French at Westside - Quel Avantage!

“Can I have some more fromage s’il vous plait?”
“Hey! That’s my travail.”
“How do you say antelope in Francais?”
“Do you want to do “Qu’est-ce que Lindsay porte” with me?”

Yes, bilingualism is alive and well here at Westside. This is the kind of “frenglish” that has become the norm for our Casa community. The children may think nothing of it, in fact that’s the idea, but we still cheer a little inside with every new word, and every appropriate response. We know what we are doing here is working.

At Westside we have set ourselves apart from other schools. French is not an “elective” or a “specialty class” or just a person in the class who says everything in French. It is part of our school’s culture. It is not uncommon to here two Anglophone staff speaking in French to each other, or a non French Speaking staff member tuning in and making sense of a French conversation with a child so that communication between all staff and children is seamless and consistent. Despite the fact that we have 1 official Francophone in the school, our daily operations depend almost equally as much on French as on English.

We also create our own materials. In true Montessori style we feed off the children and adapt the materials to their interests and needs. After the children have been shown the work they have access to it as they do any piece of work, which means they can take the responsibility for their own language learning. What better way to master a language than to teach and practice with their friends, all while having fun.
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For the children the benefits are exponential. As Erica Westly writes in an article for Scientific American Mind “In recent years, scientists have found that being raised bilingual facilitates in children certain aptitudes such as mental flexibility, abstract thinking and working memory which is associated with both reading and math skills…they found that the region of the inferior frontal cortex, which involves both language and abstract thinking, showed more activity in bilingual children.” How should bilingualism be integrated? Well according to her article “Researchers have found that the best way to become bilingual is to start young and practice everyday. ‘Being exposed to a multilingual environment is ideal.’ ” That’s good news for us!

What is great about our approach to second language learning is that it is not about reaching benchmarks in proficiency, it is about igniting a curiosity and promoting learning of all kinds. Every child has different aptitudes and develops different interests so whether or not they develop the interest to continue mastering French, they will have undoubtedly reaped the cognitive advantages, ability to adapt and an openness to other cultures. Quel avantage!

To read the full article “The Bilingual Advantage” go to:
http://tamia.ca/Blog/Entries/2011/8/11_The_Bilingual_Advantage.html
and click on the link to the original article.

-Nadia and Natasha

November 16, 2011. Classroom life. No Comments.