Understandably, there is a strong desire amongst parents at OMS to have their children be as bilingual as possible. And we at OMS want this too. After all, we do live in the capital city of a bilingual country. At OMS, we offer an intensive French as a Second Language (FSL) program which is tried and tested. Cathy Nguyen, an alumna student, would testify to this.
Cathy, who attended OMS from Grades 1 to Grade 8, is now bilingual. Cathy was in the English program at OMS and learned French through the FSL program.
"...I had wonderful, caring teachers that inspired and motivated me to have a sense of curiosity and drive to master a language while providing me with all the necessary resources to do so," said Cathy.
The FSL Program at OMS incorporates the gesture based program, the Accelerative Integrated Method, with traditional lessons on vocabulary, grammar and verbs to teach French to students beginning at 4 years of age. Four and five year olds receive FSL in their Montessori classrooms for half an hour every day. Elementary students work in small FSL classes of 10 to 12 students for a half day, two days out of four. These longer periods allow the FSL certified teachers to immerse the students in French as they work on a variety of projects and converse with one another and their teacher. At the Element level (Grades 7, 8 and 9) the FSL teachers are in the class for a half day every day and the students take some of their course content in French and cook their class’ lunch with the mentorship of their FSL teachers. Students at OMS also benefit from being in a school with a Francophone program (a program for students who come to OMS speaking French as a native and who have at least one parent who speaks French to them regularly). Students hear French as a working language on the playground, at intramurals, at school events, and throughout the school every day.
"The classroom environment was always a welcoming place and I was never shy to try and make a mistake. I, as well as my peers, was always encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and simply learn," said Cathy.
And learn she did.
After graduating from OMS, Cathy entered the IB Program at Colonel By where she received the Honours Society Award and Silver Medal Award in addition to a French (IB) subject award in both Grades 9 and 10. Cathy even took on the role of IB French ambassador in Grade 10, which meant she was responsible for helping various peers with French assignments or questions. When she left Colonel By to attend Longfields Davidson Heights Secondary School for Grades 11 and 12, she continued to receive the Honours Society Award and Silver Medal Award and continued to be recognized for her French.
Cathy excelled in French, but this isn't something she considers unique for OMS alumni. "I have heard from many alumni students that their French abilities were noticeably more advanced than all other peers in their post OMS-education and I can strongly confirm this to be true."
Now, as a first year student at the University of Ottawa for the Biomedical Sciences Program, Cathy admits that she doesn't speak as much French as she would like although she does speak French with her Dad sometimes. But her schooling is keeping her busy. She is currently debating between pharmacy and pediatrics. "I recently worked at a tutoring summer camp last summer and took part in the MedTalk mini med school event which sparked this different career path aspiration," said Cathy in regard to pediatrics. Her original plan was to be a pharmacist working for a prominent pharmaceutical company, travelling nationally sharing her passion for the safe and effective use of pharmaceutical drugs with others. Regardless of which field she pursues, Cathy's education is keeping her busy. When she isn't studying, she enjoys reading, baking, figure skating, gym or attending music festivals, her favourite being Ottawa's own Bluesfest!