Calgary Board of Education (CBE) students bring over 130 languages into our learning environments every day. Honoring the richness and sharing the cultural and linguistic realities of our global society has become a key component in helping students learn the skills and competencies required for the 21st century. Having a second language is one of these competencies. Alberta Education’s Impact of Second Language Education study highlights the numerous benefits second language learning provides for fostering academic and personal development in every student. At the CBE, our commitment is that each student, starting in grade 4, will learn a second language. For more information on the languages we offer, check out: http://www.cbe.ab.ca/programs/languages/default.asp Here are some of the ways that second language learning has impacted CBE learners. Since its introduction in the mid 1970’s, French Immersion has been a popular alternative program in the CBE. It has grown from a small group of students, to a vibrant population today of 7,000 plus students. Currently, 24 schools in the CBE offer the immersion experience: 12 elementary schools, 1 middle school, 7 junior high schools and 4 high schools. The CBE offers two entry points into the program. Early Immersion also known as Continuing Immersion begins in Kindergarten or Grade 1 and Late Immersion begins in Grade 7. Students in both of these programs are immersed in the French language and culture. Immersion uses an approach to teaching second languages that is referred to as integrated, content-based, communicative, or functional instruction. The most distinctive feature of immersion programs is the use of French to teach regular academic subjects, such as mathematics and science. Immersion students demonstrate the same levels of achievement in these subjects as students do in their first language. At the same time, they are acquiring advanced levels of functional proficiency in French. Early Immersion students receive 100% of their instruction in French until Grade 3, at which point English Language Arts is introduced. In Grade 7 options are taught in English and approximately 65% of instruction is in the French language. Students entering the late immersion program in Grade 7 learn the language at a surprisingly rapid rate. Already possessing a solid foundation in all areas of learning, transference of reading and writing skills are usually achieved with ease. Students in the Late Immersion program receive instruction in French in the core subject areas: French Language Arts, Science, Math and Social Studies. Options and English Language Arts are offered in English. In the CBE, the late immersion students and the continuing immersion students are integrated in Grade 9. This provides many opportunities for the two populations to interact and share experiences and tasks together that benefit both groups. Throughout their immersion experience, students are invited into the French culture through numerous activities such as song and dance, drama and art. Technologies such as e-pals play a crucial role in learning by eliminating the physical distance between cultures. Visits from various artists, be they musicians, authors, dancers, or singers add interest and enjoyment for the immersion learner. The organization of various cultural activities such as carnaval, semaine de la francophonie, French for the Future, and trips to Québec augments the linguistic and cultural components of the program and contributes to the overall learning experience of each student. In High School, students continue to build on their second language skills, taking French Language Arts, and Math and Social Studies in French. All other subjects are in English. They participate in a variety of activities that help consolidate their learning such as debates, concours oratoire (speech competitions), and drama competitions. By experiencing success in these relevant learning experiences, students see the potential of using French throughout their adult lives. Grade 12 French Immersion graduates are awarded a French Immersion certificate at a celebration ceremony. This recognizes the hard work and effort that they have devoted to learning French over several years. These graduates leave the CBE well equipped to be 2lst Century learners and better prepared to find their place in the global community. For more information on French Immersion program opportunities at the CBE, go to: http://www.cbe.ab.ca/programs/languages/default.asp. Historically, the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has offered second language learning opportunities since its inception. As of 2006/07, all students beginning in Grade 4 will learn a second language other than English. The vision of the second language initiative is that students will be able to communicate and interact in more than one language. This is achieved through daily instruction in a second language. Second language programs are different from Immersion Programs. In an effort to expand students’ experiences in the second language, schools offer trips to the province of Quebec and other countries where the second language is spoken. There are also a variety of field trips in and around Calgary. For example, students learn about the maple sugar tradition and experience the tire d’érable (sugar pull). Many performers visit our schools. Students are taught how to play the wooden spoons and other instruments as well as how to sing in the second language. Some schools have a carnival and others have a French café. Many students have e-pals from around the world. Several groups of students experience the cuisine and culture of a specific language tradition at a local restaurant. Learning a second language is much more than learning to speak the language. It’s also about learning and living a different culture. Appropriately, UNESCO has declared 2008 to be the International Year of Languages with the motto Languages Matter. Every year CBE students from our French Immersion programs and French Second Language classes visit the province of Quebec to experience the language and culture of our sister city. It is an opportunity to apply some of their learning of the French language and also an opportunity to experience the French Canadian culture first hand. A Grade 9 student shares “This trip was something I’ve been looking forward to since Grade 7, and it was an amazing experience to see somewhere so unlike Calgary… I was able to learn a lot about the French culture and history, and it was neat to see all the different architecture.” Students used words like “amazing,” “worthwhile,” “interesting,” “memorable,” and of course, “fun” and “educational” in their responses to a questionnaire on their trip to Quebec. A teacher echoed the students in saying that after studying French for 13 years this experience “revalidated” her studies. “It was terrific having the chance to practice what I’ve studied so hard for!” A week passes by quickly when there is so much to see, taste, say and do. Of the many pre-planned activities, the following are some of the cultural highlights the students mentioned: architecture, food, music, history, art and artisanship. One student spoke about the value he now places on a second language, saying: “I am trying harder to learn French. When I was there I was trying very hard to communicate with people so I’m going to improve my French and go back.” Several students expressed a similar desire. What a wonderful opportunity to motivate students to even greater achievement! Each student was asked to think about how the value of learning a second language had been impacted by their experience. This might be summed up by this student’s comment. “It has definitely changed, in a good sort of way.” When asked to respond personally to why they think “Languages Matter,” students categorically agreed that communication with others in their own spoken languages is so important. They talked about a “limit for where you can go and who you can talk to if you only know one language.” It was repeatedly voiced that languages matter for career choices, traveling, breaking down barriers, and that “languages are the voice of different cultures.” CBE students are united in stressing how important it is to experience a visit to Quebec. They are also united in their vision for a school, a community, and a world that honours all its diverse cultures and languages. They are truly 21st Century learners living a global reality. “[Our trip to Quebec] showed us the language was real and [that] we have learned enough over three years to communicate in French.” Student comment.