Late French immersion program looking more like a reality

Cory
Cory Hurley
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Darlene Smith-Osmond, french program specialist for the western region, speaks during a presentation on late French immersion.

It appears friends Morgan Young and Jenna King are that much closer to being the first late French immersion students in Newfoundland and Labrador outside of the east coast.

The Sacred Heart Elementary School Grade 6 students attended Tuesday evening’s meeting to gauge interest in the establishment of the second language curriculum for Grade 7-9 in Corner Brook.

Although early French immersion has been part of the education system through C.C.Loughlin, and students have continued at the junior high and senior high levels, the late start program only exists at 16 schools in eastern Newfoundland.

That, it appears, will change starting in September when the new amalgamated junior high is expected to open. The increased population base for the intermediate facility has increased the likelihood of a demand for the program.

Tuesday, the second meeting to garner interest was held at Presentation Junior High. About a dozen parents attended, along with four or five prospective students. With 10 names previously collected, Darlene Smith-Osmond, the french program specialist for the western region, is more confident there will be sufficient interest to start the program.

A class of at least 25 is required, although there may be some flexibility in the exact number. It is also not certain what would happen if there is enough for more than one class, but Smith-Osmond said enrollment will be on a first-come, first-served basis through the online registration.

Whereas early French immersion is likely a choice of the parent or guardian, the late program offers the opportunity to those students who did not avail of the elementary program.

Eager students like Young and King can then learn to speak fluid French through their educational experience.

The program is designed so that about 75 per cent of the curriculum in Grades 7 and 8 are taught in French, then 30-50 per cent in Grade 9. The students would then merge with early French immersion students starting at Grade 10. The senior high curriculum is taught at about 30 per cent French.

Smith-Osmond said the program is not going to be all fun times and excitement, but the payoff will begin once the basic French language is learned. The first half of the Grade 7 year is described as frustrating for both students and parents.

“When you learn a second language, one of the first periods anybody will go through is a period of frustration,” she said. “... Anything worth doing and worth having is worth sticking with. I guarantee you, if you are willing to stick with this program and give it a chance — I mean a fair chance — it will be worthwhile.”

The benefits of bilingualism, said Smith-Osmond, are intellectual development, cultural enhancement, ease in learning additional languages and increased job opportunities.

Some of the parents in attendance had typical apprehension about the program — including their inability to assist in homework and study, decreased course offerings, additional workload and less time for extra-curricular activities.

Their concerns were acknowledged, but subsequently dismissed by Smith-Osmond. She said a late French immersion student should have a positive attitude, be motivated and not be a quitter.

Online registration will be available through the province’s school board website — www.nlesd.ca — and a deadline of March 31 has been set.

Organizations: Sacred Heart Elementary School Grade, Grade 10

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Eastern Newfoundland.That

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