Learning language learning from bilingual countries
It seems some people will learn another language only at a gun point; only necessity and self-induced motivation make them learn. But teaching classes in another language in early grades may also help, if they can put enough language footprint in pupil’s brain that may last forever even though it may remain passive knowledge.
I luckily lived in two (almost) bilingual countries; Canada especially in New Brunswick that is officially only a bilingual province and also Belgium where politics of the separation is getting messy. In both places, many people find that bilingual education is labor and useless not pleasure since they are not fluent even after many years of learning in school. Or frankly many people do not see any use of another language in their life. This is particularly true for anglophones, which is a term not so commonly used out side of Canada.
I need to check how people think about this in Belgium. Belgium is officially bilingual… No. Officially trilingual. Dutch, French and not English but, guess, German. (I assume Belgium got German part for the compensation for the war, but I may totally wrong.) Many Flanders think English is more useful than French. But as I said many times I think Belgian’s English skill is less than that of Dutch, Swedish, Danes though I never been to these countries. Many Flanders people in big shops will speak perfect English even though I doubt they can engage in a deep complex discussion in English on the spot; speaking English is still labor for many people here since Flanders are proudly Dutch speaking after all, after years of long language discrimination and trivialization by French-Belgians.
Any case, it is wise to speak English at shops in Flanders than in French. Many times I heard clerks were saying that their English is better than their French. These people understand it but just cannot say much in French.
And if you speak German, you may kick out from a shop since generally people here may not have good impression of German because of the wars. You will not, of course but you may get a hug by a few right wing Flanders separatists who had corroborated with German during the WWII… There is very complicated history behind this and I will cover this in more detail. I am not sure what will happen to the German part if Belgium separates. I assume it will come with Flanders.
I am citing comments and please see the originals.
“As a Canadian who does not live in Quebec of NB I find Found French to be a total waste of my time.”
“As a kid in high school in Toronto, it was difficult to see the value in learning French. It was just a subject, like history or geography, with little apparent use outside of the classroom. (Hmm… that’s an odd statement coming from somebody who loved math, a topic generally considered by most students to have even _less_ use outside the classroom.) My view at the time was almost certainly “I’m not going to move to Quebec, so I don’t need French.” It wasn’t until I had lived for Montreal for a year after university that I decided to knuckle down and learn French. In fact, when I was looking for a job after graduating, I was looking in Toronto, Vancouver, and Ottawa. It didn’t even cross my mind to look in Montreal. My 10 years or so of French left me with maybe a thousand words of _very_ passive vocabulary and some vague ideas of how the grammar went together.
I don’t think I have any magic solutions other than trying to get the students to want to learn. And that means showing them what becomes available to them if they learn French. Of course, the huge proliferation of English media probably makes that a hard sell. Why watch “Les Invincibles” when there’s “Friends”? Why read Tintin when there are good translations readily available? Why read other BDs when there’s no shortage of high quality English graphic novels? And on and on and on…. When I was learning French, I made those choices. But I made those choices because I wanted to learn French. Convincing a high school student that they want to learn French so they can read/watch/listen those is going to be nigh-on impossible. What would make it compelling enough for them? That’s the tricky part.”
PS. Tintin is Belgian.
Benefit of language immersion
“I was an early French Immersion kid. I think the main plus was that it gives French, and by extension, all languages, the same status as English somewhere in your mind, not because of any linguistic characteristics, but because, from a very early age, it was a language of instruction. Also I think the benefits of early French input never seem to go away. I have ignored French for years as an adult but, if you had turned on a French newscast, I would have understood it completely, even certain nuances. Output is another story, but, with such continuing easy access to input, output polish is never far away.”
“Subjects of interest were not really a part of my experience of school in general, unfortunately. Maybe that was because the medium was French, but I doubt it.
In fact when I got to the higher grades and we had an increasing percentage of classes in the English language, I had to “learn” English terminology in math, music, geometry and geography since I was conversant and comfortable only with the French terms at that point.
Personally I wouldn’t camp overnight to get my kid(s) into French Immersion, as some have done. I think having, stable parents who have a genuine intellect (not necessarily a powerful one) is more than enough for any kids who want to learn anything to a more than a superficial degree.”