English Language ArtsConditions for Educational Success
When Should English Language Arts Be Introduced?While the early immersion model is based on an initial intense exposure to French, researchers have not yet provided a definitive answer on the optimum time to introduce English.
Over the past three decades, several variations on the early French immersion model have been tried, from the “bilingual” or “partial immersion” approach, in which as much as half the time is spent in English and half in French, to “total immersion,” in which all of the time for the first few years is spent in French.
“…in the past, some parents have opted for a partial immersion program rather than total immersion program because of fears regarding their child’s English development. These fears appear to have little basis. The greater exposure to French in early total immersion has no detrimental effect on children’s achievement in English.”
James Cummins, Research Findings from French Immersion Programs Across Canada: A Parent’s Guide. A CPF Special Report, n.d.
Today, early total immersion is by far the most common approach used across the country because of student success in attaining high levels of French achievement. In the typical early total immersion program English is introduced in Grade 3.
“French immersion students are not disadvantaged in English in the medium to long term. Moreover, results from many studies… also show that early total French immersion students’ French skills are better than those of students who receive less instruction in French. There is thus a strong case for intensive French immersion in the early grades, with English instruction introduced gradually from Grade 2 or 3 onward.”
M. Turnbull, S. Lapkin, D. Hart, (2001) Grade 3 Immersion Students’ Performance in Literacy and Mathematics: Province-wide Results from Ontario (1998-1999), 24.
In brief, we know fromthat:
- early immersion students consistently perform as well as their English-program peers in all skill areas by the end of Grade 6, no matter when is introduced, and that they continue to do so through Grade 12;
- immersion students who learn to read in French first, and remain in French immersion, experience no long-term detrimental effect on English reading skills; and
- students readily transfer reading skills from one language to another.
There is no conclusive research yet to indicate whether:
- learning to read in English first or concurrently with learning to read in French has any advantages or disadvantages, or
- a threshold of instructional time in French is necessary to achieve measurable progress in French.