New book explores the ABCs of university-level French immersion
Few Canadian universities offer French-immersion programs, yet such programs abound at the primary and secondary levels. A new book looks at this scarcity and offers solutions to foster new programs.
In 2012, at an international scholarly forum in Ottawa on the topic of French immersion at universities, the Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada, Graham Fraser, lamented the almost total absence of these programs in Canada. As it stands, they are only offered at the University of Ottawa, York University’s Glendon College, the University of Alberta’s St‑Jean campus and Simon Fraser University.
That more than 340,000 Canadian elementary and high school students are enrolled in French immersion makes this lack of university-level immersion even more shameful, said Mr. Fraser. He noted that when these students finish Grade 12 and face a lack of opportunities to pursue immersion, most return to English-language institutions – it seems a waste to invest so much effort in elementary and high school, only to give up at the postsecondary level.
Building a French-immersion pedagogy
At the same event, organizers
Hélène Knoerr and Alysse Weinberg, professors at the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute at the University of Ottawa, listened attentively to Aline Gohard-Radenkovic, a guest speaker from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. She argued that a unique teaching method must be developed for university-level French immersion. None existed, and methods developed for elementary and secondary schools could not be applied to postsecondary institutions. A new paradigm was needed.
“As we talked, we quickly determined that since this education didn’t exist, we had to create it, and we decided to tackle it together,” Dr. Knoerr said. Thus began a project that would lead to L’immersion française à l’université : politiques et pédagogies, an edited essay collection published in French by the University of Ottawa Press. (The book will also be featured at a symposium on immersion at the University of Ottawa in May 2017.)
A flexible, adaptable framework
In addition to surveying existing university French-immersion programs, the book sets out an administrative, methodological and educational framework for implementing such initiatives. In doing so, it tries to account for the highly diverse needs and means of different institutions. For example, some 25 students attend the immersion program at SFU, while U of Ottawa welcomes 700 each year. Clearly, different tools need to be devised.
“We had to develop a three-pronged framework: policies and funding to foster these programs, services and support for students and faculty in various disciplines, and defining the specific needs of each university based on its circumstances,” Dr. Knoerr explained. “For example, the University of Ottawa is bilingual and offers every program of study in both languages. Introducing and maintaining an immersion program would be easier there than at an institution starting from scratch.”
Naturally, Dr. Knoerr hopes that the book will help address the challenges preventing the development of university-level French immersion programs. After all, elementary and high schools have had French immersion since the 1960s.
“We hope that our book will encourage university administrators to offer these opportunities and that it will inspire students to be adventurous,” Dr. Knoerr said. “It may even spur other countries to introduce similar programs, such as Spanish immersion programs in the United States. The framework developed in the book is not limited to Canada or the French language.”
Hélène Knoerr, Alysse Weinberg et Catherine Buchanan ont mené un symposium intitulé University-Level French Immersion in Canada: Policies, Pedagogy and Practices lors de la " Sixth International Conference on Immersion and Dual Language Education: Connecting Research and Practice Across Contexts" organisée par CARLA (The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition ) à Minneapolis.
Ce symposium s'appuyait sur le livre
Immersion française à l’université : Politiques et pédagogies paru en 2016 aux Presses de l'Université d'Ottawa et abordait trois aspects étudiés dans ce livre à savoir: les politiques nécessaires lors de l'implantation d'un programme d'immersion au niveau universitaire, les modèles d'apprentissage et la formation des enseignants et finalement des exemples d'activités pédagogiques gagnantes.
Hélène Knoerr donnera une conférence intitulée : Immersion française à l’université : Politiques et pédagogies, dans le cadre des Forums de l’ILOB le 7 octobre 2016 au Pavillon Simard, pièce 129.
Cette présentation s’articulera autour des trois niveaux d’analyse de l’immersion au niveau universitaire : macro (politiques linguistiques et aménagements pour l’immersion universitaire en français), méso (les dispositifs d’immersion en français au niveau post-secondaire dans les universités canadiennes et plus particulièrement celui de l’Université d’Ottawa) et micro (l’immersion de l’intérieur : témoignages des différents acteurs de l’immersion à l’Université d’Ottawa). Nous terminerons par des recommandations pour le succès de la mise en œuvre de dispositifs d’immersion.
Alysse Weinberg, Jérémie Séror et Thierry Simonet présenteront une conférence à Calgary dans le cadre de l’Association canadienne de linguistique appliquée sur Les facteurs d’attrition et de rétention dans le Régime d’immersion en français de l’Université d’Ottawa. -
Alexandre Marotte, a student in the Second Language Teaching program at the Ottawa University recently presented a research poster at the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program Symposium. The poster et June 1Interacting with the other! Towards language and identity development" reported on a project conducted under the supervision of Jeremie Seror a professor at the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute. His poster underscored the key role interactions with Francophones play for first year students in the French immersion program at the University of Ottawa as a means not only of improving their French, but also of testing and seeking to balance their complex identities as plurilingual learners.
Alysse Weinberg et Jérémie Séror had the pleasure to present at the Annual Centre for Research on French Canadian Culture conference. The theme of the conference was: Canadian bilingualism as project: The history of a utopia and its realization. Their talked entitled: University-level immersion: Towards the realization of Canadian bilingualism stressed the contribution of university immersion programs as a means of creating unique academic and social spaces where French language learners can participate in activities which value and reinforce the qualities and skills which make Canadian bilingualism a reality for these students.
Alysse Weinberg had the pleasure to present at the International Spring Conference 2016 in Tel Aviv University in Israel organized by the Higher Education in Israel Network of English Teachers. The theme of the conference was: Current Trends and Future Directions for English in Higher Education: Widening Horizons for Teachers, Students, and Graduates. Her talk was entitled: Discipline and Language Professors’ Collaboration in the uOttawa Immersion Program. She presented the relationship between two major actors in the immersion program: the language professors and their discipline counterparts. She highlighted the tensions arising from the different status of these professors and the benefits of their collaboration especially in the context of a history course.