Sunday, 8 January 2012

French Immersion and the Tower of Babel

Here is the audio of this blog:

Bonjour! C'est difficile d'imaginer un citoyen instruit qui ne parle pas une deuxième ou même une troisième langue.

One of the greatest gifts I received and pursued throughout my K-12 education as well as in university studies was the acquisition of other languages.  Once fluent in French, learning Spanish and Italian was so much more accessible.  It led to my career as a French teacher and administrator but just as importantly, it enhanced my educational and personal life experience.  Travel, meeting new people, learning new cultures and appreciating diversity:  all these experiences were were made possible and were so much more meaningful when carried out in a multilingual context. 

UBC’s former President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr Martha Piper, recently spoke of 5 ways to foster creativity and global citizenship:

1)  A Commitment to Languages
2)  Integrate Humanities and the Arts into Curriculum
3)  Embed Global Citizenship
4)  Embrace Community Service Learning
5)  Build Unique Environments

It was affirming to see that her first suggestion was on language learning - particularly as we gear up for French Immersion registration in our district for next year.  As a program of choice, it enables families to continue their child's education in a unique way.  This philosophy and approach is very much in line with the UDL principles I have espoused in previous blogs.  While the French Immersion experience and journey does not work out for everyone, it is a successful BC program that enriches the lives of many of our students. 

While we have other language programs, including of course FSL, the immersion environment is by far, the most effective way to learn another language.  In addition to the enhanced communication skills that are acquired in French Immersion, there is also research that demonstrates that students are "building brain matter" by learning a second language.  Here is the Rationale of the BC Ministry of Education around the programming of French Immersion:

The Ministry recognizes that French Immersion programming benefits the cognitive and social development of students, as well as their opportunities for career advancement. Research demonstrates that students who successfully complete a French Immersion program attain functional bilingualism while doing as well as, or better than, their unilingual peers in the content areas of curriculum, including English Language Arts.

We have already shrunk the world significantly with the advent of personal technology and social media.  Contrary to the biblical purpose of the Tower of Babel, however, we are not constructing a global educational community in opposition of a greater power but rather to bring our students to greater heights of enlightenment and global citizenship.  
Turris Babel from Athanasius Kircher

Below is a humorous look at the Tower of Babel on Youtube.  It is put forward by a translation company... 

Have a great week,


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