Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Letters to NB Editors--April 23

Cutting French--Miramichi Leader

This is a copy of letter Sister Réjeanne Bourque sent to the Minister of Education Kelly Lamrock in response to his decision to cut early French Immersion.

Dear sir, I am writing concerning the decision released on French second-language programming in New Brunswick. I am pleased with the suggestions to improve the program from Grades 5 to 12. However, I have serious concerns regarding the total elimination of French below Grade 5. Here are some of my reasons: French immersion was introduced because parents asked for it. If parents wish to choose to have their children in early immersion, why should they now be refused? It should be their decision.

In my studies regarding second language learning, I was impressed by the comments of the world-famous neurologist, Dr. Wilder Penfield of Montréal. He explained that, at an early age, children are attuned to hearing sounds perfectly, and as soon as they are able to speak correctly, they can reproduce them perfectly. As they grow, they develop a "phonological filter" (crible phonologique). The brain gradually filters out sounds which have no meaning or are not used for communication. By the age of 12, it is harder to hear correctly the sounds that are not in their native language and it is also harder to reproduce them correctly because their speech patterns have been formed. The pronunciation of children in the early grades of second language classes is delightful. This is an advantage which they carry with them into their adult lives.

Are we going to deprive them of this gift?

We boast of being the only officially bilingual province in Canada, and yet, we're eliminating both immersion and core French before Grade 5? It is embarrassing when we look at what other provinces are doing.

Although the report was rather negative, I am aware of many success stories. There are young adults who have come out of early immersion and are holding bilingual positions today. Parents have frequently spoken of traveling in French-speaking areas with their young child who acted as interpreter.

Because of the speed with which the decision to implement this was made, it leaves school districts scurrying with the displacement of teachers, the scrapping and ordering of materials, etc. as well as disappointed parents.

Your goals are lofty, Honourable Minister, but the means to reach these goals are a deep concern for many people.

Réjeanne Bourque, CND

P.S. After sending the above letter, I was invited to visit elementary classes learning core French through the new AIM method. The results are very positive and the children are enjoying it. Isn't it a big step backwards to expect them to go into the intensive program in Grade 5 with absolutely no previous exposure to French?

Differing views don't count in N.B. Telegraph-Journal

It is interesting to see that Mr. Lamrock stated that we are a minor few - the people and educators who are against eliminating early French immersion.

I guess we do not count. It's interesting to see I no longer have a choice in what type of education my kids can have.

Meanwhile, I guess my attempt to help save the environment by recycling was just money waiting for the Liberals to take and use.

Mr. Graham, your ministers appear to say we really do not have a say anymore. That, and using heavy-handed tactics in the house, apparently is showing the government's real side.


Saint John

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