English InstructionConditions for Educational Success
English InstructionAs well as gaining functional fluency in French, immersion students must acquire English language skills equivalent to those of their English-program peers. This is one of the biggest concerns of many immersion parents and of parents considering immersion for their child. After all, there would be little value in children learning a second language, if their first language skills were to suffer.
Once students have developed a good foundation in French, formal instruction of English is introduced. Most immersion students come from English home environments and all are exposed to English in the greater community. Thus, in introducing, the teacher helps students to build on what they already know through their experiences with English and the skills they have gained while learning to read and write in French. For example, because of the number of cognates (up to 40%), it is easy for students to make transfers from English to French and vice versa. The teacher helps students to sort out the differences between French and English that may cause confusion during the transition from French to English reading and writing.
An examination of theand an understanding of the typical immersion student’s anglophone milieu indicate no cause for concern.
- Quantitative and qualitative research findings into the English skills of immersion students are clear and consistent. After an initial lag lasting until a year or two after English Language Arts is introduced, early French immersion students perform as well in English as their English program counterparts. There is further evidence that from late elementary on, early immersion students may out-perform their English program counterparts in some English skills (e.g. the figurative and metaphoric use of language).
- Most immersion students arrive at school having learned English at home as their first language. The introduction of French has no negative effects on their English language competency. On the contrary, learning a second language can enhance first language abilities.
The effect of learning a second language (e.g. French) on first language skills has been virtually positive in all studies. The loss of instructional time in English in favour of the second language has never been shown to have negative effects on the achievement of the first language […] One can confidently assume that cognitive abilities acquired in the learning of one language can be put to use in the acquisition and proficiency of the other language. In many studies, first language skills were shown to be enhanced, even if instruction in L1 was reduced in favour of L2 instruction.
(Bournot-Trites. M. and U. Tallowitz. . 2002, p. 3)
When discussing the results of English Language Arts Achievement Tests for French immersion students, Jim Brackenbury from Learner Assessment explains that over time “[according to the Grade 3 English Language Arts Achievement Tests the] French immersion students do just fine. They are obviously not suffering any damage in English Language Arts by being in a French immersion program.” (“Achievement Tests and Diploma Exams: Results and Implications for French Immersion Programs.” French Immersion in Alberta. Building the Future: Leading the Way 2000—Conference Report, p. 151.) He goes on to say that
…the gap between the English results and the French immersion results [on English Language Arts achievement tests] gets wider from Grade 3 to 9. So in Grade 9 we have as close to 100% of [immersion] students as you are going to get, meeting acceptable standards and a marked gap at the standard of excellence, well above the 15% requirement. (loc. cit.)