Frequently Asked Questions

Language immersion means a program in which the usual curriculum activities are conducted in a second language, which is the medium of instruction rather than the object of instruction. There are variables in immersion programs as to the amount of time spent each day in the second language. In total immersion programs such as this one, the second language is used for the entire school day during the first two or three years of the program. Students who go through the entire sequence of an elementary immersion program are able to communicate in the second language on topics appropriate to their age level. In addition to the goal of functional proficiency in the second language, immersion programs have as a further goal the mastery of subject content material, which is taught through the second language.
Become functionally bilingual, that is: To be able and willing to participate comfortably in French and English conversations; To possess the requirements that would allow them to pursue further education appropriate to their abilities and interests, with French as the language of instruction; To accept employment where the working language is French; Gain insight into the common attitudes and values of French-speaking communities. Achieve equivalent levels of learning in all subject areas, regardless of the language of instruction; Reach, by the end of Grade 4, a level in English Language Arts equivalent to students in the regular program.
Children in immersion programs learn French very much the same way they have learned their mother language; through observation, listening, repetition, and mimicking gestures and sounds. First, the children associate words with their meanings. Very shortly, they repeat words, phrases and sentences, and eventually they communicate in French. Their exposure to French will be immediate in that, as of the first day of school, all staff at L’Ecole Française du Maine will express themselves solely in French. Comprehension comes first. We observe our youngest students in “la Maternelle” are able to understand key phrases almost immediately and they quickly begin to intersperse French and English words. (For example: “I am going to the “toilette” after I put away my “cahier”). The frequency of the French word use increases over time and eventually the students use French primarily. By the time they reach the elementary grades, the children are then expected to converse amongst themselves and address their teachers solely in French in the classroom. The more they speak, the more proficient they will become. On the playground and during relaxing times, such as lunch, children use the language of their choice. Interestingly, they frequently opt for French! Bravo!
Immersion teachers notice that the children in immersion programs understand most of what is said in their presence after only a few months. Simple commands are understood within the first weeks of attendance. However, it takes 2-3 years for children to become fluent speakers and to initiate conversation in French. Ultimately, it takes between 5-7 years for a child to write equally well in French and English. It is paramount that parents understand immersion will only make a child bilingual if they commit to the program for several years. Multiple years of immersion education and strong parental support will result in a high level of proficiency in French. Also, as is true with any skill, not all children will progress at the same rate and therefore the level of proficiency will vary among children. Typically, reading and listening skills of immersion children will be at a near native level. Speaking and writing skills, which are far more advanced skills, will require a longer period of time to master.
Our French immersion program is designed for monolingual and bilingual children. It is not necessary to have had prior exposure to French to enter Preschool –Grade 1. At the elementary level, (after grade 1), a child will need to have prior knowledge of French to enter the program. Exceptions to this rule may be made on a case-to-case basis based on a student evaluation and interview. Although you will find that some children at L’Ecole Française du Maine are already bilingual, most children do not know French when they enter La Maternelle. Communication between parents and staff at L’Ecole Française du Maine is conducted in English for non French-speaking parents, although we will try to practice French with parents enrolled in Adult Ed!! Children can always address teachers and staff in English and parents should reassure their children that they will be understood and their needs will be met, no matter what language they use.
Most studies done for the past 30 years suggest that children enrolled in early French immersion programs perform as well if not better than their monolingual peers. Exposure to a large variety of linguistic structures and a wide and diverse vocabulary enriches their own knowledge of English. At any rate, children are not going to lose their English! Research in Canada has shown that reading and writing skills are transferred from one language to the next during the primary grades. In other words, the progresses made in reading skills in French will be observed in English too.
Most likely not. Immersion children, like any children, tend to communicate in the most natural way. This is why they tend to play in English at recess and will interact in English with their family members. However, families of L’Ecole Française du Maine report that their children sing French songs at home and are eager to share what they have learned. In the case where 2 or more siblings are enrolled at L’Ecole Française du Maine, our parents have observed their children using French at home to communicate with one another.
Studies on French immersion programs have been conducted for the last 30 years, mostly in Canada. Canadian research has demonstrated that immersion approaches are suitable for every child. Children will learn French the same way they have learned English, through imitation. If that process was successful for English, there is no reason why it wouldn’t be for French. Children with learning disabilities often experience frustration and difficulties in traditional foreign language classes because the methodology is mostly grammatical and very abstract. Children who would have had difficulty learning to read English, have had difficulty learning to read French. In general, it is the actual reading skills that these children find difficult rather than the language used. We believe that immersion is a natural approach to language acquisition.
No, French immersion is a natural approach and children respond well to immersion for that simple reason. They won’t speak French at home if you ask them because it is not natural. The first year of immersion, it is crucial that your child doesn’t feel discouraged or frustrated with the second language acquisition. You should ask your child in English how the day went at school. Before long, your child will be proud to share some of his/her French skills.
Kindergarten through Grade 2: 100% French.
Grade 3: 95% French ( English Language Arts/American Studies are introduced, three 45 minute classes per week.)
Grade 4 and beyond: We currently serve children through grade 7, but intend to add a grade each year. Grades 3-5: 80-90% French(English Language Arts and one other subject might be taught in English).Grades 6-8: 60-70% French(French Language Arts and Exploration subjects are usually taught in English).Grades 9-10: 40-50% French(French Language Arts, Social Studies, and 2-3 other subjects might be taught in French).Grades 11 and 12: 20-25% French (French Language Arts, Socials, and one elective might be taught in French).
Be supportive: your child is making incredible efforts to become bilingual. Show a genuine interest in their language acquisition and progress. Read many stories in English at home, reinforcing the mother language. Encourage your child to watch TV programs in French or pick French as the language on your child’s favorite DVD. Borrow books, CD-ROM and DVDs from the school to use on the weekends. Encourage your child to talk about school. Ask questions. Enroll your child in a music class, as learning music and language are very similar and one stimulates the other. Show interest in your child’s immersion experience. Tell your child often how proud you are he/she is learning French. Ask your child to teach you a few French words.
(Compiled from brochures published by the American Association of Teachers of French)

  • Learning French is fun.
  • French is spoken on every continent.
  • 200 million people speak French in 43 countries.
  • France is the crossroads of Europe, the world’s largest consumer market.
  • Second language learning promotes intellectual growth in young children.
  • French is the second language of the Internet.
  • Learning a second language leads children to realize that there are many ways to resolve the same problem.
  • Teaches tolerance and respect for differences.
  • Deepens their understanding of English as they are confronted with complex linguistic challenges at a young age.
  • Prepares them to learn a third language (Latin, Spanish etc.)
  • Opens their eyes to the world
  • There are thousands of English words which are derived from the French Language.
  • The UN has 6 official languages and 2 working languages. French is in both categories.
  • French companies employ 400,000 workers throughout the US.
  • French is the world language of cuisine, fashion, theater, arts and dance.
  • 40% of the English vocabulary comes from French.
  • France is the most visited destination in the world.
  • French is the second most frequently taught language in the world.
  • Children gain authentic French pronunciation before the age of 10.
  • France has won more Nobel prizes for literature than any other country.
  • France has the fourth largest economy after US, Japan and Germany.
  • France and Canada are 2 of the 7 wealthiest countries.
  • France is the second largest European market.
  • France ranks second after Canada for quality of life.
  • At least 4 million Americans travel to French-speaking destinations every year.
  • French is considered the most influential language in the world.