This challenge teaches students about the presence and importance of the French language in Alberta and Canada. To prepare for the activities, arrange for someone who speaks French to visit the classroom. The guest can be someone who learned to speak French as a second language or a Francophone who speaks French as a first language.
In the days prior to this event, greet students in French. Ask students if they know any French words that they would like to share and if they know of any individuals or celebrities who speak French. Introduce several words, e.g., fille, garçon, s'il vous plaît, merci, and help students pronounce them. Ask the class if people who speak French are a group and what makes them a group. You may want to refer to the criteria and strategies described in other critical challenges in this inquiry to help students answer this question. Explain that there are groups within the group of people who speak French; e.g., some people speak French only, some people speak French and another language or languages. The group of people who speak French and who share common cultural roots are called Francophones. Point out that in Alberta, French is spoken in some schools; e.g., Francophone schools, immersion classes and French as a second language programs.
Inform students that a bilingual guest who speaks both French and English will be visiting the classroom. Explain that the first language learned and still spoken is known as the mother tongue. The guest may have learned to speak French as the mother tongue, or may have chosen to learn to speak French as another language. Assist students in developing thoughtful questions for the guest. Encourage students to think of questions that would be respectful of the person, relevant to his or her experiences as a French-speaking person and likely to uncover interesting ideas. You may want to direct questions toward the individual reasons for speaking French; e.g., family, travel, career; why it is important to him or her; reasons for maintaining French as a language of use; how speaking French contributes to his or her identity.
Following the visit, explain to students that there are Francophones in all parts of Canada. Explain that some of the first people to come to this country from other lands were speakers of French. Later, many people who spoke English came to Canada. Now there are many languages spoken in Canada, but because the first large groups of newcomers to Canada were French and then English, that is part of the reason why we have two main language groups and two official languages in our country. Display examples of things written in both English and French; e.g., money, stamps, packaging, signs on federal buildings such as a post office or airport, and anything related to federal parks or the government. (Click on the References tab above for a sampling of French resources)
Ask students if they can distinguish the French and English text (you might provide clues, such as look for words you know in English, or mention the French vowels and special markings such as cedillas and accents used in French). Explain that many things are written in both French and English so that Francophones and Anglophones can read them. Invite students to find examples of different things that are written in both French and English and to bring them to class to create a display entitled "Canada: Our Two Official Languages." Encourage students to ask their parents for help in locating these items. You may also wish to teach students simple French songs or have them watch a familiar children's television program in French; e.g., Rue de Sésame.