I have a dream.
Well, truth be told, I have many dreams.
Not only for myself but for Ella.
One dream that I have for both of us is more than a dream. It is a plan. One day, I plan on living in France. Maybe not in the near future but one day, it is my hope that Ben will get even a temporary job in Paris and it is my plan that as a family we will leave everything…again to live in France, perhaps just for a season, or perhaps longer. Jakob and Ella will attend school and I will do what I do best: be a mom and maybe take some photos.
So with this in mind, I dream that one day, Ella will speak both French and English. Whether that is with the help of French immersion is yet to be determined. You see, here in Canada we are a bilingual country (I bet some of you didn’t know that). As a result, we have the option of schooling our children through French immersion. We have chosen this for Jakob not only because we wanted him to have a second language but also because going into kindergarten he had already had a year of traditional learning. So the question arises, do we send Ella to French immersion? Well, most people, especially educators would say that is absurd. Students who do well in French immersion have a knack for languages already have a good grasp of English going into school. Naturally, it would be assumed that a child with Down syndrome who at the age of 4 can’t put together a 4 word sentence (or identify the letters of the alphabet) does not have a good grasp on language and therefore would not be a good candidate for this program. But I can’t help but wonder.
You see, when I consider the unlikelihood of a child with Down Syndrome learning a second language I can’t help but recount yet another Cambridge moment. Like every other day, Ella and I were spending some time in the library. We were trying to stay out of the way of a visiting school group when I was approached by a very attractive lady. She wore cropped navy chinos and a white tunic top. She kindly complimented Ella’s beauty, which is not uncommon however what was uncommon is that she told me in return that her daughter too, had Down Syndrome with a natural ease (usually people are extremely awkward in these situations). It was a short conversation but somehow it came up that her daughter spoke both English and Italian and was doing very well in school. She encouraged me that there was no reason why Ella could not also speak two languages.
I am faced with the realities of Ella’s developmental delays on a daily basis but I think to myself, if we were to move to France – she would learn French. There is just no question. It might take a bit longer but if she isn’t going to “do well” in the regular English curriculum then what does it matter if she doesn’t “do well” in the French immersion curriculum? After all, they can’t legally refuse me. So tell me, what do you think? And is there anyone out there that has actually tried it?