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The phenomenal growth of French immersion programs in Canada has been called by the popular press the educational success story of the 1980s. Although this view is certainly justified in terms of the method's popularity and political success, this study contends that it is not so in terms of the results obtained.
The author bases his contention on a comparison and analysis of results achieved on the Laval Placement Test by three groups of students at the university level: (1) native French speakers; (2) former French-immersion students; (3) former core-French students. The test results place the immersion group's language level much closer to that of the core-French group than to that of the native speakers, although the immersion group does appear to have a considerable advantage over the nonimmersion group, at least in the passive comprehension skills. The results are further analyzed in the light of existing literature on bilingualism and immersion programs. The comparison and analysis of the test results show that the often extravagant claims made for the bilingualism of immersion graduates can lead to false optimism about their real command of French.
The study concludes with a call for less complacency about the effectiveness of present immersion programs and for more research into alternative methods of language teaching.