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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fast mapping and success in French immersion programs Houston, Ruth Anne


As a result of the high price paid in time and concern by students, parents and educators in educating a child in French Immersion only to find that s/he would be better off in an English classroom, a predictor is needed to decide early in a child's life whether or not s/he is a good candidate for French Immersion. A 'good candidate' would be someone who would be able to learn French and , as a corollary, not be handicapped academically by being instructed in French. The present study is an examination of the L2 learning aspect of French Immersion. In particular this paper will explore the possibility that 'fast mapping',the ability to quickly make a partial representation of the meaning, form and use of a word after hearing it only a few times, may be a predictor of success in acquiring a second language irrespective of overall academic achievement. In a procedure adapted from Dollaghan (1985) eighteen students in Grade 2 French Immersion, seventeen in Grade 3 French Immersion and five former French Immersion students now in the Grade 3 English program were exposed to an unusually shaped, as yet unnamed object in the course of a hiding game. This object was randomly assigned one of a set of nonsense names. The children were then administered a 10 minute oral French Comprehension Test as a distractor before being tested for their comprehension and production of the new word. The scores on these tasks, which are an indication of "fast mapping" skill, did not correlate with i) number of years exposure to a second language, ii) age, iii) teacher ratings of oral French or iv) academic ability, v) oral French comprehension or vi) inclusion in French Immersion. This suggests that this set of fast mapping tasks is not a good predictor of success in second language learning or French Immersion. More research is needed to ascertain the reciprocal effect of L2 learning on fast mapping skills, the development of fast mapping skills with age, and the effect of a more complex fast mapping task on the fast mapping performance of school age children.

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