Integrating Formal and Functional Approaches to Language Teaching in French Immersion: An Experimental Study


  • This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Requests for reprints may be sent to Elaine M. Day at Simon Fraser University, Faculty of Education, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5A 1S6.


This experimental study was designed to evaluate the effect on French language proficiency of an integrated formal, analytic and functional, communicative approach to second-language teaching in French immersion. The impetus for the study arises from research indicating that immersion children show persistent weaknesses in their grammatical skills despite the fluent, functional proficiency they achieve in their second language. The experimental materials, which consist of a curriculum unit focusing on the conditional, were designed to provide opportunities for students to use the conditional in natural, communicative situations; reinforce their learning with systematic, linguistic games; and encourage their metalinguistic awareness. They were also designed to encourage integration of concepts learned in other subjects with language learning and to promote group work and cooperative learning. Pre-, post-, and follow-up tests of oral and written French were administered to Grade 7 early French immersion Experimental and Control classes. The results showed that the Experimental group performed significantly higher in writing both in the post and follow-up testing. Although this was not found for speaking, an examination of the individual class data revealed greater and more consistent growth in speaking for the Experimental than for the Control classes, suggesting that they benefited somewhat from the experimental treatment in this domain as well.