Full French, French Immersion, or Core French?

Wondering which program is best for your child?

To begin, you need to know that there is no “right answer” for everyone. The answer for your family, will be the choice that works best for you and your family’s situation. There are of course a variety of other reasons that may sway your decision (locations, specialty programs, environment, etc.), so please note that I am only commenting with regards to the various French learning programs.

Let me start by giving a general explanation of the options: 

Full French : The child enters a Francophone school. All subjects are taught in French. French is the language of communication. Children attending French school are expected to come out with high levels of French comprehension & skills since it is the language of instruction. 

Early French Immersion: The child enters a school run by the English school board. In this program, children learn French and also French is the language of instruction in two or more other subjects. English is the language of communication to parents. It’s the hope that children in this program will come out fairly bilingual. Please note there is also late French Immersion which usually starts in Grade 4. 

Core French: The child enters an English school where French is taught as a subject. Children learn basic French. It’s the hope that students will have some basic comprehension of French.

Based on these descriptions, it seems like the answer should be easy right?

Not always. Many families and their language situations fall into grey areas leaving them confused at which one to choose. 

I’m going to preface this by saying this is MY OPINION only. This is based off of my own experiences: as a mother, as a French educator, as a French learner myself, and as someone who has witnessed various other families making this same decision.

Let me start with the more straight-forward answers: 

Is French spoken at home on a consistent basis?

Si oui, I recommend registering to French school. 

Does neither parent speak French at all, but want their child to learn the language in school?

I recommend French Immersion. When learning a language, the more immersed you can get, the better. 

Does neither parent speak French, and don’t plan on living in an area where French learning is an asset? I might still recommend trying French Immersion because languages are so beneficial to children, but Core French would be a fine choice here as well. 

Now for the grey areas:

There are many situations where the answer isn’t as straight forward. Perhaps you’re bilingual, not Francophone, and want to put your child in French schooling but are unsure. Perhaps you’re not fully bilingual, but are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to support your child’s French education? Perhaps you’re bilingual but your partner is not? There are so many grey areas here and the confusion often lies between choosing Full French or French Immersion.

It’s my belief that the French and French Immersion options can both be great for different reasons. I do fully believe that a child CAN come out bilingual either way, but I have recommendations that can help pave the way for the different routes: 

If you choose French schooling and you don’t speak French at home/aren’t fully bilingual, You need to be ready to:

  • Find other ways to support your child in the case that your child struggles in school 
  • Receive notices from the school etc. in French. Some teachers will email in English etc. if you need it, but it can’t be expected as the primary language of communication is French.
  • You will also likely be required to complete an interview in order to discuss the above two matters in order to get approved by the school. 

The benefit for choosing French schooling is that they’re likely to come out bilingual since French is used for all communication in every subject. The negatives could be that you may not be in the right place to support your child if your French isn’t up to par and you may feel less able to be a part of the school community if you’re unable to communicate in the spoken language. 

If you choose French Immersion: 

  • It’s my opinion that you should look at ensuring to find opportunities for your child to use French outside of the school as well. This is because the majority of children and families will be English-speaking and so despite the fact that they will learn French in school, in terms of casual conversation etc. they may be lacking in their speaking skills if not provided extra opportunities to use it in a more natural setting. 

The benefit for choosing this program is that you will not have trouble communicating with the school etc. and staff expects to provide supports for English-speaking parents etc. The negatives may be that the French learning is left for the classroom only and so your child may not have the confidence to speak it in other settings if they aren’t provided with those opportunities.

AH! But I didn’t make the decision for you did I?!

I understand the worry and frustration about such a big and sometimes unclear decision. I apologize for not making a Full French vs. French Immersion decision for you.

Why haven’t I? Because I believe YOU to be the only one with enough knowledge to make the decision that is right for you. You know your situation best. You know your family best. You know your child best. 

I can provide an outsider’s insight, but you are the expert here. <3 

Bonne chance! And no matter your decision, know that I am here to support you and your children on your French learning journey.  

Madame Amy

Madame Amy

Owner of 123 Petits Pas Inc., Certified French Teacher in Ontario, Mother of a bilingual son entering school this fall.