Since its inception in 1995, the Conseil scolaire francophone (CSF), or School District 93, has offered children from K – Grade 12 an education in French. Students typically have at least one parent who speaks French or has a French-language heritage, or a sibling who has been educated in a French school system elsewhere in Canada.
Instilling a sense of cultural and linguistic pride in children of a minority population is not easy, but the schools in the CSF system have shown that it can be done through patience and persistence.
Here are 4 suggestions from Réjean Gosselin, principal of l'école des Naviagateurs in Richmond, about how to share your cultural heritage with your children:
1. Keep the older generation involved
"It's important to keep the grandparents and older relatives involved," says M. Gosselin. "They have stories to tell—and they can keep the culture alive. Also, they most likely want to speak French. So it's a win-win for the child and the grandparent."
2. Have fun with the language
If children feel forced to speak a language other than English, or feel like it's mandatory, very often they will refuse.
"We try to have children speaking French at school, but we don't force it," M. Gosselin says. "We want them to enjoy the language. We try to make it fun with games and play—we want to celebrate our language and culture."
3. Share activities in French together
Movies in French can be found on video-on-demand services like Netflix, or your local library might still have the DVD versions. Movies can help us connect to the French language and to the francophone culture.
4. Live your heritage
Probably the most straightforward way to share your heritage with your child is to live it every day. Speak French with your child most, if not all, of the time. Experiment with French recipes at mealtimes. Bring French books home from the library. Boost your collection of French music CDs. For younger children, read them French fairy tales and nursery rhymes.
"At l'école des Naviagateurs, we have French books in our library," M. Gosselin says. "And we encourage parents and children to read them together."