Sunday, May 18, 2008


Bloggers' preamble: Education Minister Kelly Lamrock has been quoting Dr. Fred Genesee's work in attempts to justify his decision to elimate Early French Immersion and replace it with an untested late French Immersion program. Following are some of Dr. Genesee's comments about French Second Language education in New Brunswick. It is clear that Dr. Genesee does not share Minister Lamrock's views.

Friday, May 16, 2008 at 3:53pm
From Citizens for Educational Choice -- Fredericton

Wednesday night in Fredericton, Dr. Fred Genesee, a leading expert in French Second Language education, expressed grave concerns over the New Brunswick government’s recent changes to the delivery of French instruction in Anglophone schools. “I don’t get it”, Genesee stated, “it is clear that in bilingual settings such as New Brunswick, the way to produce the largest number of bilingual students is to utilize FSL programming that starts at an early age so children are not only learning the language in the classroom, but they can also take advantage of exposure to the language outside the classroom.”

Genesee is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at McGill University, Montreal, where he has worked since 1978. He has carried out research on some of the first immersion programs implemented in Canada and has helped educators around the world develop their own immersion programs. His work has sought to debunk persistent myths surrounding bilingualism and second language acquisition in early childhood. His visit to Fredericton came on the same day a provincial group of parents filed papers requesting a judicial review of the government’s decision to eliminate Early French Immersion from New Brunswick schools.

“Early French Immersion is the most equitable program to teach children to become bilingual. The notion it is a program only for elites or children of higher abilities is not supported by research. Children from all across the ability spectrum can and do thrive in Immersion settings; this has been well-documented in research carried out in early immersion programs.”

“It appears the issues New Brunswick has with the program may be due to the lack of educational supports the government has provided the program over the years and the lack of information provided to parents who are concerned about their children’s performance if they are in Immersion. Frankly, I find it amazing they have been able to get away with it for so long without parents demanding the government provide equal access to the support systems available to students in the English programs; New Brunswick is not alone in not providing Immersion students with the full range of supports that students in the English programs enjoy” stated Genesee in response to questions pertaining to the situation in New Brunswick.

In his lecture that was simultaneously broadcast from UNB’s Wu Centre to Mount Allison University, Genesee discussed myths that continue to be held by many concerning bilingualism. “Research has shown that many beliefs held regarding the impact learning a second language has on the first are simply false. What makes it difficult for people to accept certain ideas is that we find that many outcomes are the opposite of what one would expect when it comes to language acquisition. For example, there is no basis for the belief that a good grounding in one’s native language is a requirement to learn a second language. You only learn how to read once and those skills can transfer from the second language to the first language if students are in immersion. Removing the option for a child to start learning the second language in the early grades is only going to lower proficiency in the end and will not have any significant impact on first language literacy.”


Fred Genesee
Tel: (514) 398-6022
Fax: (514-398-4896

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