A well-attended presentation at Ecole Boreale on March 21 focused on helping non-French-speaking parents find viable ways to cope with some of the challenges they face at home.
The school brought in Glen Taylor, an Alberta-based consultant in the field of minority francophone education in Canada, to speak about his own experiences and offer solutions to issues raised by parents who don’t speak the language their child is learning at school.
Some of the parents who attended are exogamous-type couples – they have different mother tongues and cultural backgrounds – while others are from backgrounds with little or no French.
“Having a child at a French school is more work for everyone,” said Taylor, who first came to speak at the school in 2007. “The students are developing another identity and there are extra responsibilities that come into play for parents and teachers as well.”
The consultant praised the merits of sending children to a French school, explaining how the brain strengthens neural connections when it learns another language, and drew a graph to display the way cognitive transfers take place when a new concept is learned in French.
“Regardless of what the child learns, whether it’s math or science, the information is stored and the child can use it in any language,” he said, playing down the fear that learning a second language would lead to “subtractive bilingualism.”
That concept, first developed by the late Dr. Wallace Lambert, is the idea that when a child acquires another language it does not result in bilingualism, but rather the erosion or loss of the primary language.
After suggesting that parents could read to their children or watch movies in French, Taylor proposed an idea that many parents seemed excited about trying: the Francozone, which is a delineated space in one’s home entirely dedicated to French.
Jackie Karp, whose son Jesse attends Ecole Boreale, comes from an English background, but can understand some spoken and written French. She said her son doesn’t like to speak French at home.
“If I speak to him in French, he always responds in English,” she said. “I am sure many English-speaking parents with children at Ecole Boreale have the same problem. The kids seem to see their Francozone as being only the school.”
Karp said her son will watch movies and read in French, but will not speak it. She is looking forward to implementing her own Francozone and thinks it will help both her and her son with the language.
“The more fun it is the more they will want to do it,” she said.
Ecole Boreale principal Stephane Millette said the school should have brought Taylor back sooner for a presentation.
“We’re conscious of the issues some parents have at home with the language and Glen is a great resource to help us deal with them,” he said. “We always get the same questions from parents about how to cope with these obstacles and Glen can offer different perspectives to help our students achieve success.”
— Myles Dolphin