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It’s class day at the Boardwalk RV Resort
in Homestead, Florida. The students
are engaged in a role-playing scenario:
getting across the border. Instructor
Jacques Monette supervises as the stu-
dents ask each other border-specific
questions: how long will you be in the
U.S.? Where will you be staying? Are
you carrying any illegal items? Crossing
the border can be stressful for anyone.
When you’re French and don’t speak
much English, it’s especially challeng-
ing. Jacques’ class is comprised of 20
francophone snowbirds who share one
common goal: to improve their English-
speaking skills so that they may com-
municate more effectively with their
English-speaking compatriots down
Jacques Monette is a bilingual
Quebecer who spends five-six months
per year at the Boardwalk RV Resort
in Homestead. Last year, he was ap-
proached by Quebec CSA Director
James Leroux. There was a proposition:
would Jacques be interested in teach-
ing an English class? There was growing
interest among francophone snowbirds
to improve their English-speaking skills
while wintering in Florida. Jacques’
name had been suggested by someone
in his park. As a fully bilingual retired
customs officer who had travelled the
world, he appeared to be the ideal can-
didate. He also knew the challenges of
trying to navigate through day-to-day
activities when you don’t speak the pre-
dominant language. “People in my park
often come to me with documents they
receive and don’t understand because
of their language,” explains Jacques.
“They may want me to shop for some-
thing particular or to order something
on the Internet. They come to me for
help. I’ve accompanied people to the
doctor, eye doctor and even the den-
turologist on many occasions.”
Jacques agreed to the proposition
and planning was soon underway. The
classes would take place over a three-
year period; each class would be three
hours in length and last for 10 weeks.
In order to keep the class free of charge
to the students, the Canadian Snowbird
Association provided funds for the re-
quired photocopies and supplies, such
as pencils and binders. It wasn’t long
before eager participants began sign-
ing up for the English classes that would
take place at the community centre at
the Boardwalk RV Resort. Jacques relied
on his career as a customs officer to pre-
pare himself for the role of educator; for
many years, he provided training across
the world on border-related matters.
He also made use of a handy website,, to download
materials such as crossword puzzles,
word searches and worksheets. His ob-
jective was straightforward: learn and
have fun at the same time.
When the first classes began in 2013,
Jacques found that the students were
very quiet. “Many did not want to speak.
They were afraid of being laughed at,”
recalls Jacques. “Most of them didn’t
speak a word of English.” For 10 weeks,
Jacques worked with his students, go-
ing through the alphabet, conjugating
verbs and encouraging them to re-en-
act everyday scenarios, such as visiting
a store or a restaurant. Gradually, they
gained confidence and started speak-
ing. “They said that they went shopping
and were able to understand what was
being said to them,”comments Jacques.
“They were also able to make them-
selves understood to others.”
Jacques volunteers his time as an in-
structor. It’s a big commitment…a
Without any compensation, one won-
ders what propels him to dedicate so
much of his time to his students. “My
biggest reward is watching them make
progress,” he explains. “I like to see that
they are challenged, but having fun as
well.” With one year of English classes
remaining, Jacques hopes that he will
reach his ultimate goal: to “graduate”
20 francophone students who are no
longer hesitant to go out on their own
and communicate with their English-
speaking neighbours. He hopes that
they will have the foundation neces-
sary to navigate through streets, stores
and doctors’offices, feeling confident in
their interpretation and verbal skills.
For all of his hardwork, Jacques recently
received a surprise. This past February,
at the French Winter Information
Meeting in Hollywood, Florida, he was
presented with the CSA President’s
Award in recognition of his commit-
ment to his fellow Franco-Canadians
in overcoming the language barriers
in a foreign country. “I was very happy
to meet with the president of the CSA,”
says Jacques. “And very proud to re-
ceive the President’s Award. It will be
kept well seen!”