Elimination of early immersion?

Think quick. What is one of the only things that differentiates New Brunswick from just about every other region in Canada and the United States.

No, I am not talk about all the bad differentiators such as low net worth, out-migration, dependency on Equalization.

I am talking about a good differentiator.

Our bilingualism. French & English.

If you think about it, this is one of the only things that sets New Brunswick apart. I have long argued that we should be doing much more with this advantage. Manitoba attracts more French immigrants than New Brunswick. Nova Scotia has more French/English translators than New Brunswick. The number of people working in bilingual jobs in Moncton – in Moncton for cripes sake – is less than one in four.

So, instead of spending serious effort to make New Brunswick a truly bilingual province and building a whole economic development strategy around it (attract French immigrants, business investment, becoming a global leader in language translation and localization, service the bilingual requirements of the national economy in Canada, attracting French/Quebecker tourism, having R&D centres of excellence in language translation, etc.)……

We want to axe early French immersion.

Or at least that’s what I read when I pick up the TJ this morning.

I will make a few comments on this subject.

1. There are ample examples in Europe and beyond of two language immersion programs working. If they don’t work here it is a failure of us. Of our teachers and our parents and the system. Maybe we have to work even harder than other areas to make this work.. Why not. I’m tired of New Brunswick being the arse end of North America. The brunt of bad jokes. We should stick it to them and be an example of how two languages and cultures can work and co-exist and be parlayed into a strong immigration effort that is built on the good will generated from the bilingual context.

2. In New Brunswick and other weak and marginalized economies, we seem to love to take the easy way out. Develop a serious strategy to support economic development in Northern New Brunswick? Nah. Here’s $600 million in seasonal EI. Now go away and shut up. Actually have a French Immersion program that works? Nah. Let’s dumb that down too and slowly erode one of our only true advantages.

One day. Maybe not in my lifetime but one day someone is going to figure out that the guy trailing everyone else in the race actually has to work harder than the guys in front of him if he wants to get ahead. If he even wants to go from last place to second last place he will have to work harder.

If you look at New Brunswick these days, you would be hard pressed to find an area where we are even working as hard as other provinces/states – education, health care, fitness, economy and now French Immersion. If we want to win, we have to work harder.

I have three kids in early French Immersion. Sure there are challenges. My sister’s kid in Virginia is way ahead on a variety of metrics. Sure I realize that some kids just can’t handle it. I am not talking about forcing all kids to take early Immersion.

But at the end of the day, I come back to my original premise. One of the only things we have going for us is bilingualism. I know there are challenges involved and I know that some resent it. But as an essentially unilingual Anglophone who has been passed over for jobs because I am not bilingual, I am willing to accept that as a necessary reality. We need to foster this stuff not dilute it. We need to leverage it into more economic develpment not slowly fritter it away.

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0 Responses to Elimination of early immersion?

  1. Anonymous says:

    This article is very disappointing in term of content an ideas support. I can’t give you a passing grade on this one. Sorry. (S.C.)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Speaking as someone who grew up in French immersion – this is a sad day. Although French immersion teachers always seemed disenfranchised and bitter compared to their English colleagues, the education was always pretty good… Strict, but good.

    The benefits of having stuck it out in French immersion have been fairly commensurate. More than just directing French tourists or having an occasional international chat with random Frenchmen, there are two great side benefits:

    1. Ladies go wild when you speak french for them.
    2. Solid benefit for learning additional languages later in life.

    That most French New Brunswickers tend to switch to English or react negatively to slightly off-French is a symptom of a greater problem – the French – English divide in NB is about more the just language.

    We’ve been trained to hate each other as a device of our corporate masters and bureaucratic overlords, they like to keep the people separated and focused on unimportant issues, such as what language needs to be on a store sign – ridiculous.

  3. David Campbell says:

    The ladies man! I knew you’d eventually get around to posting. You make some timely points.