WHAT IS INTENSIVE FRENCH?
U ntil quite recently, there have only been two ways of teaching/learning French as a second language in Canada’s school systems: the regular French program, usually called “Core French” or “Basic French”, and French Immersion. Now there is a third option, Intensive French.
Intensive French is a program offering students who are not enrolled in Immersion programs an effective way to learn to communicate spontaneously in French. As it is a literacy-based approach, students learn to speak, read and write in French, in that order.
Grammar is acquired naturally, by using the language orally rather than by memorising rules. Students talk, read and write in French about themselves and their experiences, and participate actively in the classroom. Unlike in Immersion, however, Intensive French students do not learn any other subject matter in French. Intensive French likewise differs from Core French in that French is the language of communication at all times in the classroom. It is based on the Neurolinguistic Approach to second language learning (NLA).
Click to watch some testimonials (in English only).
HOW DOES INTENSIVE FRENCH WORK?
T he first part of the program is generally offered in Grade 5 or 6 (when students are 11 or 12 years old). The program is sometimes preceded by the Pre-Intensive program in Grade 4 or 5 (when students are 9 or 10 years old). For the first semester (five months), approximately half of the school day is devoted to activities in French. Mathematics, and certain other subjects usually taught by specialists (music, for example) are taught in English. In the other five months, students follow their regular timetable, as illustrated in the following chart.
Time allocations for programs may vary somewhat from school district to school district.
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?
A t the end of the five-month intensive period of the program, students can communicate in French spontaneously (Level A1, CEFRL) on subjects related to their life experiences.
In New Brunswick, Intensive French and Post-Intensive French have replaced the Core French program for all students not in Immersion; participation in the program is compulsory from Grade 5 to the end of Grade 10.
By the end of high school, students are able to communicate independently on a wide variety of subjects. The New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Development reports that, according to their Grade 12 evaluation data, in the 2011-2012 school year (the last year in which there were Core French students in N.B.), 44% of the students in Core French were able to carry on a conversation in French at the Basic Plus Level (spontaneous communication, A2) or above. Following the implementation of Post-Intensive French, the 2018-2019 results showed that nearly 70% of Grade 12 non-Immersion students were able to communicate at the Basic Plus Level (A2) or above.
These interviews with High School students demonstrate the effectiveness of Intensive French and Post-Intensive French. In (Video 1) you will hear a student who has finished Grade 10 and in (Video 2) a student who has finished Grade 12.
WHERE IS INTENSIVE FRENCH AVAILABLE?
A number of education authorities across Canada (with the exception of Québec and Prince Edward Island) offer the program, including Post-Intensive French. In New Brunswick, Intensive French and Post-Intensive French have become the compulsory French programs (Grade 4 to Grade 10, optional in Grades 11 and 12) for students not enrolled in French Immersion programs.
2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the first implementation of Intensive French, in Newfoundland and Labrador.