Parenting & Family

French Immersion. Should you? In plain English, it opens doors for your child.

  • Last Updated:
  • May 27th, 2019 12:12 pm
[OP]
Newbie
Aug 17, 2011
3 posts
1 upvote
Toronto

French Immersion. Should you? In plain English, it opens doors for your child.

I thought I'd share my experiences and opinion that FI is the best way to open doors for your child in school, in the job market, and in life. I started FI in SK in one of the pre-amalgamation Toronto boards in the 1980s. I was in the program for "only" 9 years, exiting after gr 8 to attend a non-French HS. But those 9 years were sufficient for me to acquire enough of the language that it laid the foundation for the rest of my academic career.

I of course took regular "core" French in HS. Because of its similiarity to Spanish, I took that too and got top honours in both OACs. What came as a surprise to me, since I majored in biology after HS, was that I ended up taking French electives in university. My French ability, despite exiting FI in gr 8, was strong enough for me to do that. Those electives were critical to me because as a science student, there's some major potential GPA-killer courses that all science undergrads must take. For instance, 2nd year Organic Chem, 3rd year Physiology, etc. I'll be the first to tell you that in terms of the work/effort/time required, humanities language courses demand far far less effort than elective biological science courses. Like 1% the effort/time. No joke. So while my science peers were choosing between all-consuming 3rd year Immunology electives, my workload was diluted with "easy" time-saving French electives, giving me ample time to focus all my efforts on the necessary "hard" science courses I had to take. I can honestly say that I was able to maintain high grades in my science classes BECAUSE of the extra time those French electives allowed me to have. It was like having only 2 or 3 courses to study for, while others had to study for 5.

In addition to school, I worked part-time at one of the major Canadian banks in their customer service call center. It was a national call center so it fielded calls from across the country. The minimum qualification was an ability to take the calls from Quebec that were obviously 95% in French. So I had "this" as my part-time job going through university. I literally had, next to me, a U of T School of Management MBA graduate, doing the same job. That person was happy to get a "bank" job out of graduation, and yet I was, as a mere high school graduate, employed at the same position as her. And this was exclusively because of my French ability. Had I stayed in the bank (as opposed to go onto graduate school), I am quite certain I could've climbed the ladder.

French also opened doors for me to "travel" throughout my late-teens and early twenties. There's something called the Summer Language Bursary Program (I believe it's now prefixed with the word "Explore"). It's basically the government giving you a free trip to study a for-university-credit French course, at a Quebec/Francophone university in the summer. The bursary covers tution, food, and on-campus housing. Basically, you just have to get yourself there, but after that, all expenses are covered. No jokes. The only criteria for participation is that you are enrolled as a full-time high school or university student. Most people only attend once. I attended four times, once in Trois-Rivieres, once in Nova Scotia (University Sainte-Anne), and two times in Jonquiere. Given how many years I was a post-secondary student (8 altogether), finding 6 weeks out of 8 separate summers for a free fun trip to Quebec was very easy to do. And definitely a highlight of my life during that time.

I'm now a doctoral-level health professional. I routinely encounter patients with whom I speak French to (as well as Spanish, and a touch of Italian and Portugese). I have kept in touch with my FI classmates from elementary school, and those who kept up with it are either teachers or have nice government jobs. One person I met at one of the bursary programs was fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin, and was a journalism student. Given her basic ability in French, she's now an on-air cross-Canada journalist for a Chinese news station. Her "hook" was her very basic French ability. Others I've known, because of their French interest, have travelled the world as exchange students, flight attendants, etc. Of course, you can be an exchange student (or do the bursary program) without being in FI, but I think the chances are much less that you would.

Bottom line is - adding French, on top of your qualifications, will open doors and the world to you. If it's an option for your child, do it.


(As an aside, for those considering gifted vs FI, I'd still recommend French because of the "emotional quotient" issue of being in a gifted program. I attended a gifted HS. I felt gifted students, while smart, weren't ready to venture out of their coddled bubble and into the world, where people didn't naturally treat them as special. I think a lot of students who enter gifted education from an early age (e.g. gr 4) have a hard time later, in facing the reality that the world isn't designed to honor and cater to them. This "let down" with the world persists far past HS graduation. I'm pretty sure some of them never fully recover/accept it. I don't find the same with my FI classmates, since a lot of effort is needed to stay in the program, so no one felt/feels entitled at all).
14 replies
Deal Addict
Jan 12, 2017
1290 posts
633 upvotes
Since you did OAC, you're at least 34, 35. Those were the glory days. Globalization has made a lot of progress in the past decades. Canada's protectionist bilingual history is crumbling almost as quick as Trudeau's integrity. I would not send my kids to FI simply to take advantage of Quebec oriented public funding.

These days, the comparison is really only fair if you compare it to taking another language. Try Chinese, Russian, Spanish or any other language with an increasing number of speakers.

The real question most people care about these days is... Can you afford an average detached home in a good area of Toronto? (because you did FI)

Nothing against FI. I would consider sending my kids. But definitely without any illusion that it will provide some sort of advantage that a decent middle class family wouldn't already provide.
armstrong101 wrote: I thought I'd share my experiences and opinion that FI is the best way to open doors for your child in school, in the job market, and in life. I started FI in SK in one of the pre-amalgamation Toronto boards in the 1980s. I was in the program for "only" 9 years, exiting after gr 8 to attend a non-French HS. But those 9 years were sufficient for me to acquire enough of the language that it laid the foundation for the rest of my academic career.

I of course took regular "core" French in HS. Because of its similiarity to Spanish, I took that too and got top honours in both OACs. What came as a surprise to me, since I majored in biology after HS, was that I ended up taking French electives in university. My French ability, despite exiting FI in gr 8, was strong enough for me to do that. Those electives were critical to me because as a science student, there's some major potential GPA-killer courses that all science undergrads must take. For instance, 2nd year Organic Chem, 3rd year Physiology, etc. I'll be the first to tell you that in terms of the work/effort/time required, humanities language courses demand far far less effort than elective biological science courses. Like 1% the effort/time. No joke. So while my science peers were choosing between all-consuming 3rd year Immunology electives, my workload was diluted with "easy" time-saving French electives, giving me ample time to focus all my efforts on the necessary "hard" science courses I had to take. I can honestly say that I was able to maintain high grades in my science classes BECAUSE of the extra time those French electives allowed me to have. It was like having only 2 or 3 courses to study for, while others had to study for 5.

In addition to school, I worked part-time at one of the major Canadian banks in their customer service call center. It was a national call center so it fielded calls from across the country. The minimum qualification was an ability to take the calls from Quebec that were obviously 95% in French. So I had "this" as my part-time job going through university. I literally had, next to me, a U of T School of Management MBA graduate, doing the same job. That person was happy to get a "bank" job out of graduation, and yet I was, as a mere high school graduate, employed at the same position as her. And this was exclusively because of my French ability. Had I stayed in the bank (as opposed to go onto graduate school), I am quite certain I could've climbed the ladder.

French also opened doors for me to "travel" throughout my late-teens and early twenties. There's something called the Summer Language Bursary Program (I believe it's now prefixed with the word "Explore"). It's basically the government giving you a free trip to study a for-university-credit French course, at a Quebec/Francophone university in the summer. The bursary covers tution, food, and on-campus housing. Basically, you just have to get yourself there, but after that, all expenses are covered. No jokes. The only criteria for participation is that you are enrolled as a full-time high school or university student. Most people only attend once. I attended four times, once in Trois-Rivieres, once in Nova Scotia (University Sainte-Anne), and two times in Jonquiere. Given how many years I was a post-secondary student (8 altogether), finding 6 weeks out of 8 separate summers for a free fun trip to Quebec was very easy to do. And definitely a highlight of my life during that time.

I'm now a doctoral-level health professional. I routinely encounter patients with whom I speak French to (as well as Spanish, and a touch of Italian and Portugese). I have kept in touch with my FI classmates from elementary school, and those who kept up with it are either teachers or have nice government jobs. One person I met at one of the bursary programs was fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin, and was a journalism student. Given her basic ability in French, she's now an on-air cross-Canada journalist for a Chinese news station. Her "hook" was her very basic French ability. Others I've known, because of their French interest, have travelled the world as exchange students, flight attendants, etc. Of course, you can be an exchange student (or do the bursary program) without being in FI, but I think the chances are much less that you would.

Bottom line is - adding French, on top of your qualifications, will open doors and the world to you. If it's an option for your child, do it.


(As an aside, for those considering gifted vs FI, I'd still recommend French because of the "emotional quotient" issue of being in a gifted program. I attended a gifted HS. I felt gifted students, while smart, weren't ready to venture out of their coddled bubble and into the world, where people didn't naturally treat them as special. I think a lot of students who enter gifted education from an early age (e.g. gr 4) have a hard time later, in facing the reality that the world isn't designed to honor and cater to them. This "let down" with the world persists far past HS graduation. I'm pretty sure some of them never fully recover/accept it. I don't find the same with my FI classmates, since a lot of effort is needed to stay in the program, so no one felt/feels entitled at all).
Deal Expert
Aug 22, 2011
35223 posts
21206 upvotes
Center of Universe
Ottawa resident here...
French isn't an asset per se, even in the public sector, until you reach management level.
Even then, all you are required to do is enroll in a paid french course with the local college and upon completion of the course, you will be considered as meeting the speaking, reading and writing requirements...even if you don't learn a single thing!
Source: my wife previously worked for the BoC and was required to take the course before being promoted as a Finance Manager.
Member
Jun 23, 2017
208 posts
60 upvotes
Would French be much of use if one decided to go to US for university/jobs?
My son is a Dual US-Can citizen so he might end up in the south side of the border when he grow up.
We are still debating wether we should let him have regular English-alone education, or English/French bilingual education, or English/Mandarin (This is the hardest because there is fundemental difference between those two). I also thought about English/Spanish but my wife doesn't like this idea.
Deal Addict
Jan 28, 2009
1948 posts
466 upvotes
Calgary
I have a bilingual french high school diploma and here I am, a mere 20 years later posting on RFD.

It worked for me, and it can work for you too!!
Deal Expert
User avatar
Jun 9, 2003
24742 posts
1877 upvotes
Markham, ON
1980s...so 30-40~ years later.

Present, most predict that universal translators to be a given in 10 years on everyone's smart phone....not even sure if it's useful at the moment, as most foreign developed country has added English part of the curriculum.

I think OP lucked out on deciding to have a career in health care...regardless of french or english...being in health care sector is just pure win in Canada.
Deal Addict
Nov 24, 2004
4114 posts
693 upvotes
Toronto
armstrong101 wrote: I thought I'd share my experiences and opinion that FI is the best way to open doors for your child in school, in the job market, and in life. I started FI in SK in one of the pre-amalgamation Toronto boards in the 1980s.
FI opens doors, for sure -- in terms of career "mobility" within Canada -- even though French is not as internationally significant as it once was. I don't know if your rationale of FI as a circuitous way to later avoid hard subjects in university makes much sense, though.
I attended a gifted HS. I felt gifted students, while smart, weren't ready to venture out of their coddled bubble and into the world, where people didn't naturally treat them as special. I think a lot of students who enter gifted education from an early age (e.g. gr 4) have a hard time later, in facing the reality that the world isn't designed to honor and cater to them.
Interesting perspective. I also attended a gifted HS, and know lots of people who were in gifted programs in other cities, and never encountered anything like what you describe. I saw no coddling and no reluctance to go out into the world.
Chickennbeans wrote: Since you did OAC, you're at least 34, 35. Those were the glory days. Globalization has made a lot of progress in the past decades. Canada's protectionist bilingual history is crumbling almost as quick as Trudeau's integrity. I would not send my kids to FI simply to take advantage of Quebec oriented public funding.
Quebec-oriented public funding will continue in the sense that about a quarter of the Canadian population lives in Quebec. In any case, even if this funding didn't exist, there is still the fact that about a fifth of Canadians have French as their first language.
These days, the comparison is really only fair if you compare it to taking another language. Try Chinese, Russian, Spanish or any other language with an increasing number of speakers.
They're useful languages to know on a universal level, but (in the case of the first two) not nearly as easy to learn as French, and not as useful for cross-Canada mobility.
Andrewhl wrote: Would French be much of use if one decided to go to US for university/jobs?
In the US, knowing foreign languages can be hit or miss. Useful in many contexts, but in others it can actually be seen as a sign of weakness. French itself is not highly regarded (seen as an "elitist" language) there.
Jr. Member
Apr 24, 2017
123 posts
43 upvotes
In general I believe having multiple languages will be beneficial on your resume. I was in French immersion and can say that having French has helped me edge out some of my competition. Although all my jobs never really needed to speak French. I was the "just in case we need someone who understands French."

Since high school, the only time I have used French was when travelling to Quebec or France. And even then, people spoke English to me.

Depending on where you live, and what you do, French isn't a difference maker in the workplace, ther are a number of languages which are more applicable. But I think given that we have 2 official languages, we should know a little bit of French.
Deal Guru
User avatar
Mar 31, 2008
11633 posts
2140 upvotes
Toronto
Today, math/quant skills is the new French. But more. It'll open up doors way beyond a 'simple' linguistic language in today's world.
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 29, 2011
4705 posts
2622 upvotes
Westmount (Montreal)
I don't know,

Many people under 40 speak English well enough and French in Quebec and i don't think we're that advantaged.

Also, French is not a dying language. It is estimated that it will get the bigger growth of all languages in the next 30 years thank to Africa population getting bigger.
Sr. Member
User avatar
Feb 9, 2005
850 posts
143 upvotes
Today's FI programs are of far lesser quality than those of 20, 30, 40 years ago.
Sr. Member
Jun 10, 2013
588 posts
255 upvotes
I was in French Immersion. I did feel it gave me an edge in coop a decade ago for government/healthcare positions - even though I maybe used it once for a month at a Fed agency. I'd advise defaulting to French Immersion, the kids are smarter and had less behavioural problems than the English stream kids - at least in my day, everything can change right. There are also neurological benefits to having a second language. I don't feel that 'French' edge is there anymore, at least not in Toronto...
Deal Guru
User avatar
Sep 21, 2010
14244 posts
4005 upvotes
Montréal
What agenda does OP have..? Holy essay lol.

French is great and all, beautiful language but its heyday has come and gone. Surprised it doesn't even crack the top 10 in most spoken languages. Anyway, learn it for cultural enrichment; for business opportunities, not so much.
The richest 1% of this country owns half our country’s wealth, 5 trillion dollars, one-third of that comes from hard work, two-thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons, and what I do.. <find the rest>
Deal Expert
Aug 22, 2011
35223 posts
21206 upvotes
Center of Universe
Hobotrader wrote: I was in French Immersion. I did feel it gave me an edge in coop a decade ago for government/healthcare positions - even though I maybe used it once for a month at a Fed agency. I'd advise defaulting to French Immersion, the kids are smarter and had less behavioural problems than the English stream kids - at least in my day, everything can change right. There are also neurological benefits to having a second language. I don't feel that 'French' edge is there anymore, at least not in Toronto...
Yeah, maybe 50yrs ago.
Deal Guru
User avatar
Oct 5, 2008
13648 posts
7781 upvotes
Toronto
i have a bilingual certificate from a Quebec high school and living in Toronto, I'd say it hasn't done much for me.

Maybe it looks good on a resume, that's about it.

I don't use it for work, it helps when I'm watching the Habs on French Centre Ice.

Top