The Development of Bilingual Literacy Skills

Experiences with Immersion Education
  • Wallace E. Lambert
Part of the Topics in Language and Linguistics book series (TLLI)


As social psychological researchers interested in language, we tuned in on a state of affairs in Canada some 25 years ago in which relations between English and French Canadians were beginning to become tense and strained. Two extreme solutions to the French Canadian “problem” were coming into vogue: (1) French Canadians should pull up their socks and compete, meaning they should master English and Anglo-American ways, while toning down their French Canadian-ness; (2) French Canadians should pull apart or separate, meaning they should form a new independent nation where they could be masters of their own fate and where the “good old ways” could be protected. Both alternatives worried us because one meant giving up a style of life that was precious, and the other meant closing a society through separation—“closing” in the sense that Karl Popper (1966) uses the term. Instead, we viewed the French Canadian way of life as something precious for Canada as a whole—a nation whose potential and fascination rest in its multicultural, multilingual makeup—whether or not it was appreciated as such by English Canadians. So we became interested in reducing, if possible, the ignorance of French Canadian-ness and in enhancing an appreciation for it among Anglo-Canadian children. This then became the guiding purpose for the Canadian work on “early immersion” schooling (Genesee, 1978–1979; Lambert & Tucker, 1972; Swain, 1974), wherein English-speaking children, with no French-language experience in the home or in their communities, entered public school kindergarten or Grade 1 classes that were conducted by a monolingual French-speaking teacher.


Bilingual Education Immersion Experience Immersion Program French Immersion Early Immersion 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wallace E. Lambert
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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