New study: Best time to start French immersion is at birth

New study: Best time to start French immersion is at birth

Fredericton — Educators and French-second-language advocates are reeling from a new study released today on the best entry point for students to start French immersion.

The new research shows that the most advantageous time to begin French immersion isn’t Grade 5 or Grade 3 or even Grade 1. To get the best outcomes for mastering the French language, the optimal time to start learning it is when you are born.

“It’s not impossible to learn French — we believe people aren’t really thinking this through,” said the study’s author, Guy Randome. “Millions of people learn French every year, but they are starting it much earlier than English students do in New Brunswick.

“If we really want to improve our outcomes, we need to start as soon as the student leaves the womb. That’s how most French people learn it, and it will work for pretty much everyone — guaranteed,” he said.

The study is in response to a January report from Auditor General Kim MacPherson, who found 75 per cent dropped out of French Immersion by Grade 12 and only 10 per cent of the students achieved the Education department’s language proficiency goal.

Randome says that not only do we need to start teaching French as soon as the baby is able to comprehend spoken language, but we need to double-down — even triple-down — on the instruction hours. “If we really want New Brunswick children to reach the advanced proficiency level, they need to be immersed in French around the clock 24/7 for about 18 years.

“We have decades of empirical evidence to back this up,” he said. “Almost all francophone students achieve an advanced proficiency in French. If it works for them, it can work for you too.”

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