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: 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:
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
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
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.

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