museoftomorrow, we think being a "Frenchie" sounds cool! —Sparkitors
In Canada, parents have the option of putting their children in a French Immersion Program. Being in an immersion program means that you spend about half your day in French classes or classes taught in French. It may sound odd or even impossible, but really, math in French is so easy (there’s no such thing as a word problem, because "we don’t have the language for that yet") and we don’t write essays in half our classes (again, because we don't know French well enough yet). Subjects in French include Math (Mathematiques), Geography (Géographie), History (Histoire), Gym (Education Physique) and of course, French (Français).
My parents chose not to enter me in a French Immersion Program when I was a kid because they wanted me to master English before I learn a second language. I may not have mastered English yet, but I decided to enter myself in the Late French Immersion Program (Immersion Français Tardé).
Our Late Immersion Program is tiny. In my whole school, there are only about 75 "Frenchies," which is the nickname I can only wish was lovingly bestowed upon our group by the considerate "Englishies," or "Core" students. There are 17 Frenchies in my grade, grade 10. In grade 7 (when the program starts) we had almost half of our day in French. But now I only have one of five classes in French. And next year, I’ll have one French class in an eight-subject day. Even so, I don't consider my day normal. See for yourself...
6 a.m. I wake up and jump out of bed to get my strategically-placed alarm. (By the time I turn it off, I’m too awake to go back to sleep.) I spend the next hour and a half getting ready, maybe finishing up some homework that didn’t get to—I mean, some homework that I wanted to look over again, that I definitely got to the night before.
7:30ish I meet my friend (a Frenchie) at a corner to walk to school. We discuss everything from the dance to her grade 11 Biology and Math class. (Most Frenchies tend to be of the dorkier variety. Case in point: my friend is taking grade 11 courses while in grade 10.) We make it to school in about 25 to 30 minutes.
8:20 a.m. Civics: After 20 minutes of discussing test/homework answers, a friend and I go to first period, five minutes before the bell. Because of the nature of the class, the rest of the 30 students show up over the next half hour. This is an open level course, and it is compulsory, meaning you get nerds (me), and cool types who don't want to be there (the girl next to me. Woe to alphabetical seating). My teacher, who's always on the verge of a breakdown, lets us have class in the caf. Finally, we have a class discussion on the difference between an activist and a global citizen. We never come to a conclusion because the majority of students are sucking on Freezies.
9:30ish Histoire: This is my only French class this semester. Next year and the year after I will only have one French class: French. Because our class is so small, it’s split with the grade nines in the French program. Our teacher also taught us Geography and Phys Ed, and by now his once-funny jokes are kind of old. We never speak French in this class, even though English is banned. We resort to whispering in English and speaking terrible French whenever the teacher strolls by. Today we worked in groups, and my friend and I ended up talking about movies and TV while the grade nines did their work. We’ll catch up on our parts at home.
11 a.m. Music: This class contains all music students from grade 10 (around 15 or so) grade 11 (another 15) and grade 12 (one lonely guy). Today we learn music history. Half of us walk in, grab our instruments, then are disappointed that we must sit down to take notes, and the other half walk in, look around, and then walk out. Our teacher is probably one of the best teachers I have ever had, but he’s kind of limited when he has to teach 3 different lessons in half an hour.
11:30 a.m. Lunch: Most people have a full hour for lunch here, but I only have a little over half an hour to eat because music class cuts into my lunch hour. I eat an apple while going over math with one of my many study buddies.
12:10 p.m. Math: This class is academic (I guess like Honors classes in the U.S.) but you’d never know. Our teacher is the softest spoken and most easy-going guy I know. He lets anyone go to the washroom at any time during the lesson, then always jokes about that person when he/she's gone. I write an answer on the board but forget which language I’m writing in. You wouldn’t think it’s a problem, but in French decimals are colons and the dollar signs go after: e.g.: $1.50 v.s 1,50$. When I revert to French, people mutter, "I hate Frenchies" or something similar. We learn to not take comments like that seriously.
1:20 p.m. Foods: On the way to class I bump into an old Frenchie (a "ditcher" or "drop out" to us) and he yells “Watch it, Frenchie!” I try to retort with the always lame “Nice one, Englishie!...”, but it never sounds quiet right, believe me. Try yelling at one of your friends: “Nice one, Englishie!” and you’ll sound like a dork. I have years of experience.
In class, we review on cooking techniques and I finally feel glad to be in the Late Immersion Program. Almost all cooking techniques are French words that I learned years ago, but the Core students can’t even pronounce them. We watch a video on vegetarianism that must be half a century old, and take notes of the difference between vegans, lacto vegetarians, lacto ovto vegetarians, and pollo vegetarians. Foods really could be the most boring class ever. But every Wednesday we make food, which makes up for it.
2:40 p.m. Home: I walk home with the girl I walked to school with and a group of other Frenchies and Core students. One guy talks about being abducted by aliens the night before, and I'm excited when we part ways. We all go home to do a couple hours of homework, but we're usually not buried in it like students in other countries.
Recap: My day is 50% work, 15% bad French, 5% grammatically correct French, 10% fun, 5% dorky, 5% cool.
Would you like to be an immersion student?
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