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Officially bilingual, many in Canada want Spanish or Chinese, not French

June 23, 2012


Students get french words off the board in the Grade 2 class of Natalie Ruel at Mother Teresa elementary school in Calgary, Alberta, June 21, 2012.+


Is bilingualism still relevant in Canada?


The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Jun. 22 2012, 9:06 PM EDT

Last updated Saturday, Jun. 23 2012, 3:25 AM EDT

For three days in April, Chantelle Prentice camped outside in Salmon Arm, B.C., guarding her place in line – not for concert tickets or the latest iPhone, but to snag one of 17 coveted French immersion spots at Bastion Elementary School for her five-year-old son, Taylor.

An anglophone who hated her own high-school French courses, Ms. Prentice still feels strongly that bilingualism is central to Canada’s identity, as well as a gateway to other languages.

“I don’t think there’s enough young people speaking French and keeping it going in our country,” she said. “But I also appreciate diversity. So Mandarin and Punjabi, all those are absolutely great. If my son has an opportunity to dabble in other languages, then I would definitely be supportive of that as well.”

Demand for French immersion programs has been steady or rising across the country for the past decade.

But with more than five million Canadians speaking a mother tongue other than English or French as of 2006 – and projections say that number will rise when the 2011 census data is released this fall – school boards have begun adding other languages to the curriculum. Employers will say that while French is still highly valued as a second language, others are gaining ground, notably Spanish and Mandarin.

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