SASKATOON – The number of Saskatoon elementary and high school students enrolled in French immersion is increasing year-over-year due to a renewed community interest, according to a school administrator. Statistics from Saskatoon Public Schools and Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools show (GSCS) that a combined 4,891 students are enrolled in French immersion for the 2015-16 school year, compared to 3,739 in 2011.
This week the province is recognizing French as a second language week.
“In the early 2000s we were seeing across Saskatchewan a dip in interested in French immersion, however in the last five, six years, we’ve seen that growth and we’re expanding,” said Joanne Weninger, an education superintended for GSCS.
“We are certainly, provincially, doing very well as a school division in terms of our community having that interest in education their children in French immersion,” she added.
Many new immigrants to Saskatoon are enrolling their children in French immersion programs, driving up the numbers, according to Weninger. Educational experts generally conclude that learning another language is not only practical, but can improve cognitive and creative abilities.
“[A] second language really trains and builds on other parts of your brain,” said Weninger.
“They’re learning how to think and respond in another language so it really builds that creative thinking skills, problem solving skills,” said Jennifer Haywood, a French immersion teacher and École Alvin Buckwold’s vice-principal.
French immersion students go through the same curriculum as any other student in the province; however lessons are conducted in French.
“They are learning in another language and they are learning about another culture, whether that be through plays or stories or French tradition,” said Haywood.
Over her 15-years of teaching in the program, Haywood said immersion instruction has changed and continues to advance.
“We’ve moved away from maybe so much desk work and learning about reading and writing off the top to a big focus on the oral,” she said.
The shift in focus may be good news for 10-year-old Liam Noble. He’s a Grade 4 French immersion student at École Alvin Buckwold and said he wants to be an interpreter when he grows up.
“If you’re bilingual you can know what they’re saying, but you can translate it for people that only speak English,” he said.
© 2016 Shaw Media