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The Role of the Francophone Parent in a Bilingual Family

The main things…

  • Habitually speak French to the child. 
  • Obtain support from the non-francophone parent about French.

 The challenge…

  • As the language of communication between the parents is not French, it may be difficult to adopt a habit of speaking French with the child, especially in the presence of the non-francophone parent.
  • But the earlier that we start, the more natural it will be for the child to communicate in French with the Francophone parent in the family. In families where the Francophone parent did not speak French to the child from birth, it is worth the effort to change this language habit and to make the child respond in French.
  • How do we not exclude the non-francophone parent? Depending on the attitude and the feelings of the non-francophone parent, we may need to keep to the times when the Francophone parent is alone with the child to speak in French.
  • We must expose the child to French every day. For the child to acquire a strong bilingualism in both languages, the critical exposure threshold is at least 30% of the time, according to Fred Genesee (Grandir en deux langues – Article in Enfants Québec, April 2011).

 Practical things you can do…

  • Use all opportunities, everything around you, to live with activities in French with the child in a fun atmosphere, emphasizing what the child loves to do, and to encourage the child to associate pleasure with the French language. Every day.
  • Adopt the four "R"s (Routine, Repetition, Rejoicing, Rewarding) on a daily basis. See Promoting French (the 4 Rs).
  • Participate in French play groups, or send the child to a Francophone kindergarten or daycare if this exists in your area.

 A word about schools…

  • The parent is the child’s first educator. It is important to remember that a Francophone school cannot "make bilingual" or "frenchify" a child with very little French-speaking ability. If you decide to register your child at a Francophone school you should make sure to help your child, by, for example, sending the child to a French play group or kindergarten before the child’s arrival at the school. The ideal situation would be to ensure that the Francophone parent could continue experiencing situations that promote French with the child every day if possible. See Promoting French (the 4 Rs).