Even before we had kids, Mr. Sunglasses and I debated whether they would go to French or English school. In 1977, Quebec passed a provincial law called the Charter of the French language (Bill 101), which states that French is the official language, from signage, to language to schooling. The language of instruction from kindergarten to secondary school is French, but learning English as a second language is also mandatory for all children attending French school beginning in elementary school.
Luckily, at the request of parents, children may receive instruction in English if they fall in one of these two situations:
- a child whose father or mother is a Canadian citizen and received elementary instruction in English anywhere in Canada, provided that that instruction constitutes the major part of the elementary instruction he/she received in Canada;
- a child whose father or mother is a Canadian citizen and who has received or is receiving elementary or secondary instruction in English in Canada, and the brothers and sisters of that child, provided that that instruction constitutes the major part of the elementary or secondary instruction received by the child in Canada.
We are both French Canadian but because my father went to English school when he was younger, that meant I was allowed to as well. Mr. Sunglasses, on the other hand, went solely to French school and learned very basic English, per the school curriculum. Today I am fully bilingual — I read, write and talk in both French and English — but unfortunately Mr. Sunglasses cannot say the same.
Since Mavrick was born, we decided that I would speak to him in English and Mr. Sunglasses would speak to him in French. That way he would learn both languages easily. Now at 2.5, Mavrick is slowly starting to speak but understands both languages fully. (How amazing is that?) We decided to continue doing the same with Sienna, so I’m speaking to her solely in English.
Both kids are surrounded more by French speaking family and friends than English, so when we started to really consider what school the kids would go to, my first thought was an English school. Mr. Sunglasses prefers French. Ah the joys. I tried to explain to him that everyone around the kids are French and they will speak better French than English to begin with. His view on it is that it’s easier to learn English than it is French, which is true with so many verbs and conjugation rules in French.
Personally throughout my life, I felt so privileged to be bilingual; it’s allowed me to get more jobs and better pay too. Everyone I come across always tells me how lucky I am to speak both. It’s very rewarding and I want my kids to feel the same. I don’t want them to have obstacles with language when they get older.
After going back and forth and hours of discussions, we finally agreed to opt for English school but with French immersion, which means they will have more French than standard. I think we are both happy with our decision; it just took a while to get there.
Are you raising a bilingual child? How do you divide speaking English and another language?