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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Second and foreign language programmes in France Maironi, Elisabeth

Abstract

Current second language programmes in elementary school in France that aim at providing instruction in regional, foreign European or immigrant languages are critically examined, not separately, as it has been done up to now, but all together and in a broader context. The historical development leading to the dominance of French, but also to the demand for instruction in other languages, is presented to explain the existence and objectives of the various programmes. The concept of language needs, often used but seldom defined, is discussed briefly, and the arguments for early language instruction are reviewed. The chronology, successes and failures of the various foreign language programmes or experiments, in particular the most recent one, are investigated using official documents and results of evaluations. The analysis reveals shortcomings in organization and teachers' training and the necessity of improving teaching methods to meet the challenges of instruction in a variety of languages at a high level of quality. For the latter purpose, methods that have been successful in other contexts are reviewed, in particular the immersion method and the self-learning method used in Canada, and the methods of the so-called European Schools. The conclusions are as follows. In order to respond to the demands of the public and the pressure of the international economic and political stiuation, French schools should be able to produce at least bilingual citizens. To this end, it is highly desirable to start foreign language instruction as early as possible. It should start at the beginning of elementary school for all children in France, and every child should continue to learn the language it has had in elementary school in secondary school. Instruction in elementary school should focus on comprehension, but after secondary school the students should be able to speak at least one foreign language. To make the instruction more efficient, a more flexible method that incorporates ideas from immersion and self-learning is proposed. Moreover, to improve organizational aspects, it is proposed that parents get the opportunity to control the programme more strictly. Eventually, these programmes should evolve after the model of the European School, which has proven very successful.

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