If you are thinking of enrolling your child in a French Public school and you're the Anglophone half of a mixed French/English couple, this section is for you.
Exogamy is defined as a union between two people with different mother tongues and cultural backgrounds. In French, the term is exogamie. Some people prefer to use «mixed», «linguistically mixed», or «culturally mixed». Regardless of the expression one chooses, the fact remains that a lot of children in Canada's francophone education system come from this type of family. Approximately 45 percent of francophone families in Ontario are exogamous, while 61 percent speak French at home.
However, exogamy as a family structure need not prevent children from developing the francophone part of their family heritage. You and your spouse can decide to create the conditions for your children to become fluently bilingual by actively promoting the use of French.
Children in culturally mixed families have the potential to become fluently bilingual and identify with francophone and anglophone culture. They can do this when both parents respect each other's language and culture. Studies show that parents also help when they encourage the use of French at home and enrol their children in a francophone school.
What's best for my child?
It's not always easy to be objective, especially when it comes to making important decisions for our children. Exogamous couples face some unique challenges brought about by the presence of two languages and cultures in their home. Consider just a few of the questions that need to be answered sooner or later:
- What language(s) should we speak to our children?
- Do we want our children to be bilingual?
- What does it mean to be one or the other?
- Are they mutually exclusive?
Keep in mind that your children have a unique potential to gain two languages and cultures from the moment they are born. How you help them develop this potential is up to you. But remember: it's their potential, and your responsibility is to do what's best for them!
Parents who choose a francophone daycare, preschool, or kindergarten are about to connect with a community that understands them better than any other. Such institutions exist to fill a need among francophone and exogamous families for services tailored to their situation.