French as a Second Language

Frequently asked questions

The program is designed for children who normally speak English at home. It is not expected that parents will be able to speak French. Teachers are aware of this when they send home notices or assign homework. Reporting is in English.

The curriculum must follow the Ontario curriculum. Materials in French cover the same basic program as in English, although perhaps in a different sequence. Students work towards the same academic goals regardless of the language of instruction.

Evaluations of French as a Second Language (FSL) programs across Canada have indicated that although there are certain lags in English language skills for the first few years, children in FSL very quickly catch up to and keep pace with children in the English program once English is introduced. It is important that you read stories in English at home and expose your child to English songs, nursery rhymes, and books that will enrich his or her first language experience, just as you would if they were in the English program.

Standard French vocabulary and structures are taught. A variety of accents exist in all languages; during a school career a child will be exposed to teachers from various parts of the world who are models of well-spoken, grammatically correct French.

FSL is available in most urban centres in Canada. A full searchable directory is published by the Ministry of Ontario.

From the early stages of the program, parents can be of great assistance by being supportive of the program. They can talk about all new experiences and read regularly to their child in English. Most often if a child is experiencing difficulty in a particular subject area, the confusion lies with the concept, not the language. Discuss and explain the concept in English.

It is important for our learners to be continuously supported at home no matter the program they are in (Core, Extended or FSL). The greatest asset to any learning that happens in the school is the partnership and support that exist with home.

As with children in the regular English program, help will be available from the classroom teacher in consultation with the school’s special education resource teacher (SERT). Feel free to discuss any concerns you have with your child’s teacher. As with any problem solving scenario or intervention, there’s a process and it is important not to panic and simply consider a team approach and involve the school in this matter.

  • Explain how FSL works. Help your child understand that learning is gradual. Be supportive of the program and give your child a chance to adjust to it.
  • Read to your child in English. Listen to your child read simple French books and stories, as language skills developed at home are transferable to school.
  • Provide encouragement and positive support, e.g., praise your child’s learning in French.
  • Maintain good school-home communication, by meeting with teachers to discuss your child’s progress.

If English is your first language, your child begins school as an expert in English, since this is the language learned at home. Children already know most of the words and grammar through living in an English home. At first, since their instruction will be in French, they may be a bit behind in English as they learn to manage two languages.

Research shows that by about Grades 5 or 6, most children begin to close the learning gaps and by the time they reach grade 8 they have caught up to their English stream counterparts.

Your child will learn to speak, read and write in French using the same language development as in English. Language is made up of sounds; in French, the sounds are just different. The French Immersion and CoreFrench programs are exciting and challenging and will benefit your entire family.

Transportation is available to students enrolled in French Immersion programs within their designated French site. Centralized community bus stops will be established to provide access for students to attend the specialized program. It is the responsibility of the parent/guardian to transport the student to and from the centralized stops at designated times for pick up and drop off. For more information, please refer to the Board’s transportation page.

Myths and misconceptions

As we begin to think about enrolling our child or young learner in the French as a Second Language (FSL) program one may begin to ask themselves many questions. It is easy to become swayed one way or another based on the information we hear in our communities and past experiences so let’s begin by highlighting some of the research that might help clear up some of the ideas and focus our thinking as we support our learners.

The following is an excerpt taken from Second Language Researcher Renee Bourgoin about the myths and misconceptions surrounding second-language acquisition.

We recognize that today’s FSL classrooms have never been more diverse. We welcome a wider range of language learners than ever before.


  • There is no such thing as a good language learner. Language learners do not have fixed personalities, learning styles, and motivations. (Norton & Toohey 2011)
  • Identities are fluid, context dependent, and context producing. There are many ways of learning a language successfully. (Naiman et al., 1996)


  • Although EFI (Early French Immersion) does result in a short-term delay in some aspects of English language writing (spelling, e.g.), FSL students rapidly catch up/surpass once English is reintroduced.
  • Those who receive more English instruction do not achieve higher levels in English proficiency.


According to the research, FI has no negative long-term effects on first language development.


  • Below average FSL students score at the same level as below average students in English programs.
  • According to the research below average students are at no greater risk academically if enrolled in FSL. Genesee, 2007 Full review of the literature.


  • Both first language and second language students with LDs need more time to acquire literacy and academic skills in comparison to typically developing students.
  • There is no evidence that learning French somehow over-taxes the brain of younger learners.
  • Second Language learning enhances cognitive functioning, especially “executive control” – the decision-making center of the brain.
  • More students are schooled in their second language in the world than in their first language.

Bialystok, 2001; Baker, 2012; Cummins, 2000


The Core program is intended as a smaller sample and opportunity to learn a language. Student can still find success in the Core program and continue to their learning at the secondary level in a variety of ways. Students who found success in Core programs have gone on to study and use the French language in post-secondary.

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