Another step in language journey

As a parent, it didn’t take too many years of elementary school for me to realize that it’s not only our children that have trepidation about the annual oral presentation requirement of their curriculum.

While our children have to face their fear of speaking in front of others, as parents we face our apprehension of having to hear a presentation countless times. We want to support them, but the experience ranges from fun and entertaining to mildly painful.

My daughter wrote both her English and French oral presentations during class time. She delivered them to me as a final product. This left me with the dilemma of whether to help her correct and improve her writing or leave it be. I chose the “laissez faire” approach as it would be less stressful for both of us.

She fared well, winning her class, and eventually the school competition for her grade level. I was a proud mommy simply listening to her present in front of her whole school, and happy for her when we received the letter saying that her win made her eligible to compete at the provincial level in Toronto.

Reading more about the event, the “Concours et Festival d’art oratoire” is the annual French public-speaking event for students from grades four through 12 studying French as a Second Language in Ontario. It’s organized by the Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association and Canadian Parents for French (Ontario). It was held at York University’s Glendon Campus with the ADSB students being among 289 students from 24 public and separate school boards and 7 private schools from across Ontario.

The opening ceremony presenters and the judges made a point to laud the students for their achievement in French as a second language, and encouraged their continued study in French, considering the opportunities and doors that French as a Second Language could open.

According to the Ministry of Education website, benefits to students studying French as a Second Language include: increased mental flexibility and problem-solving skills; a better understanding of aspects of a variety of cultures; a greater awareness of global issues; and expanded career opportunities.

Having studied in the French Immersion system in Ottawa I can attest to it making it easier for me to learn other languages, and it definitely resulted in me landing several summer jobs. That alone was reason enough for me to choose French Immersion for my children.

I spoke with Tracy Reid, FSL Special Assignment Teacher, K-12 at the ADSB: “Improving our students’ French speaking ability… is a focus of instruction in the ADSB French classrooms. Gone are the days of, ‘I can write it (French), but I can’t speak it’.”

Reid also told me that: “Parents play a key role supporting their child’s success at school. Whether it is encouraging their child to sign up, listening to countless repetitions of the speech, attending the competition in the school gym or travelling to Toronto for the “Concours”, parental involvement makes a difference and leads to student success.”

I have to admit I didn’t even know that the competition existed or that they had a choice in whether they wanted to participate or not. After hearing that students at the Grade 9-12 level can win a full scholarship to the University of Ottawa, among other scholarships and cash prizes, I think I should pay more attention to the notes that come home from school.

Of course teachers deserve a lot of credit here. As Reid says, “We also recognize the dedication of all educators responsible for enthusiastically motivating and preparing our students to participate in this event – from the French teachers to the event organizers to the judges of our Board Level Competitions where our Provincial representatives were chosen.”

Clearly it is quite dependent on the schools and teachers as to the level of student participation. Two participants represented Rosedale Public School for French Immersion, and were among 306 students that competed, while one student represented Greenwood Public school in the Core French category. Any student studying French at school is eligible to compete with others at their level.

I’m in agreement with Reid when she says: “Next year, we look forward to even more students participating as they continue their journey as life-long language learners.”

My thanks to all of those who encouraged my daughter on this journey. She thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it made for a wonderful Mother’s Day, preparatory repetitions of the presentation included.

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