What is French Immersion?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 May 2020
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French immersion is a teaching technique that allows a student to learn French as a secondary language by using the French language as the primary means of conversation in school classes. The term can also be used to describe a type of course or training program that teaches adult or older students French by taking them to a French-speaking locale for several weeks or months. French immersion is a popular form of schooling in Canada, where bilingualism in English and French has a long-standing history, but is also present in some private schools in other nations.

Canada is considered by many educational experts to be the world leader in French immersion programs. Responding to a belief that students are most receptive to picking up multiple languages when very young, French immersion programs start in kindergarten or even earlier in some Canadian schools. The program is generally meant for children who have developed with English as a primary language; by teaching many regular class subjects in French, immersion programs hope to create a fluency in the second language that is on par with the primary language. Some immersion programs continue all the way through secondary school, though some students may opt into an English-emphasized program of study instead.

There are several reasons that immersion programs are considered by some experts to be substantially more successful than traditional language courses. First, the integration of the program into primary school helps children get a head start on fluency, at a time when some believe people are more able to learn languages. Secondly, immersion requires that a student use the language daily, in multiple settings, providing constant reinforcement of vocabulary and comprehension. By contrast, traditional programs of language learning may require the student to use the language for only the duration of the class period, and then go about their day or week using solely their primary language.

For adults, French immersion can be a wonderfulway to combine learning a language with seeing the world. By relocating to a French-speaking region, a person will be effectively immersed in the language right from the start. In order to order food, call a cab, find a laundromat, or make a new friend, French immersion travelers will need to rely on their shaky but growing understanding of the language. When there is no possible escape from the language, people may learn it faster just to survive. Courses and training programs that have an immersion component are often available through language institutes and community colleges, and many precede the trip with several weeks of basic instruction.


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