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Core French Education in Saskatchewan

In a Core French program, daily instruction time is similar to that given to the other school subjects. While the immersion approach to language study is relatively recent, dating from the 1960s, the study of second languages has been part of Education systems for a very long time. Latin and Greek were studied to provide access to literature written in those languages and as an academic discipline. Later, modern languages were studied for much the same reasons; Core French, or French as a subject, thus took its place in the curriculum.

With World War II, people in North America began to see a need to communicate with other cultures, and communication became a goal of core language programs. In an effort to meet this objective, Core French programs underwent a series of changes in methodology—from grammar-translation to a direct method, to a structural approach, to a communicative approach. In spite of teachers’ and students’ best efforts, students did not become bilingual. With the publication of the Gillin Report (1976), expectations changed because Gillin estimated that it takes approximately 5,000 hours of time on task to become fluent in a second language. Because of the limited time factor, Bilingualism is not a realistic goal of a Core French program. There are, however, many good reasons to study French as a subject in school.

The Core French program enables students to increase, within realistic limits, their ability to communicate in French and allows them to take advantage of some vocational and leisure opportunities and to meet post-secondary eligibility requirements.

Like immersion, Core French programs are now built on a sound theoretical and research base, and based on recommendations from the National Core French Study (1990) as well as on the Core French Curriculum Model provided by the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers (CASLT). The multidimensional curriculum which resulted from these two initiatives provides a rich educational experience for Core French students. Core French educators have learned much from the success of immersion programs and have incorporated aspects of that approach to language learning. Today’s Core French programs begin earlier, taking advantage of young children’s ability to imitate a good French accent, and provide much more time on task. The programs use an oral communicative approach, and through experiential learning, create a need to use French in a meaningful way. Some 70,000 students are enrolled in Core French programs in Saskatchewan.

Harvey Châtlain

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Further Reading

Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers. 1994. The National Core French Study—A Model for Implementation. Ottawa: Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers; Gillin, R. 1976. French Language—Study and Teaching. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
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