Not Truly, Not Entirely ... Pas Comme Les Francophones

By Roy, Sylvie | Canadian Journal of Education, November 2010 | Go to article overview

Not Truly, Not Entirely ... Pas Comme Les Francophones


Roy, Sylvie, Canadian Journal of Education


In this study, I investigate how French immersion students in two junior high schools in Alberta see themselves in Canadian society. The data come from three years of ethnographic research that included classroom observations and 94 interviews with students, teachers, administrators, and parents. This study shows how French immersion students do not belong to either legitimized group in Canada; they develop their own bilingual world and identities, which are not recognized in Canadian soci-ety. I argue for inclusion of all learners of French with varying linguistic and cultural competencies in schools and workplaces so they can contribute to Canadian political, societal, and social spheres.

Key words: French immersion, bilingualism, Canadian society, inclusion, language policies

Dans cette etude, l'auteure analyse comment des eleves en immersion francaise dans deux ecoles intermediaires de l'Alberta se percoivent au sein de la societe canadienne. Les donnees proviennent de trois annees de recherche ethnographique, induant des observations en classe et 94 entrevues avec des eleves, des enseignants, des administrateurs et des parents. L'etude explique pourquoi les eleves en immersion francaise n'appartiennent a aucun de deux groupes de langue officielle du Canada; ces eleves developpent leurs propres monde et identite bilingues, qui ne sont pas reconnus dans la societe canadienne. L'auteure prone l'indusion de toutes les personnes qui apprennent le francais avec divers niveaux de competences linguistiques et culturelles dans les ecoles et au travail afin qu'elles puissent apporter leur contribution aux spheres politiques, societales et sociales au sein du pays.

Mots cles : immersion francaise, bilinguisme, societe canadienne, politiques linguistiques

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The establishment of language policies and the recognition of the two official languages of Canada have led to increased opportunities to learn French (Martel, 1997). In Alberta, French was not permitted as a language of instruction until 1968. In the 1970s, in response to the Official Languages Act, funding for bilingualism from Ottawa, and demands from the middle-class population, the province of Alberta started French as a second language programs in public and Catholic schools (Behiels, 2005). At that time, the goal for the French immersion program was to allow students to become functionally bilingual, learn subject content equivalent to that taught in the English-language mainstream program, and better understand the culture of Francophones (1) (native speakers of French). However, after several years learning the language, many French immersion students do not perceive themselves as belonging to either official linguistic group and they are not recognized as bilinguals in Canadian society.

Today in Canada, Anglophones and Francophones--native speakers of English and French--who continue to dominate the social and political spheres, are protected under the Official Languages Act. The Act, which was passed in 1969 and revised in 1988, recognizes English and French as the official languages of all federal institutions in Canada. The discourse of official bilingualism is a dominant one. Many people believe that to be part of one of the language groups, one has to speak as native speakers do or at least be recognized by the members of the ethnocommunity. Some researchers have argued that French immersion students have their own way of speaking (Calve, 1986; Lyster, 1987). For Mougeon and Rehner (2005), French immersion students use their oral skills to communicate between themselves and their teachers but, in real-life settings, they have challenges to use their language with native French speakers. Blommaert (2005), as I will discuss later, has argued that a great deal of variation occurs among native speakers in any ethnocommunity, so that, although bilinguals are different from native speakers of a language, they could be considered members of the community. …

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