Bilingual Education in Canada

Reference work entry
Part of the Encyclopedia of Language and Education book series (ELE)


Bilingual education, for the purposes of this chapter, is defined as a program at elementary or secondary school where two (or more) languages are used as media for content instruction. In Canada, due to the success and popularity of French immersion, bilingual education programs tend to follow an immersion model, described in more detail later. In this chapter, we consider three main forms of immersion in Canada: (1) French immersion (FI), originally mainly for English-speaking majority students, but now also populated by learners from nonofficial minority language backgrounds (Taylor 2010) (2) heritage language (HL) programs for students with backgrounds in nonofficial languages such as Ukrainian, German, and Mandarin; and (3) indigenous language programs for aboriginal students (e.g., students of Inuit, Mohawk, or Cree backgrounds). Despite some differences, in general, each program type respects two fundamental principles: (1) additive bilingualism is the assumption that acquisition of a second language brings personal, social, cognitive, and economic advantage without negative effects on first language or academic development, and (2) learning a language when it is used as a medium of general curriculum instruction (e.g., in mathematics and science) in an intensive and extensive time period is effective. We begin by summarizing early developments in each program type and then describe the evolution of each along with trends in recent research. We conclude by proposing a number of issues that warrant further research.


Bilingual education Immersion Indigenous languages Heritage language Official languages Aboriginal education Additive bilingualism Minority language Multiculturalism Multilingualism At risk learners L1 use 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Second Language Research Institute of Canada, Faculty of EducationUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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