Un langage scolaire A teaching language

Note: I’ve just turned my reply to Simon’s comment on my last post into an entry of its own. The post was about Xavier’s English immersion sessions at home: here is the link.

There is a law that protects French in Québec, and this law restricts access to English school to French speaking children, unless they come from an English family. Despite the fact that my kids would not even be eligible for English school, I think my choice would still be to send them to a French school.

Beyond the learning of a second language (and the general communication abilities that come with it), attending school in a second language implies many other things:

  • Steepling into a different culture:
    • Subjects for school projects and research likely originating from the foreign language’s culture;
    • Friends and interests unavoidably derivate from the foreign language’s pop culture;
    • Exposition to teachers with a political agenda;
    • Literature studies inclined toward the second language’s heritage.
  • Knowledge gained on math, science, art, etc., using a completely different vocabulary than everyone around – and, possibly, available resources as well;
  • Another version of history taught in class which, I fear, would take out much emphasis on local history;
  • Fewer classes in the mother language, ie. a poorer (read and written) primary language, depending on the child and parents.

Just to deflate some of what I have just listed:

  • I do not consider the second language’s culture or literature as inferior.
  • I do not assume there are no teachers with political agendas at the primary language school (I actually expect there to be more of them, unfortunately).
  • I do believe a lot of the difficulties of this approach can be compensated by the parents’ devotion.

In our situation of French being a minority language, and in this particular household where English culture (from online culture to literature to television) takes a big place, it makes more sense to me to compensate for what language and cultural knowledge are missing in class at home, where we are well equipped to do so with weekly immersions and media. This is not a critique on the weakness of the English program in public schools; I am aware that they have a lot of ground to cover on a variety of topics, and unfortunately they cannot set the faster pace that a personal approach can. English takes an important place in our own work and hobbies, and we find it a crucial tool for opening up to the world around us (not to mention online resources), so it will be easy for us to communicate it to our children.

I am not sure how this translates (excuse the pun) when evolving into a majority language and considering sending one’s children to a minority language school; the situation is certainly different, but I believe some of the considerations are the same.

To conclude, I want to note that I am not inclined to propose Québec should become an independent country and that the French language here should be protected at all costs, nor do I rush to ban our mother language and culture, which I hold dear. It is all about balance, as I hope this post – and, heck, this whole blog – can evidence.

PS. I also have another entirely selfish reason for not wanting my kids to be too « international », which is my fear of seeing their path taking them millions of miles from my small mommy heart!
Note : Je viens de changer ma réponse au commentaire de Simon sur mon dernier post en un article à part entière. Le post traitait des sessions d’immersion anglaise de Xavier à la maison : voici le lien.

Il y a une loi qui protège le Français au Québec, et cette loi restreint l’accès aux écoles anglaises aux enfants francophones, à moins qu’ils proviennent de familles anglophones. Malgré le fait que mes enfants ne seraient pas même éligibles pour l’école anglaise, je crois que mon choix serait tout de même de les envoyer à une école française.

Au-delà de l’apprentissage d’un second langage (et les habiletés de communication générale qui l’accompagnent), aller à l’école dans un langage second a plusieurs implications:

  • Être sujet à une culture différente :
    • Les sujets pour les projets scolaires et les recherches originent vraisemblablement de la culture du langage étranger;
    • Amis et les intérêts dérivent inévitablement de la culture populaire du langage étranger;
    • Exposition à des professeurs ayant un agenda politique;
    • Études littéraires tournées vers l’héritage littéraire du second langage.
  • Connaissances gagnées en maths, science, art, etc., en utilisant un vocabulaire complètement différent de son entourage – et, possiblement, des ressources disponibles également;
  • Une autre version de l’histoire apprise en classe qui, je le crains, retirerait beaucoup d’emphase sur l’histoire locale;
  • Moins de cours dans le langage maternel, c’est-à-dire un langage maternel (lu et écrit) plus pauvre, dépendant de l’enfant et des parents.

Juste pour dégonfler un peu certains des points que je viens de lister :

  • Je ne considère pas la culture ou la littérature du second langage comme inférieure.
  • Je n’assume pas qu’il n’y a aucun professeur avec un agenda politique dans les écoles de la langue maternelle (j’ai plutôt l’impression qu’il y en a davantage, malheureusement).
  • Je crois véritablement que plusieurs difficultés dans cette approche peuvent être compensées par la dévotion des parents.

Dans notre situation où le Français est un langage minoritaire, et dans cette maisonnée en particulier où la culture anglophone (de la culture en ligne à la littérature à la télévision) prend une place importante, il est plus logique pour moi de compenser les connaissances linguistiques et culturelles manquantes en classe à la maison, où nous sommes bien équipés pour le faire avec immersions hebdomadaires et médias. Ceci n’est pas une critique envers la faiblesse du programme d’Anglais dans les écoles publiques; je suis très consciente qu’ils ont beaucoup de terrain à couvrir sur une variété de sujets, et malheureusement ils ne peuvent pas le rythme plus rapide qui devient possible avec une approche personnelle. L’Anglais prend une place importante dans notre propre travail et nos hobbys, et nous le voyons comme un outil crucial à notre ouverture envers le monde qui nous entoure (pour ne pas mentionner les ressources en ligne), alors il nous sera facile de le communiquer à nos enfants.

Je ne suis pas certaine comment ceci se traduit (excusez-moi le jeu de mot) lorsqu’on évolue dans un langage majoritaire et qu’on considère d’envoyer nos enfants dans une école de langage minoritaire; la situation est certainement différente, mais je crois que plusieurs considérations sont les mêmes.

Pour conclure, je veux noter que je ne suis pas enclinte à proposer que le Québec devrait devenir un pays indépendant et que le langage Français ici devrait être protégé à tout prix, tout comme je ne souhaite pas bannir notre langue et notre culture maternelle, que j’ai en grande estime. C’est une question de balance, ce qui sera rendu évident, j’espère, dans ce post – et dans tout ce blog, même.

PS. J’ai aussi une autre raison très égoïste de ne pas vouloir que mes enfants soient trop « internationaux », c’est-à-dire ma peur de voir leur chemin les emporter à des millions de milles de mon petit coeur de maman!

7 commentaires sur “<lang_fr>Un langage scolaire</lang_fr> <lang_en>A teaching language</lang_en>”

  1. I wish I had more time to reply with the thoroughness this deserves, and perhaps I’ll remember to do so later. English here, where I am physically, is the dominant language, as it is becoming increasingly around the globe. French, for you Émy, is your mother tongue and tied inextricably to your culture. Not to say that English is not the same for me, but I think the significance is less because of the global dominance of the language and thus its influence is largely taken for granted. Certainly by anglophones like me, at least most of the time.

    For me, wanting my sons to experience French immersion in school is about the greater experience, opportunities for education and general well-roundedness it will (hopefully) engender. The cultural aspect is very minimal, both in terms of my personal consideration as well as what, I think, the school boards and teachers intend. It is an incredibly useful tool along the lines of mathematics or physics or history. Another tool in one’s repertoire of useful talents.

    It seems that English (whether by immersion in school, in the home or picked up via media outlets) is quite different for you in Quebec. Understandably. And, quite frankly, I find the differences fascinating. (As I go back to work now…)

  2. Thanks to Simon for the input. I have a strong interest in all things bilingualism/translation/language, so I am enjoying exploring this theme and adjusting my position on the matter. (Plus, it distracts me from worrying about sick Orléane’s miserableness today.)

    You touched a key point when you mention English being a dominant language, assuredly so in North-America. This obviously binds language to culture around here and, while it doesn’t need to be like that, it WOULD be easy to slip from studies among an English community, to interests (read: television, music and literature) residing in the English culture (Canadian or American), to a lack of attachment to the Québec-French culture. I’m already halfway there myself, as I only watch English tv. series nowadays, and all the last novels I have read have originated from recommendations by the BW denizens.

    Mind, I do think many fellow Quebecois are so protective of their language and culture that they refuse stubbornly to look over the fence, and that is a closed mindedness I get really annoyed with, because it not only keeps out foreign culture, but often international empathy and understanding as well (not to mention international news). It IS true, however, that looking over the fence, culturally, will often pull the audience over to the English side of the fence because, like it or not, English has a much more populated audience, and that translates into bigger budget (not to say that a bigger budget automatically means a better tv series/movie/music/book, but it always helps taking care of the special effects bill).

    I forgot to mention it in the post, but I wanted to note that, while I do not wish to send my kids to an English immersion school, I would certainly favour an advanced English school program that adds more English classes and pushes learning a notch – those exist around here. I do believe nothing can replace the parent’s involvement, however, and I dearly hope I follow through for a long time with the immersions I have set up already.

    But honestly, learning a foreign language is easy as being interested by it, and watching television (and later reading) in that language. Television is how I learned English, and it’s SO easy to stay interested by it!! 😉

  3. Not to belittle anything you said, Émy, but what struck me most was you saying that TV was how you learned English. And that stands out because it made me think immediately that that’s how Daryl Hannah’s character learned English in the movie « Splash », where she played a mermaid.

    Perhaps I could turn that into some sort of commentary on the ubiquity and the influence of English in pop culture if I really wanted to.

    What I find most fascinating is the huge difference in perception of language. Speaking English as my native tongue, I give no thought whatsoever to its preservation because I know, in the back of my mind, that its influence is steadily growing, and so, therefore, is the sort of culture that inevitably goes along with it. When one’s native language is being threatened in any way by another, as one could say French (Québecois French at least) is, then the cultural identification with that language comes straight to the fore and defensiveness comes much more easily.

    This is the most thought I’ve really ever given the subject and I really do find it incredibly fascinating.

  4. François : Yeah Chinese is a whole other type of language… I think I’ll try Spanish again before I turn to an oriental language.

    Maman, merci! J’ai corrigé mon texte.

    Simon : Yes, English formation through watching TV goes as follows: you start with some simple and expressive sitcoms (mine were Full House and Fresh Prince, and later Friends) and you turn on the captions for training wheels; then you move on to more intellectual sitcoms, and teen series (mine were Seinfield and Party of five); you finish by tackling technical series (mine were the X-Files and later E.R.), and you turn off the captions when you’re ready. You can also re-watch a favourite series in the foreign language.

    I’m not overly defensive of French in Québec, but I understand its binding to culture. I know that, even if the practical reasons for adopting English were understandable, it would be sad if French disappeared completely in North-America, but I haven’t sorted out my feelings about it really (yet).

    And lastly, here is Tal’s comment from the previous post. I’m copying it here because I think it belongs:
    Tal: Have to chime in here and just say that my best friends (all french immersion kids) never had those “homework” problems really. You can reinforce at home with books and french tv, and that was usually good enough. For what it’s worth, these kids are working for the Canadian government (biligualism comes in handy), or living abroad in France. Definitely good if you can get it, in my non-parental opinion….

Laisser un commentaire