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Examining the French and English language proficiency of grade 11 French immersion students in British Columbia Rustom, Anahita Afrin

Abstract

The primary objective of the present study was to compare the French and English language proficiency of Early French Immersion (EFI) and Late French Immersion (LFI) students nearing the time of high-school graduation. This research was undertaken as a means of exploring the effect of age on second language proficiency, in the context of French immersion. Four indicators of language proficiency were examined: receptive vocabulary knowledge, grammar knowledge, listening comprehension, and pronunciation. Participants were evaluated in French and English. Results demonstrated no significant differences between EFI and LFI groups on the French language measures, suggesting evidence against the notion of a sensitive period for language learning in the context of French immersion. Subsequent analyses were conducted in which the sample was divided by home-language into bilinguals (participants who spoke only English at home) and multilinguals (participants who spoke a language other than English at home). These analyses revealed that multilinguals performed as well as, and on some measures better than bilinguals in both languages, with the exception of English pronunciation. Higher language aptitude and motivation to learn a foreign language observed in the multilingual group were factors that could explain these results. Due to the better performance of multilinguals and the uneven distribution of multilinguals across EFI and LFI groups, it is unclear whether this study provides evidence against age effects in formal language education. The results emphasize the success of multilinguals in EFI and LFI, but also highlight the need to account for the changing demographics of students in French immersion programs in future studies.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada

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