive french is taught.

But I don't speak French...how can I help my child at home?

Consider this research finding -

Students whose parents have positive attitudes to learning French tend to do better in French. They also develop a more positive attitude toward French and Francophone’s. You can play an active role in your child’s success in French Immersion; even if you don’t speak French …. support and encouragement are the biggest factors. Your encouragement and belief in the value of a second language will strengthen your child’s learning experience. Ask the teacher and/or your CPF chapter to suggest some out-of-school French language activities that will be both fun for the family and add to the school program.

What can I do to help my child with homework?

Many parents either have a limited background in French or do not speak the language at all. If this is the case, please don’t feel alarmed. The most important factor is your encouragement and the positive support you are able to give your child. You should make homework a top priority at home; assignments should take no more than 30 minutes to complete each night at the elementary level, not including daily reading of 15 minutes each night. You should provide necessary supplies and a quiet homework environment, set aside a time everyday when homework should be done. Provide praise and support and contact your French Immersion teacher if you notice a problem. You and your child’s teacher must work together as a team that is committed to your child’s progress. The secret to building and maintaining that relationship is through communication. Remember if a child is having problems in the French Program they would likely be having the same problems in the English Program. Find out what these problems are and address them immediately!

French Immersion parents can help with homework, too. The difference in language can be daunting, but the purpose is still the same…the attitude of the child to homework is influenced by the parents. If homework is seen as an arduous task, a punishment for not finishing in class, it will become a negative experience. You, as parents, should encourage a positive attitude towards homework; if you are positive they will more than likely follow your lead and enjoy the experience of a second language, even at difficult times.

What's in a word? FSL Lingo


French second language or French as a second language. A general term for programs that teach French to non-native speakers.

Core French

Core French, also known as basic French, is taught as one subject within a school’s curriculum. Ministries of Education, school boards and individual schools all have a hand in shaping Core French programs, so the grade at which Core French is introduced varies, as does the amount of classroom time and the intensity of instruction. Instruction in French language skills and culture is usually introduced between Kindergarten and Grade 4, (in PEI it is Grade 4) with students spending between 20 and 40 minutes per day learning French language arts.

French Immersion

In French Immersion programs, French is not only a subject, but also the language of instruction and a means of communication. Much of the regular school curriculum is taught in French. Provinces and territories, as well as school boards and individual schools all have helped to shape immersion programs, so the percentage of French-language instruction may vary.

Early French Immersion

Students are almost completely immersed in French in the first few years of school. In most provinces and territories this begins in Kindergarten or Grade 1. The students are not introduced to English in the classroom until about Grade 4 (could happen as early as Grade 2). French instruction is reduced to 60-80% in grades 4 to 8. In high school two to four subjects taught in French, in addition to a French-language and literature course. In PEI by Grade 11-12, students are generally taking only one or two courses in French.

Is French Immersion for everyone?

Immersion is suitable for children of all academic abilities. French Immersion may present an additional challenge to your child but it is not to be confused with enrichment. It is a program developed for the specific purpose of giving Anglophone school children the opportunity to become bilingual, while still maintaining their English skills. The Immersion method was created for children whose classroom language is not their first language but they study in French. If you have any specific concerns, check them out before you enrol your child in French Immersion… Call the Dept of Education and Early Childhood Development , your School Board/District, CPF, or talk to a Kindergarten FI teacher.

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