Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Vol. 27 No. 1 (2024)

Refugee-background students in Canadian French immersion programs: Exploring the perspectives and ideologies of educators

June 30, 2023


French immersion (FI) programs are becoming increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse as a result of growing migration to Canada. In the present mixed-methods study, I explore the perspectives and ideologies of teachers, principals, and central office staff in eight school divisions in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta with respect to refugee-background students in FI programs. Through the triangulation of survey responses (N=126) and interviews (N=40), I examine perspectives pertaining to four themes: 1) suitability of FI for refugee-background students; 2) language learning; 3) challenges facing refugee-background students; and 4) supports and resources in FI programs. Adopting the theoretical perspective of sociolinguistics for change, I discuss three underlying ideologies shaping the perspectives of FI educators across the Canadian Prairies: 1) English-first ideologies; 2) deficit ideologies; and 3) ideological tensions between inclusion and support.


  1. Arnett, K., & Mady, C. (2018). Exemption and exclusion from French Second Language programs in Canada: Consideration of novice teachers’ rationales. Exceptionality Education International, 28(1).
  2. Arnett, K., Mady, C., & Muilenburg, L. (2014). Canadian FSL teacher candidate beliefs about students with learning difficulties. Theory and practice in language studies, 4(3), 447.
  3. Arnett, K., & Turnbull, M. (2007). Teacher beliefs in second and foreign language teaching: A state-of-the-art review. In H. J. Siskin (Ed.), AAUSC issues in language program direction. From thought to action: Exploring beliefs and outcomes in the foreign language program. The American Association of University Supervisors, Coordinators and Directors of Foreign Languages Programs (AAUSC), 9-28.
  4. Arnott, S., Masson, M., & Lapkin, S. (2019). Exploring trends in 21st century Canadian K-12 French as second language research: A research synthesis. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 22(1).
  5. Auger, N., Dalley, P., et Roy, S. (2007). Stéréotypes et stéréotypages du bilinguisme en classe de français langue seconde et minoritaire. Dans Colloque international" Stéréotypage, stéréotypes : fonctionnements ordinaires et mises en scène", Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier, 21-23 juin 2006 (pp. 25-36). L'Harmattan.
  6. Bahi, B., et Piquemal, N. (2013). Dépossession socio-économique, linguistique et résilience : horizons de mobilité sociale chez les élèves immigrants, réfugiés au Manitoba. Cahiers franco-canadiens de l'Ouest, 25(1), 109-128.
  7. Blommaert, J., & Backus, A. (2013). Superdiverse repertoires and the individual. In Multilingualism and multimodality (pp. 9-32). Brill.
  8. Bourgoin, R. C. (2016). French immersion “So why would you do something like that to a child?”: Issues of advocacy, accessibility, and inclusion. International Journal of Bias, Identity and Diversities in Education (IJBIDE), 1(1), 42-58. https://10.4018/IJBIDE.2016010104
  9. Bourgoin, R., & Dicks, J. (2019). Learning to read in multiple languages: A study exploring allophone students’ reading development in French immersion. Language and Literacy, 21(2), 10-28.
  10. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), 77-101.
  11. Byrd Clark, J. (2008). So why do you want to teach French? Representations of multilingualism and language investment through a reflexive critical sociolinguistic ethnography. Ethnography and Education, 3(1), 1–16.
  12. Byrd Clark, J. (2010). Making" wiggle room" in French as a second language/Francais langue seconde: reconfiguring identity, language, and policy. Canadian Journal of Education, 33(2), 379-406.
  13. Byrd Clark, J. (2011). Toward a policy of heterogeneity in Canada: The journeys of integration of multilingual student teachers of FSL in Ontario in plurilingual times. OLBI Journal, 3.
  14. Byrd Clark, J. (2012). Heterogeneity and a sociolinguistics of multilingualism: Reconfiguring French language pedagogy. Language and Linguistics Compass, 6(3), 143-161.
  15. Byrd Clark, J. S., & Roy, S. (2022). Becoming “multilingual” professional French language teachers in transnational and contemporary times: Toward transdisciplinary approaches. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 78(3), 249-270. 2020-0023
  16. Creswell, J. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage publications.
  17. Dagenais, D. (2003). Accessing imagined communities through multilingualism and immersion education. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 2(4), 269-283.
  18. Dagenais, D. (2008). La prise en compte du plurilinguisme d’enfants issus de familles immigrantes en contexte scolaire: une analyse de cas 1. Revue des sciences de l'éducation, 34(2), 351-375.
  19. Dagenais, D., & Berron, C. (2001). Promoting multilingualism through French immersion and language maintenance in three immigrant families. Language Culture and Curriculum, 14(2), 142-155.
  20. Dagenais, D. et Jacquet, M. (2000). Valorisation du multilinguisme et de l’éducation bilingue dans des familles immigrantes. Journal of International Migration and Integration/Revue de l'intégration et de la migration internationale, 1, 389-404.
  21. Dagenais, D. et Moore, D. (2008). Représentations des littératies plurilingues, de l’immersion en français et des dynamiques identitaires chez des parents chinois. Canadian Modern Language Review, 65(1), 11-31.
  22. Dalley, P. et Roy, S. (Eds.). (2008). Francophonie, minorités et pédagogie. University of Ottawa Press.
  23. Davis, S. (2019). How am I supposed to teach them French when they can’t even speak English?”: Unpacking the myth of English proficiency as a prerequisite for French immersion. Journal of Belonging, Identity, Language, and Diversity, 3(1), 5-22.
  24. Davis, S. (2023). Multilingual learners in Canadian French immersion programs: Looking back and moving forward. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 79(3), 163-180.
  25. Davis, S., Ballinger, S., & Sarkar, M. (2019). The suitability of French immersion for allophone students in Saskatchewan: Exploring diverse perspectives on language learning and inclusion. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 22(2), 27-63.
  26. Davis, S., Ballinger, S., & Sarkar, M. (2021). “More languages means more lights in your house”: Illuminating the experiences of newcomer families in French immersion. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, 9(2), 336-363.
  27. Genesee, F. (2007). French immersion and at-risk students: A review of research evidence. Canadian Modern Language Review, 63(5), 655-687.
  28. Ghadi, N., Massing, C., Kikulwe, D., & Giesbrecht, C. (2019). Language and identity development among Syrian adult refugees in Canada: A Bourdieusian analysis. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Education, 14(1).
  29. Gibbs, G. R. (2007). Thematic coding and categorizing. Analyzing Qualitative Data, 703, 38-56.
  30. Guo, Y., Maitra, S., & Guo, S. (2019). “I belong to nowhere”: Syrian refugee children’s perspectives on school integration. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Education, 14(1), 89-105. https://10.20355/jcie29362
  31. Heller, M. (2002). Globalization and the commodification of bilingualism in Canada. In Globalization and language teaching (pp. 47-64). Routledge.
  32. Heller, M. (2003). Globalization, the new economy, and the commodification of language and identity. Journal of sociolinguistics, 7(4), 473-492.
  33. Kikulwe, D., Massing, C., Ghadi, N., Giesbrecht, C. J., & Halabuza, D. (2021). From Independence to dependence: Experiences of Syrian refugees. International Migration, 59(5), 216-229.
  34. Knouzi, I., & Mady, C. (2017). Indicators of an “immigrant advantage” in the writing of L3 French learners. Canadian Modern Language Review, 73(3), 368-392.
  35. Lapkin, S., MacFarlane, A., & Vandergrift, L. (2006). Teaching French in Canada: FSL teachers’ perspectives.
  36. MacNevin, J. (2012). Learning the way: Teaching and learning with and for youth from refugee backgrounds on Prince Edward Island. Canadian Journal of Education, 35(3), 48-63.
  37. Mady, C. (2007). The suitability of core French for recently arrived adolescent immigrants to Canada. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 10(2), 177-196.
  38. Mady, C. (2012). Inclusion of English language learners in French as a second official language classes: Teacher knowledge and beliefs. International Journal of Multilingualism, 9(1), 1-14.
  39. Mady, C. (2013). Moving towards inclusive French as a second official language education in Canada. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 17(1), 47-59.
  40. Mady, C. (2015). Immigrants outperform Canadian-born groups in French immersion: Examining factors that influence their achievement. International Journal of Multilingualism, 12(3), 298-311.
  41. Mady, C. (2016). French immersion for English language learners?: Kindergarten teachers’ perspectives. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 62(3), 253-267.
  42. Mady, C., & Masson, M. (2018). Principals’ beliefs about language learning and inclusion of English language learners in Canadian elementary French immersion programs. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 21(1), 71-93.
  43. Mady, C., & Turnbull, M. (2012). Official language bilingualism for allophones in Canada: Exploring future research. TESL Canada Journal, 131-131.
  44. Marshall, S., & Moore, D. (2018). Plurilingualism amid the panoply of lingualisms: Addressing critiques and misconceptions in education. International Journal of Multilingualism, 15(1), 19-34.
  45. Massfeller, H., & Hamm, L. D. (2019). “I’m thinking i want to live a better life”: Syrian refugee student adjustment in New Brunswick. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Education, 14(1).
  46. Massing, C., Ghadi, N., Kikulwe, D., & Nakutnyy, K. (2023). Elementary schooling across borders: Refugee-background children’s pre-and post-migration experiences. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 1-18.
  47. Masson, M., Kunnas, M., Boreland, T., & Prasad, G. (2022). Developing an anti-biased, anti-racist stance in second language teacher education programs. Canadian Modern Language Review, 78(4), 385-414.
  48. Moore, D. (2010). Multilingual literacies and third script acquisition: Young Chinese children in French immersion in Vancouver, Canada. International Journal of Multilingualism, 7(4), 322-342.
  49. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR). (2001) International Organizations. [Web Archive]. Library of Congress. Retrieved from
  50. Prasad, G. (2015). Beyond the mirror towards a plurilingual prism: Exploring the creation of plurilingual ‘identity texts’ in English and French classrooms in Toronto and Montpellier. Intercultural Education, 26(6), 497-514.
  51. Roy, S. (2012). Qui décide du meilleur français? Représentations des variétés linguistiques du français en immersion. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 15(1), 1-19.
  52. Roy, S. (2015). Discours et idéologies en immersion française. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 18(2), 125-143.
  53. Roy, S. (2020). French immersion ideologies in Canada. Lexington Books.
  54. Sabatier, C., Moore, D., & Dagenais, D. (2013). Espaces urbains, compétences littératiées multimodales, identités citoyennes en immersion française au Canada. Glottopol, 21, 138-161.
  55. Shapiro, S. (2014). "Words That You Said Got Bigger": English Language Learners' Lived Experiences of Deficit Discourse. Research in the Teaching of English, 386-406.
  56. Shapiro, S., & MacDonald, M. T. (2017). From deficit to asset: Locating discursive resistance in a refugee-background student’s written and oral narrative. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 16(2), 80-93.
  57. Statistics Canada. (2023). Focus on Geography Series, 2021 Census of Population. Retrieved from
  58. Sterzuk, A., & Shin, H. (2021). English monolingualism in Canada: A critical analysis of language ideologies. In U. Lanvers, A.S. Thompson, M. East (Eds.) Language learning in anglophone countries. Palgrave Macmillan.
  59. Stewart, J., El Chaar, D., McCluskey, K., & Borgardt, K. (2019). Refugee student integration: A focus on settlement, education, and psychosocial support. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Education, 14(1).
  60. Turnbull, M., Lapkin, S., & Hart, D. (2001). Grade 3 immersion students' performance in literacy and mathematics: Province-wide results from Ontario (1998-99). Canadian Modern Language Review, 58(1), 9-26.
  61. Wilkinson, L. A. (2001). The integration of refugee youth in Canada. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Alberta]. University of Alberta Librariries.
  62. Wilkinson, L., Garcea, J., Bhattacharyya, P., Riziki, A., & Abdul Karim, A.-B. (2017) Resettling on the Canadian prairies: Integration of Syrian refugees. Calgary: Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Integration Branch-Prairies and Northwest Territories Division, and Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies, 89 pages.
  63. Wise, N. (2011). Access to special education for exceptional students in French immersion programs: An equity issue. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 14(1), 177-193.