French Spelling Abilities of Franco-Ontarian University Students

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Abstract

Studies have shown that the mastery of French grammatical spelling skills is far from complete at the end of elementary school and that this process takes many years to reach mastery, from kindergarten to Grade 12 and beyond. This study aims to compare the literacy skills of Franco-Ontarian students with respect to gender, language spoken at home, and geographical region, using sentences from a standardized dictation. These dictations consist of 150 phrases (ten dictations, comprised of fifteen sentences each) used to measure the mastery of fifteen grammatical spelling skills deemed essential for reaching master of French spelling. The dictations were adapted for Franco-Ontarians and administered to 158 participants. This adaptation included the use of words more commonly used and understood by Franco-Ontarians (i.e. CN Tower was substituted for Eiffel Tower). The results of this study will help propose a hierarchy of grammatical spelling skills designed for use in primary and secondary schools. Historically, females have demonstrated a better mastery of grammatical spelling skills than males, and students who are educated in settings where French is the majority language (and the language of instruction) have a better mastery of spelling than those who are educated in settings where French is the language used by the minority of the population. Those who speak more French at home are also more successful than those who speak mainly English. The hierarchy demonstrates that certain grammatical skills that are deemed to be simple that should be mastered in elementary school are not yet mastered at the post-secondary level. This confirms the need to teach grammatical competencies explicitly and in sequence to ensure the mastery of these skills.