Bilingual Therapy? Oui, Oui, Madame!
It’s true! We often get requests from parents with children in French Immersion who are concerned about their child’s progress and are even contemplating removing their child from French Immersion.
This can be a difficult decision – often there is a familial culture on the line!
Take Basil (Louis and Basil from Sesame Street is where I learned the bulk of my French …)
Basil was coming out of Grade one in French Immersion. He was late acquiring his letter concepts – the ability to name a letter when shown or to say the sound associated with the letter. He knew a few sight words but had to work pretty hard to acquire them. He had trouble with truly decoding when looking at early readers – less-frequent words such as character’s names were difficult for him to sound out. He seemed to do well with auditory comprehension but was slipping behind his classmates in literacy skills.
Assessment revealed below average skills in his sound processing profile. We know that causes difficulty for the brain – it becomes very difficult to pair verbal and visual information when the verbal information is dictated by sound. In other words, a student may recognize a letter but has trouble consolidating its name, its sound, or both. This is a foundational skill in early literacy, and a delay or “slowdown” in this process essentially hijacks the whole process of learning to decode.
That much we know from brain imaging research, in English or in French. However, there are some further considerations and contributions from the sound system when it comes to learning a second language.
Here are some things we may be conscious of, watch for, or predict from this profile when a student is attempting to learn French – both the oral and written language:
- Basil would likely have difficulty acquiring literacy skills in English, even if that were the only language of instruction. As such, a delay in literacy acquisition in both languages or either language is predicted.
- Specifically, difficulty with decoding, reading accuracy, and spelling accuracy is predicted.
- Basil is likely to have a “slowdown” in learning French vocabulary and to need extra exposures of new words to consolidate vocabulary. Repetition and explicit teaching around vocabulary, in this case, is recommended, to concretely pair the sound representation of the word with the meaning area of the brain.
- Basil is likely to have a “slowdown” in listening and reading comprehension for longer, more linguistically-complex sentences. For example, he may tend to grasp the “big picture” but miss specific details.
- Basil is at risk to have difficulty acquiring grammatical forms, such as changes to word morphology when conjugating verbs. (E.g., conjugating the verb “Être”).
- A disorganized sound system may have difficulty with sound discrimination tasks – the act of differentiating or “knowing the difference” between sounds. We are especially conscious of Basil’s ability to differentiate between oral and nasal sounds (both consonants and vowels), such as the final sound heard in “sont”.
- Basil is likely to get confused between similar-sounding words and similar-looking words such as homonyms, homophones, and homographs (in either language). This confusion may exist in oral and/or written language. It may be difficulty to pronounce them, use the right word, spell the right word, or extract the accurate meaning when reading.
- have difficulty acquiring pronunciation that is dictated by grammar (e.g., “met”, “mettez”, “metes”).
For both oral and written language, the sound representation system must activate accurately, but then also communicate through long neural pathways that lie deep within the brain. It is worth knowing how your child learns – what are their sound processing skills like? How well do brain areas in their brain communicate? What lies in store for them as a learner?
You may have a challenging decision ahead regarding your child’s future. Is the best fit for them to remain in French Immersion? Would they have an easier time with English instruction only?
Why not by yourself some time? An assessment can tell you about your child’s Learning Profile so you can make an informed decision. Meanwhile, most children respond very quickly to our Literacy Instruction, in either language: You may not need to make that decision after all!
Interested to learn more? You can book an initial consultation online through our website!
C’est bon, Louis!! Oui, Oui, Basil!