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Opinion: Traditional languages ​​do not threaten French language acquisition

The brand new language regulation’s rush for newcomers to be taught French in six months isn’t solely unrealistic, however unnecessarily heavy.

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Regulation 96 in impact offers newcomers solely six months to be taught French. After that point, it’s usually the one language by which they will obtain authorities providers. The ruling seems to be based mostly, not less than partly, on the belief that forcing immigrants to put aside their native languages ​​(and use English) would assist them purchase French extra shortly.

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Such an assumption runs counter to 40 years of scientific analysis that challenges many widespread opinions about second language studying by people who don’t converse the bulk language at residence. In additional than 50 years of learning second language instructing and studying in Quebec, I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the “widespread sense” concepts about second language studying and bilingualism are actually nonsense.

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The brand new language regulation’s rush for newcomers to be taught French in six months isn’t solely unrealistic, however unnecessarily heavy. In economically developed nations all over the world, the primary era of youngsters of immigrants purchase mother-tongue-like mastery of the host language throughout their lifetime whereas on the similar time sustaining mastery of the heritage language. By the third era, most descendants of immigrants misplaced mastery of their inherited language and have become monolingual within the host language. There isn’t any cause to consider that these info would differ in Quebec the place the overwhelming majority of youngsters of newcomers attend French language faculties.

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A typical fantasy about language acquisition is that second language studying is a “zero-sum recreation”, by which the acquisition of a heritage language interferes with the acquisition of the host language. The idea right here is that kids of immigrants want as a lot time to be taught the host language as native audio system of that language. Nevertheless, analysis at McGill signifies that this isn’t essentially true. Many kids purchase bilingual proficiency on par with monolinguals regardless of much less publicity to every language. This may be defined by analysis findings that sturdy foundations in kids’s heritage language facilitate the event of proficiency in a second language that falls inside the typical vary of monolingual audio system of that language. That is known as “multilingual facilitation”.

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Kids who be taught in a second language (French within the case of Quebec) purchase literacy and different tutorial language expertise extra simply if they’ve already acquired early literacy expertise and the flexibility to make use of the language to suppose within the mom tongue at residence. New mother and father who haven’t but acquired mastery of the host language can go on most of these language expertise if they’re utilizing their mom tongue. Newcomer mother and father who suppose they may give their kids a head begin in learning with the host language at residence, although they themselves lack proficiency in that language, can’t promote growth in these vital language expertise. The parable about some great benefits of early use of the host language at residence has been debunked by analysis.

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There are additionally vital psychological and social causes for selling the preservation of conventional languages ​​in newcomer households. Adolescent kids of newcomer mother and father who keep using heritage language within the household have a better sense of well-being, higher interpersonal expertise and self-control, and fewer problematic behaviors. These findings make a whole lot of sense: Mother and father are higher in a position to socialize with their kids and instill a better sense of well-being in the event that they use a language they’re fluent in.

Taken collectively, the analysis means that politicians, educators, and oldsters alike needn’t worry heritage languages. Conversely, supporting the event of heritage languages ​​in kids of newcomers is maybe a more practical method to make sure proficiency within the host language. On the similar time, the event of heritage languages ​​for newcomers is probably going to make sure the wholesome integration of newcomers into Quebec society as a result of it entails including a brand new language with out sacrificing vital language and familial assets.

Fred Genesee is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at McGill College.

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