Since its inception in 1995, the Conseil scholaire francophone (CSF), or School District 93, has offered children from K – Grade 12 an education in French. Kids enrolled in a CSF school spend their days learning and living in French. But what happens when they come home?
Speaking a minority language in a community where everyone else speaks English is not easy.
"We encourage all our students and their parents to speak French as often as possible," says Réjean Gosselin, Principal of l'école des Naviagateurs, a CSF elementary school in Richmond. "But you can't force it. It's best to make it fun and use encouragement and rewards. Don't make them feel that it's bad to speak English. Teach them to enjoy and celebrate both languages.”
“Being bilingual is a gift that will help them in the future."
Here are a few tips from CSF to support your child learning French while navigating life in a predominately English-speaking community:
· Make French a priority: If you're a francophone yourself, make speaking French at home part of your daily life – not a chore to be associated only with homework. For French immersion parents, consider learning French along with your child. You can even practice together.
· Play in French: Kids of all ages love to play games. Consider playing board or computer games, such as Scrabble, in French. Check with the school or local library for a French version of popular games such as Monopoly. Online games can be played with people from all over the world; encourage your teenager to play with French-speaking participants.
· Watch & Listen in French: Tune the television into a French channel; pick a French film; listen to the news on Radio-Canada together. Or watch out for a CSF school play production in your community!
· Enroll in French clubs: Check with your CSF school or local library for French-speaking clubs or activities, such as sports or hobbies, in your community. If you don't find one, consider starting a group and encouraging your child's French-speaking or French-learning friends to join.
· Travel in French: Book your next holiday in a French-speaking destination. There are 40 countries in the world where French is an official language. Want to stay in Canada? Take a trip to Québec or New Brunswick.
· Don't forget the grandparents: If your child has French-speaking grandparents, make sure they're involved. Even if they live far away, they can Skype or Facetime with their grandchild. Grandparents have interesting stories to tell and are usually eager to share their lives and heritage.
Make sure French is part of your child's out-of-school activities and you will be supporting them to be fully bilingual for the rest of their life.