What is Intensive French?

Until recently, there have been only two options for teaching/learning French as a second language in the school system in Canada: the regular French program, usually called 'Core French', and Immersion. Now there is a third way, Intensive French.

Intensive French is a program offering students of all abilities, who are not enrolled in immersion programs, an effective way to learn to communicate spontaneously in French. It is a literacy-based approach, which means that students learn to speak, read and write in French, in that order. Grammar is acquired naturally, through use rather than by learning rules. Using their second language, students talk, read and write about themselves and their experiences, and are active in the classroom. Unlike Immersion, however, Intensive French students do not learn any subject matter in French. Intensive French likewise differs from Core French in that French is the language of communication in the classroom. It is based on the Neurolinguistic Approach to second language learning.


What are the results?

At the end of the five-month intensive period of the program, students can communicate in French spontaneously on subjects related to their experiences. Listen to two students interviewed after five months of Intensive French.

In New Brunswick, Intensive French and Post-Intensive French have replaced the Core French program for all students not in Immersion; participation in the program is compulsory from Grade 5 to the end of Grade 10.

By the end of secondary school, students are able to communicate independently on a wide variety of subjects. Fiona Stewart, Second Language Learning Specialist, Intensive French, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in New Brunswick, where the program is now implemented to the end of high school, points out that, according to their Grade 10 evaluation data, in the 2011-2012 school year (the last year in which there were Core French students in N.B.), only 23.5% of the students in Core French were able to carry on a conversation in French at the Basic Level (spontaneous communication) or above. This result can be compared with that achieved in 2015-2016, following the implementation of Post-Intensive French, which showed that 46.6% of Grade 10 non-immersion students were able to communicate at the Basic Level or above.

These interviews with two students at the end of Grade 10 demonstrate the effectiveness of Intensive French and Post-Intensive French.

How does Intensive French work?

The first part of the program is generally offered in Grade 5 or 6 (sometimes preceded by the Pre-Intensive program in Grade 4 or 5). For the first semester (five months), approximately half of the school day is devoted to activities in French. Mathematics and certain other subjects usually taught by specialists, such as music for example, are taught in English. In the other five months, students follow their regular timetable, as illustrated in the following chart.

The first year of the program is illustrated in the following chart. In one semester, for five months, most of the day is spent learning French, using a literacy-based approach to language learning. Mathematics and certain other subjects usually taught by specialists, such as music for example, are taught in English. In the other five months, students follow their regular timetable.

Time allocations for programs may vary somewhat from school district to school district. 

Where can Intensive French be found?

The program, including Post-Intensive French, has been implemented in a number of school districts across all provinces and territories, except Quebec and Prince Edward Island. In New Brunswick, Intensive French and Post-Intensive French have become the compulsory French programs for students not enrolled in French Immersion programs..

Enrolment figures for 2017-2018 have not yet been cumulated at this time. Approximate enrolment figures across Canada in 2016-2017 were approximately 25,900: 3,300 in Pre-Intensive French (Grade 4 or 5), 6,000 in Grade 5 or 6, the Intensive French year, and 16,600 in Post-Intensive French. Since its inception in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1998, there have been over 100,000 students enrolled in the intensive year of the program. The program has grown rapidly, as may be seen in the graphs below.

Pre Intensive, Intensive and Post Intensive French

In Canada 2017-2018


Number of students

Pre IF (Grades 4/5)

3 266

IF (Grades 5/6)

6 016

Post IF (Grades 6/7 to 12)

16 591


25 873

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the first implementation of Intensive French, in Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here to see the first teachers and students who helped to develop the program.

For More Information in Your Area

Consult the French programs division of your local Ministry or Department of Education or school district.

Yukon: 867 332 0485 

Northwest Territories: 867 920 8992

Yellowknife School District #1: 867 776 5065

British Columbia: 250 886 2630

Alberta, Calgary Board of Education: 403 817 7626

Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools: 403 995 4825 

Saskatchewan: 306 787 2595 

Manitoba, Louis Riel School Division: 204 257 7827

Nunavut: 867 975 7917 

Ontario, Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario: 613 932 1720

Waterloo Catholic District School Board: 519 578 3660

Niagara Catholic District School Board: 905 735 1687

New Brunswick: 506 444 4916

Nova Scotia: 902 424 5353

Newfoundland and Labrador: 709 729 5127