FRENCH IMMERSION: THE TRIAL BALLOON THAT FLEW
Valerie Argue, Sharon Lapkin and Merrill Swain.
Volume 11 Number 4.
As its title implies, The Trial Balloon That Flew is an upbeat booklet about the success of French immersion programs. Its purpose is to show immersion students how well they are doing in English, French, and other subjects (compared to non-immersion students) and to suggest how they can maintain or improve their French once they complete their program.
The booklet is written in a light, easy-to-comprehend style and features humorous line drawings that complement the text. The etymologies and definitions of three key terms (bilingual, immersion, evaluation) are included in the opening chapters, along with a brief, interesting description of how French immersion was conceived—and then received. For students who may be aware of the hue and cry over the programs, it will be reassuring to discover that all types of immersion—early, partial, and late—are beneficial, although to different degrees.
Immersion students may not realize that, unless they continue to use French regularly, they may lose their fluency. The final two chapters discuss this problem and how to avoid it, giving concrete suggestions such as: follow-up programs, French schools, using French-language media, and participating in bilingual exchanges and summer jobs.
Two minor drawbacks are the lack of attention to whether anyone did not do well in immersion (just as a few students fail in a regular program, a few probably fail in immersion), and the omission of the exact questionnaire circulated to immersion students before this booklet was written (the questions on page 7 seem to be a summary of what was asked). Generally, though, students should find this booklet helpful.
Adele L. Massena, Kingston, ON.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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