Comets become French snowbirds

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 20, 2001


LAPLACE – While many St. Charles Catholic students were resting the week after the new year, 18 French students head for Canada in search of snow, fun and a French-speaking environment. Led by St. Charles French teacher Kathy Luquette, the group took off Jan. 2 for the week-long trip. “We do this about every other year. Logistically it takes time to set this up,” said Luquette. Before it took some time to find enough students to go, now there are often too many. The goal is two fold, to go skiing, the favorite event, and to speak French. “The kids go for the snow but get French anyway,” said Luquette. The six-day trip, which cost just under $1,000, was jam packed with activities for the students. They had a chance to experience skiing, snow showing at night, dog sledding, the falls at Parc de la Chute Montmorency, Old Quebec, frozen water slides, the Olympic tower and the Notre-Dame Basilica. “This was the first time we did snow shoeing,” said Luquette. The students strapped on their shoes and hiked with torches through the snow and up a mountain at night. A summer water park was converted into a winter sledding area, as the slides were iced over, and the kids rode inner tubes down the chutes. They even got to watch a group ice fishing. “They cut a hole in the ice, and within 10 minutes they were pulling a fish out,” said Luquette. “Fourteen years ago I had to beg friends to come,” said Luquette. Now the trip’s reputation for fun in the snow has many French students saving up for the trip. Quebec was the best destination for the students, said Luquette. At trip to Europe would take too long, having to account for jet lag. In Canada the students can get the experience of a French-speaking culture without crossing the ocean. They also experience little culture shock compared to what they would find in a European culture. The group is escorted by a local Quebec company, which Luquette has been using ever since the trips began. “Cajuns like to go see some snow, but the benefit is from the language. It makes what they learn in the classroom more real than it was before,” said Luquette. The students began to overcome their timidity and spoke in French. They started ordering food. The people from Quebec were all to happy to speak English, but they also allowed the students to practice, the teacher said. “They’d come back and say, I spoke French to them and it worked,'” said Luquette. The effect of the trip is mainly seen in an increase in the students’ interest in the language. “They see how valuable this is to learn, after sometimes saying, I’m never going to use this,'” said Luquette. “We tried to speak French and they’d say, Do you speak English? Then speak it,'” said one student. Most of the time they spent helping the Canadians with their English, another student stated. The trip is offered first to the upper-level French students, said Luquette. Though they usually go in March, the time off after the new year gave them fitting time to make the trip. The snow was the jewel of the trip. “They played in it constantly,” said Luquette. The kids couldn’t get over how far down you could sink in it. “They had snowball fights from the time they arrived to when they left,” said Luquette. One of the biggest surprises was how much a snowflake actually looks like what they cut out in first grade. “They were running around catching it in their mouths like they were 5-year-olds,” she added with a smile.