My Bilingualism Comment From Facebook

Posted by on February 24, 2016

A friend of mine posted something on Facebook about how she wasn’t going to enroll her kids in French immersion as she felt it was a bad idea for her kids. It led to a long thread of comments debating the value of French here in NB. For me, I agreed completely with her take and have felt that way for as long as I have had my two kids.

I ended up writing quite a comment for her FB post and thought I would post it here. It truly sums up my opinion of the whole French bilingualism thing here in NB.

If not learning French truly was detrimental to people’s lives here in NB, you would think the percentage of bilingual residents would climb higher and higher and faster every year to “help” us be better. Do I see that happening? I don’t think so. Sure we are a bilingual province, supposedly, but there’s a LOT of people who live here who don’t speak French. Are they all truly worse off because of it? I don’t think so. Maybe some, but I would bet not the majority. Sure, they might miss out on some opportunities here but that’s because they made the choice to stay here. It doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity here. There’s plenty of English-only speaking people living in the province and doing well at it. I know because I’m one of them.

I have two kids one of which is in grade 1 and the other is in grade 3. Both are in core English and it will remain that way.

The reality is, I would rather my kids be strong in their native tongue, then have mediocre skills in multiple languages.

I can’t speak French, and Tamara can get by a little bit but neither of us would ever be able to help the kids with French material. That means they would be completely unsupported in their French if they were in immersion. They’d get it at school and nowhere else. I would not want to see their English skills, and skills in other subjects, take a hit in favor of learning a second language.

You cannot deny that for kids who have French parents, or French speaking parents, those kids going into immersion have a far better shot at being successful in these other languages because they are exposed to it far more. If you’re not exposed to the language in your daily life, it will not stick with you. But even with that, I do not buy into this idea that not learning French is somehow limiting or hurting our kids.

This business about not being able to get a job in NB without French is bullshit. I’ve lived here for 30+ years and I have done just fine. I have many friends who have been here just as long and they have done fine as well. Sure, there are jobs that I don’t qualify for because I can’t speak French but that doesn’t mean I can’t get a job. I can’t apply to be a doctor, a mechanic, an architect, or an underwater basket weaver either. Those are skills I don’t have. Does that mean I should enroll my kids in classes for all of those “just in case”? In many ways, I view French the same as those skills. Sure, good to have, but not the end of the world if they don’t have it and when they get older, if they really want to learn those things, they can. Plus, let’s talk about the fact that this is 2016, and we don’t have to work for a company based in NB while we live here. We live in a telecommuting world now which means you can work from Moncton for a company in Dubai and do just fine without French. I really don’t buy into this whole idea that you are “limiting” your child’s opportunities by not giving them a second language. The fact that French is heavy here in NB is irrelevant. Why?

Why is it such an awful thing for your kids to go somewhere else to work or live? Why is that such a bad thing? I know for my kids, I want them to see the world and all it has to offer. If that means they snag a job in Thailand, then go for it. Move there and see what life is like there. Ya I would love my kids to be close to home so I can see them, but I’d rather them be doing what they are passionate about wherever that happens to be. Let them live and enjoy the world and not be so stuck on this idea that they need to stay here.

We get so wrapped up in what life here in NB is that it’s easy to forget that what you might deem as important here, is not really all that important somewhere else. Sure, learning a second language is not a bad skill to have, but it’s not one that’s going to make or break a person’s life. 100 years ago, knowing how to fish was probably a really valuable skill if you wanted to stay here in NB but not as valuable in other places. I see French the same way.

I’d rather put my emphasis on teaching my kids how to be polite, caring, open minded, and seek out opportunity anywhere that excites them. To me, that is far more important than trying to force a language on them just for the sake of them being bilingual.

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