Since French is the second official language of Canada and about 30 percent of the population speaks it as their first language, it’s a little surprising that less than 18 percent of Canadians are bilingual.
For Eric Corej, French’s similarities to other latin-derived languages, such as Italian, have helped his career by enabling him to conduct business around the world. Because of the professional doors French has opened, sending his two daughters, aged six and seven, to elementary school at Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir didn’t need a second thought.
Corej and his wife grew up in Quebec and speak French in their home in Markham, Ontario. They knew that teaching their daughters speak it fluently would raise the bar for better jobs, help with travel and encourage a closer relationship with their grandparents. “We view an extra language as a gift to give our kids, so we want to provide that opportunity,” Corej says. “French has helped our careers significantly and we’re fortunate to live in a country that provides access to a second language.”
Conseil scolaire catholique Providence and Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir are a collection of public Catholic French-language schools spaced out between the GTA and Southwestern Ontario, respectively, with 70 elementary and 18 secondary schools between them. Community is at their core and smaller school sizes allow them to be an ally in education and better support students in becoming francophones.
Despite the name, French immersion isn’t a full submerge into bilingualism. It starts off that way, but as kids advance, their schooling becomes a hybrid of French and English. Most kids who go through the immersion stream will be able to understand French, but often can’t speak or write fluently.
That’s another common misconception. The simple answer is: It won’t. “There’s a saying ‘you learn French, but you catch English,'’’ Corej says. “Every member of my family was speaking French at home, but we’re all fluent in English. You watch it on TV, you hear it on the street.”
Patricia Morelli’s kids haven’t had any issues, either, only opportunities. All 10 of her children have attended JK to Grade 12 at the Conseil scolaire catholique Providence. Two of them now teach in the same schools they grew up in. Morelli isn’t bilingual so the family speaks English at home. The boards do communicate solely in French, from homework to calling parents, so her husband, a French teacher himself, is there to assist.
"There have been no issues," says Morelli. "I think we got the best of both worlds because we speak English at home and my kids read a lot, so they would read French books at school but would always read English books at home."
But don’t let your own language barriers stop you—the schools will accommodate, communicating to parents in English for emergencies or parent-teacher meetings. Having someone fluent in your family will help, too. Additionally, Corej says there’s no need to worry about them falling behind in post-secondary school with all this technology at their grasp.“The bigger worry we have right now is the girls picking up too much English because it’s all around them,” he adds.
Providence’s and MonAvenir’s students live and learn in French, while evolving in a predominantly English-speaking environment. In addition, English is taught starting in elementary school, with the same rigour as in English-language schools. Result:
Students who receive a high-school diploma from a Providence’s or MonAvenir’s school are proficient in both Canada’s official languages, develop a high-level bilingualism for life, and have access to a world of possibilities leading to employment opportunities in Ontario, Canada and abroad.
Morelli and Corej are both Catholic, so the boards’ curriculum is a good fit. But any religion, or lack-of, will find common ground in the schools’ learning activities, which are seeded in personal growth and academic excellence with Catholic church traditions woven into the framework. Everyday human values and French teachings are at the core, and students who attend will be nurtured in a way that challenges them to become informed, engaged and responsible global citizens. It also doesn’t hurt that French Catholic schools have some of the highest graduation rates in the province. Recent data collected by the Ontario government ranked MonAvenir and Providence secondary schools in the top 10, sitting well above the provincial average.
If smaller school-size, better job opportunities and a close knit sense of community with like-minded parents appeals to you, attend a virtual open house. From January 14 to February 11, prospective families can meet the team, talk to actual parents, take a virtual tour and learn more about the schools’ philosophy and day-to-day operations. Each school will be hosting their own online open house, check to see when the one closest to you will be. To learn more, visit MyFrenchSchool.ca/ for Providence and Vienscheznous.ca for MonAvenir.
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