Should we put our daughter in French immersion?

Ian weighs the pros and cons of enrolling his younger daughter in the program

By Ian Mendes
Should we put our daughter in French immersion?

I always figured that big decisions about our children’s education would come down the road, when they were in high school.

But this week, we have the choice of whether or not we put our youngest daughter — who will be going into senior kindergarten next fall — into French immersion.

Lily is currently in junior kindergarten and loving her 20 minutes of French lessons each day. She comes home and says, “I know how to say moustache in French.”

Then after a dramatic pause she says, “Moooo-stache.”

It’s the cutest thing ever and I have to resist the urge to buy her a pony after she displays her basic French skills.

She has absorbed a lot of the language in school, allowing her to count to 12 and say the names of various fruits, vegetables and animals in French.

However, I’m very leery of putting her into French immersion because neither of her parents can fluently speak the language. Both Sonia and I have basic French skills, but we probably couldn’t place a simple order at a St. Hubert’s restaurant under duress.  

My biggest concern is that Lily will come home with some homework questions in Grade 3 or 4 and we won’t be able to help her. She might not understand a basic concept in science class and my only response would be, “Voulez-vous du buerre?”

I’m a firm believer in helping our kids with their homework problems and I’m not sure we could give her the proper support. I also believe that a strong grasp of the English language is the foundation on which success is built in North America. And I don’t like the fact that Lily would not be getting any instruction in English until Grade 3 — which seems pretty late to start learning concepts like sentence structure and grammar.

But as with most issues in our house, Sonia has a more open mind than I do when it comes to putting her into French immersion. I tend to be the stubborn caveman in our relationship, hell-bent on stifling creativity and anything that would be considered outside-the-box.

Sonia thinks that we should strike while the iron is hot when it comes to Lily and French. She’s really absorbing the lessons in school, so why not try out French immersion?

My counter-argument: In 10 years, Google Translate will have advanced to the point where foreign language skills are unnecessary.

But in all seriousness, I think Lily will be getting plenty of exposure to French if she stays in the regular program in school. Starting in Grade 1, she would be getting 40 minutes of French instruction per day, which seems like a significant amount to me.

Our oldest daughter Elissa is not in French immersion and I also wonder if it would be odd to only put one of our children in the program. Will there be resentment down the road from one of our kids when they are in high school?

Lily might say, “Dad, why did you only put me in French immersion?”

Elissa could ask, “Dad, why didn’t you put me in French immersion?”

Or my biggest nightmare: “Dad, you said Google Translate would be a lot more advanced by now.”

This article was originally published on Feb 09, 2012

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