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Canadian Bilingual Education Implications for English Language Learning in China Presentation by Dr. Ed Nicholson Guangdong University of Foreign Studies CANADA Les Francophones au Canada Percentage of Students Enrolled in French Immersion Classes in Canada. Province

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canadian bilingual education

CanadianBilingual Education

Implications for

English Language

Learning in China

Presentation by Dr. Ed Nicholson

Guangdong University of Foreign Studies

some facts about french immersion in canada
Some Facts About French Immersion in Canada
  • French immersion programs were widely introduced into Canadian schools in the 1970s to encourage bilingualism across the country.
  • There are early (k-1) middle (3-5) and late (6+) immersion programs.
  • There are more girls than boys in F.I. in all provinces of Canada.
  • F.I. students perform significantly better than other students in English tests of reading (Allen, 2004)
  • French immersion students tend to have higher socio-economic status backgrounds

Source: Statistics Canada & CPF

what has been achieved in canadian french immersion
What has been achieved in Canadian French Immersion?
  • 86% of parents support FSL instruction
  • 75% of English parents want their children to learn French
  • 90% of French parents want their children to learn English
  • The FI program in Canada is now 40 years old.
  • Statistics Canada reports that in the 2002-03 school year, nearly 2 million students took courses in French as a second language: (French immersion 357,000 ; Core French 1,570,000 students)
  • Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers
what has been achieved in canadian french immersion7
What has been achieved in Canadian French Immersion?
  • From 1981 to 1996 bilingualism has increased by 100%

in four provinces and more than 50% in the remaining six.

  • In Quebec- 34% of French speakers are bilingual
  • In Quebec-from 37% of English speakers in 1971 increased to 63% in 1996
  • 55% of Anglophones who live in provinces other than Quebec think it is important that their children learn French.
  • 24% of high school graduates have working knowledge of second official language
  • 97% of French-speaking Quebecers feel it is important that children in Quebec learn English.
what does the research say about french immersion
What does the research say about French Immersion?
  • “Immersion students do as well in English language skills as students entirely educated in English
  • Immersion students do as well in subject matter as students who are educated in English
  • Immersion students acquire a great deal of the second language. Canadian immersion students easily out-perform students enrolled in traditional French classes (core French) and, after several years of immersion, approach native speakers of French on some measures.” Cummins, (1987)
what about the sociological effects of french immersion
What about the sociological effects of French immersion?
  • Social and psychological findings on French immersion (Edwards & Smyth, 1976; Lambert & Tucker, 1972) suggest French immersion students are satisfied with their programs, feel confident to speak French, and see less social distance between themselves and French Canadians.
  • They also tend to be far less “xenoglossophobic”
  • They have higher socioeconomic status, resulting

in the program being challenged by some social agencies as being ‘elitist’ (Olson & Burns, 1983)

are their other benefits to bilingualism
Are their other benefits to bilingualism?
  • “Sharing a common language has a large and significant effect on trade intensity. Two countries sharing a common language are estimated to have two-way trade flows more than 1.7 times as large as those between two otherwise similar countries. Helliwell (1999)
  • In a bilingual culture, languages cross-pollinate each other, with words, grammar, and assumptions. This enriches each language and helps those living near both gain an appreciation of the others' culture. Sommer (2001)
students want more english

Consideration # 1

Students want more English

EFL teachers often fail to suitably challenge L2 learners by over relying on the mother tongue and by aiming instruction at the “average” student in the classroom.

Increasingly, at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, it is the students -even our non-English majors- who complain about “too much Chinese!” being used in English class by the teacher!

Immersion programs may be one way to address the expectations of some students.

students want more challenge
Students want more challenge

Consideration # 2

Krashen (1987) believes that we acquire language by using what we know coupled with new information, an idea he refers to as his

input hypothesis.

Language which contains only structures that we already know does not aid in acquisition. This is just i. Acquisition is a result of

“ i + 1”, or current knowledge plus input just a bit beyond that.  Thereforecomprehensible inputis a key concept in L2 acquisition.

i + 1

students want every day english

Consideration # 3

Students want ‘every day’ English

Although it is true that many - if not most - EFL students continue to regard English as a stepping stone to a better job, it is equally true that these same students will be the first generation of Chinese in large numbers to travel widely, study overseas and work for multi-national corporations. (China Daily, 2003)

Communicative competence in English is therefore a skill which may be of life long benefit - not just a language you study to pass the CET examination and add to your C.V.

teaching formal and informal english
TeachingFormaland Informal English






two kinds of language
Two kinds of language…

The acronyms BICS and CALP refer to a distinction introduced by Cummins (1979) between two language types - Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. Other researchers have used different terms*, but the essential distinction refers to the extent to which the meaning is supported by contextual or interpersonal cues ( gestures, facial expressions, and intonation) or by linguistic cues that are independent of the communicative context.

*See, for example, the work of Bruner [1975] on analytic and communicative competence and Donaldson’s [1978] description of embedded and disembedded language.

common underlying proficiency cup theory
Common Underlying Proficiency (CUP) Theory

Cummins (1979) uses a visual ‘iceberg’ metaphor to explain CUP  The two icebergs are separate above the surface.  That is, two languages are visibly different in outward conversation, but underneath the surface, the two icebergs are fused such that the two languages do not function separately.  Both languages operate through the same central processing system. Thus, skills, ideas and concepts students learn in their first language will be readily transferred to the second language.


Social Language

* Meaningful social contexts often with face-to-face interaction

* Concrete

* Context embedded

* Nonverbal cues(tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions)

* Opportunity to clarify meaning

* Familiar concepts/topics

* 2-3 years to acquire


Academic Language

Listening, speaking, reading and writing in content areas


Context reduced

Few nonverbal cues (especially if reading passages in texts)

Little or no opportunity to clarify meaning

New ideas/concepts

5-7+ years to acquire

two types of english
Two “types” of English?




If we generalize this research to EFL teaching, it is arguable that the provision of both formal and informal language learning experiences in the classroom will be beneficial for the student.

french immersion succeeds because
French Immersion succeeds because…

… if we further generalize this idea to the immersion milieu, we see that the increased social interaction in English in context promotes the development of a common underlying proficiency.

why does f i work so well
Why does F.I. work so well?
  • Students have an opportunity to speak French for extended periods of time

(duration effect)

  • Students use the target language constantly in a variety of social contexts.

(frequency effect)

the role of memory in f i
The role of memory in F.I.

Although is it self-evident that memory is crucial to second language acquisition (Christianson,1992) the immersion environment is particularly supportive of three different types of memory:

  • Procedural - memory developed through repetitive actions
  • Semantic - memory used for remembering concepts and general knowledge.(rote memory)
  • Episodic - memory of an event (or story) that contains a strong emotional connection
contextualizing language makes it easier to learn
Contextualizing language makes it easier to learn.

Our brain constantly monitors the environment for additional clues to help it understand what is happening around it. The more separate but associated referent points it can establish, the faster it will learn and recall.

In the French immersion class, the student is enclosed in an environment containing a multitude of thesereferents.

f i students make many connections
F.I students make many “connections”
  • In recent years, there has been a move away from teaching (Nation, 2001) and testing (Gyllstad, 2003) vocabulary discretely. Instead the emphasis has been on embedded language where vocabulary is presented in context.
the practice effect
The practice effect

This dissection of the left hemisphere reveals thearcuate fasciculus, which interconnects Wernicke's area (an area involved in the interpretation of spoken language) with Broca's area (the "motor speech" area of the brain).

mri composite scan
MRI Composite scan

"Knowledge needs to be pulled into the brain by the student, not pushed into it by the teacher. Knowledge is not to be forced on anyone. The brain has to be receptive, malleable, and most important, hungry for that knowledge."

Sister Agnes Patricia in "The Man Who Listens to Horses”

for more information
For more information…

Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers

Canadian Parents for French

for current research on french immersion in canada
For current research on French immersion in Canada


Allen, M. (2004).Reading achievement of students in French Immersion programs.". Educational Quarterly Review, 9 (4), p 25-30

Canadian Association of Parents for French (2004) The state of French language education in Canada. Available at

Christianson, S.A. (1992) Handbook of emotion and memory: current research and theory.Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Cummins, J. (1979) Cognitive/academic language proficiency, linguistic interdependence, the optimum age question and some other matters.  Working Papers on Bilingualism, 19, 121-129.

Cummins, J. (1984). Bilingualism and special education: Issues in assessment andpedagogy. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters. 

Cummins, J. (1987). Immersion programs: Current issues and future directions. In L.L. Stewin & S.J. McCann (Eds.) Contemporary educational issues: The Canadian mosaic.Toronto: Copp Clark.

Cummins, J. (1995). Canadian French immersion programs: a comparison with Swedish immersion programs in Finland. In M. Buss & C. Lauren (Eds.) Language immersion: Teaching and second language acquisition. (pp. 7-20). Vaasa: University of Vaasa Research Papers.

Cummins, J. (1996). Negotiating identities: Education for empowerment in a diverse society. Los Angeles: California Association for Bilingual Education


Edwards, H.P., & Smythe, F. (1976). Evaluation of second language programs and some alternatives for teaching French as a second language in grades five to eight. Toronto: Ontario Education.

Guttman, M.A.J. (1983). There’s more to French immersion than social class. Interchange, 41(1), 17–22.

Gyllstad, H. (ed.)(2003) The department of English in Lund: Working papers in linguistics Vol. 3. Lund University

Helliwell, J.F (1999),Language and trade in Albert Breton, (ed.) Exploring the Economics of Language, Canadian Heritage

Lapkin, S., & Swain, M. (1984). Research update. Language and Society, 12(1), 48–54.

McGaugh, James L. (2000)Memory--a century of consolidationScience, 287, p.248-251

Nation, I.S.P. 2001. Learning vocabulary in another language.Cambridge University Press.

Safty, A. (1988). French immersion and the making of a bilingual society. Canadian Journal of Education, 13, 243–262.

Safty, A. (1990). L’efficacité. In A. Safty (Ed.), Pour un enseignement dynamique et efficace (p.237–284). Montreal: l’Université du Québec.

Singh, R. (1986). Immersion: Problems and principles. Canadian Modern Language Review, 42, 559–569.

Swain, M. & Lapkin, S. (1990). Additive bilingualism and French immersion education: The roles of language proficiency and literacy. In A. Reynolds (Ed.), Bilingualism, multiculturalism, and second language learning: NY: Erlbaum.