Hello! Welcome to my new blog – Teach French @ Home. My name is Christine and I am a homeschooling mother in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I have to specify the province and country since, apparently, there is a place called Ontario in California and a place called Ottawa in Kansas. I am not in either of those places. I am in the National Capital of Canada and feel very blessed to be here.
One of the blessings of being here is that we get to experience a bilingual – French and English – culture. It is true that the entire country of Canada is officially bilingual, but most regions of Canada are either predominantly English or predominantly French. There are few other places where bilingualism is so readily apparent than Ottawa. We even have a bilingual, albeit unofficial, name for our city and surroundings: “The Outaouais Region.” The Outaouais Region spans both sides of the Ottawa river and includes part of eastern Ontario (Ottawa) and part of western Québec (Gatineau).
Many Ontarians cross the river everyday to work in Québec and, likewise, many Québecois cross the river in the other direction to work in Ontario. I believe it is this juxtaposition of the two cities that gives this region its strong flavour of bilingualism.
Anytime you go downtown, summer or winter, you are likely to hear just as many French conversations as English ones. In fact, you are just as likely to hear one person talking French and the other talking English in the same conversation! Don’t be surprised if you hear people switching back and forth between languages mid-stream – sometimes even mid-sentence!
Something else that makes Ottawa linguistically unique is that we have a widespread and very well established French Immersion school program. When I was a child, French immersion was a fairly new pedagogical development. I was blessed to have been able to participate in this great experiment. I was in one of the first cohorts to participate in early French immersion. I have heard, though, that anywhere else in Ontario French immersion is not nearly as prevalent as in Ottawa. Having grown up in the French immersion system, I can say that I would not have had it any other way.
I am also a member of another small (but growing) minority group. I am homeschooling both of my children. My only hesitation about whether or not to homeschool was because I did not want my children to miss out on the opportunity to become fluent in French through participating in the French immersion school system. Many other homeschoolers to whom I have talked also have the same hesitation. We have heard about all the studies showing that learning a second language as a young child does not interfere with acquisition of the first language. We know that if we just talked French to our children a lot of the time, they would naturally pick it up – and the younger the better – yet, still we hesitate. We are afraid of passing on any mistakes that we make. We search in vain for a decent French curriculum. Some enrol their children in once a week French classes, or employ the services of a French tutor for their children. Some children thrive on this, yet others still struggle, and we feel guilty that we cannot provide our children with the richness of a French immersion environment. Some choose not to homeschool for this reason. Others compromise on their desire to enable their children to become fluent in two languages.
This is where this blog comes in. I am developing a homeschooling curriculum that will teach parents how to transform their family home into a French immersion environment, gradually and with well-researched, correct language structure, regardless of the linguistic ability of the parent(s). Unlike programs designed for adults, though, French Immersion @ Home, the program I am developing, will engage the children in language learning through play, stories, and fun projects.
In order to develop the program, I am reading a lot about foreign language acquisition and observing how other language programs introduce vocabulary and grammar. As I’m doing so, I am learning so many fascinating facts and theories about foreign language acquisition and about the French language itself. This blog, therefore, will be a vehicle through which I can share these thoughts and insights with others who need help teaching their children French or those who are simply interested in language-learning and linguistics for purely academic reasons. If you are interested and have ideas and thoughts about language learning as well, please do leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!