Academic journal article TESL Canada Journal

Official Language Bilingualism for Allophones in Canada: Exploring Future Research

Academic journal article TESL Canada Journal

Official Language Bilingualism for Allophones in Canada: Exploring Future Research

Article excerpt

The Canadian Constitution (Canada, Department of Justice, 1982) guarantees equal status to English and French as the official languages of Canada providing for federal government services in both languages. As such, many federal job opportunities at minimum are centered on official-language bilingualism. In addition to linguistic considerations, the federal government recognizes official-language bilingualism as vital to Canadian identity (Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, 2006). The dual privileging of English and French by way of commodity and identity (Heller, 2002), then, encourages immigrants to Canada to consider such proclamations as they establish themselves and reconstruct their identities (Blackledge & Pavlenko, 2001).

As Canada moves forward with its agenda to promote linguistic duality and official-language bilingualism, it must consider the effect of the growing Allophone population. In 2000, former Commissioner of Official Languages Dyane Adam called for a clear research agenda relating to Allophones and language education in Canada; she recognized immigration as a challenge to official-language bilingualism (Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, 2000). This challenge continues to grow, as immigration is the most significant factor accounting for growth in the Canadian population; recent immigration has accounted for two thirds of Canada's population growth, and about 90% (Canadian School Boards Association, 2006; Ontario Public School Boards, 2005) of these immigrants come from countries where neither French nor English is the first language; a clear research agenda has yet to be identified.

Although acquiring French Second Official Language (FSOL) in English-dominant regions of Canada may not be an immediate concern for some new Canadians facing challenges such as stresses related to settlement, trauma caused by war or significant strife, educational gaps and English acquisition (Coelho, 2004), research indicates that some Allophones do desire to learn French as well as English to expand their multilingual identities and to optimize their economic and sociocultural opportunities as they settle in Canada (Dagenais, 2003; Parkin & Turcotte, 2003). A desire to learn Canada's two official languages may be grounded in immigrants' pursuit of greater economic well-being (Picot & Sweetman, 2005) and a stronger sense of belonging (Burton & Phipps, 2010). They may seek to take advantage of the benefits attributed to official-language bilingualism by the federal government. It is, therefore, incumbent on researchers to gain a better understanding of the complexities of Allophones' presence in FSOL programs.

The goal of this article is, therefore, to propose possible avenues for future research related to Allophones and FSOL programming in Canada. (1) We begin with a synthesis of relevant research studies that have examined Allophones in FSOL programs. The research is organized into four categories: (a) implementation of policy; (b) teachers' and principals' perspectives; (c) motivation to study FSOL; and (d) achievement in FSOL. Possible areas of future research (2) are woven throughout the review as questions emerge from the summary of the literature.

Before moving to a review of earlier research, however, we begin by offering definitions of the terms that we use throughout the article.


For the purpose of this article, Allophones is used to refer to immigrants who are English-language learners living in English-dominant Canada. Their first language is neither French nor English. Immigrant is used to refer to a person who is or has been a landed immigrant. FSOL refers to French instruction to Allophones living in English-dominant Canada. Core French refers to a non-intensive model for French instruction where learners receive short periods of French instruction. Intensive French refers to an FSOL delivery format that offers learners a concentrated exposure to French involving an increase in the allocated hours; students typically complete 70% of the school day in French over one semester (grades 5 or 6). …

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