How can I help my child if I don’t speak French?

Don’t worry if you do not speak French! The French Immersion program was designed for children of non-French speaking parents. Having to rely on themselves for some aspects of their schoolwork will help your child develop self-esteem and independent learning skills.

You can support your child in many ways, including the following:

  • Have a positive and encouraging attitude about learning French. Show interest in what your child is studying and talk about your child’s day.
  • Strong first language skills are the foundation for learning a second or third language. So anything you do to strengthen your child’s dominant language will help your child in school. Read aloud to your child, discuss a book or tv show together, encourage your child to write (a letter to a relative, a story, a daily or travel journal, etc…).
  • To emphasize: Read aloud to your child every day! Even if they read well on their own, reading books together is a great way to enjoy time together and foster a love of reading (for inspiration, see this story from the New York Times). It is important to let your child see that you enjoy reading.
  • Go to the library often with your child and borrow books, audiobooks, CDs, and videos in English and French. On the North Shore, all branches of the North Vancouver District Library, the North Vancouver City Library and the West Vancouver Memorial Library have French collections. Also, you can become a member of Alliance Francaise or Le Centre and use their libraries, or read books online.
  • If your child is just learning to read, maintain your child’s confidence by staying positive, and keeping reading at home fun and enjoyable.
  • Invest in a good French-English dictionary, such as a Larousse.
  • If you are having a hard time pronouncing French words (either helping your child practice their dictée or listening to them read), study French pronunciation, use an online text-to-speech translator such as Google Translate, ask your child’s teacher for a pronunciation guide, take some French lessons online with Live Mocha, or or check out the variety of free audio lessons at Open Culture.
  • If your child is a reluctant reader, you can help encourage them to read by developing a reward system for reading, exposing them to a wide variety of reading materials and topics to help them find something they enjoy, browsing book lists or asking other parents what their children enjoy reading, taking turns reading together, like in the “You Read to Me; I’ll Read to You” books, or listening to audiobooks. And of course, read aloud to your child!
  • If your child is in the intermediate grades, encourage them to read in French at least 20 minutes a day. They will be receiving less instruction in French at school, so it is important that they keep up their French reading at home, even if reading in English is their first choice.
  • You can help with your child’s writing assignments by reinforcing the concept of first drafts and final copies, by helping them organize their ideas for their first draft, helping them to establish an editing routine, such as COPS (Capitals, Organization, Punctuation, Spelling and Grammar), and being an audience. Even if you don’t understand, reading aloud can help your child see where things don’t make sense.
  • Help your child learn organization and time management skills. For example, you could help them make checklists of morning and after school tasks, encourage them to prepare for the morning rush the night before, discuss with your child a weekly amount of screen time or schedule favorite shows so they do not conflict with homework, etc…
  • Encourage good study habits by helping your child establish a routine homework time and place. Experiment with before school, right after school, before dinner, or after dinner and see what works for your family, and decide together on a good place to study that allows for optimum concentration.
  • Help your child find homework resources on the internet. You can start by checking out CPF BC-Yukon’s French Language Help page for links to dictionaries, grammar help, and fun language sites.
  • Establish a good relationship with your child’s teacher. Talk to him/her if you are uncertain about something or suspect your child is having trouble.
  • Help your child master other skills besides French language arts. For example, you can help your child master grade-appropriate math facts. Visit IXL Math or Khan Academy for problems in an interactive format.
  • Get involved at your child’s school. Ask the PAC or your child’s teacher about ways to participate.
  • Inform yourself about how the French Immersion program works (good places to start are the North Vancouver School Board website and the Canadian Parents for French website).
  • Join a parent group, such as Canadian Parents for French, to meet other parents, to find out about French resources and cultural opportunities in your community, and to learn how you can support French Immersion programs in your school district.

Source: “Parent Survival Night” talk by Sallie Boschung, Vancouver French Immersion teacher and Early Literacy Specialist, Vancouver School Board. Publications Fostering Family Literacy in the Primary Grades, and Meeting the Challenges of the French Immersion Intermediate and Secondary Years and CPF materials, including Yes, you Can Help!

Click here for more resources to help you and your child learn and have fun in French!