"I think there is a need to educate the French affiliates that the resources are available and ... they should learn English to follow the Journal and stay up-to-date."
Teaching the language of movement is the goal of every CrossFit coach. In some boxes, where members and coaches may speak different languages, sharing cues and standards can be a challenge.
Quebec affiliates face a language barrier to reach new members, learn the sport and obtain the skills necessary to coach.
CrossFit is predominantly an English sport. Quebec has a thriving CrossFit community with 66 affiliates in a population of 8 million people. Many gym owners are bilingual and regularly straddle English and French. However, some of their members report feeling isolated from the wider CrossFit community. Some don’t read the Journal. Others struggle to understand the English curriculum in CrossFit seminar courses.
“I think there is a false understanding that if you simply do CrossFit, you can pass your L1 Seminar without studying the material. Most French people in Quebec do that and they fail the test,” Matthieu Dubreucq says.
Jocelyn Frenette, the General Manager at Deka CrossFit, believes the problem is more serious.
“Many people have failed their exams not for the lack of CrossFit knowledge, but because of the language barrier,” she says.
Frenette says she thinks this reluctance has led to a shortage of qualified coaches in Quebec.
In larger urban centres, like Quebec City and Montreal, bilingualism is common among both members and coaches. Claude Leblanc-Bazinet, of CrossFit Brossard, says she doesn’t see much of a problem with speaking different languages.
“We don’t really have any problem with the French language and CrossFit here,” she says. “We live close to Montreal, so nearly all of our members are bilingual, and we coach in French. Even for competition, it’s not a problem.”
Gyms straddle the language gap in different ways.
Jean-Phillippe Paquette of CrossFit Granby makes sure he has a bilingual staff on duty.
“We are a little far from big centers like Montreal, so it's not only important for me to have a coach who speaks English, it's a must-have. We always succeed in making things clear,” he says.
Among the members, English is rarely spoken. This has created some challenges when athletes want to advance. Paquette steps in to translate where necessary, and has even attended a L1 Seminar with a member to assist.
“I had to attend to a Level 1 Seminar with one of my clients because he doesn’t speak English at all, so he asked CrossFit for permission to bring a translator,” he explains. “I had to translate coach advice, everything that was put on board. Some people here can understand some parts, but not 100 percent.”
In Montreal, Dubreucq serves as a translator at many seminars. Paquette notes how helpful Dubreucq's presence can be for the French-speaking athletes.
“Maybe for French regions like Quebec, France, Belgium, a French-speaking coach should be at the seminars,” Paquette suggests. “It could help some people to pass their test or just understand more.”
When an athlete struggles to comprehend the curriculum, Dubreucq is generous with his time.
“At this exact moment, I am helping a girl who failed the exam twice because she doesn’t speak English, so she has a hard time studying the material,” he says.
“I think there is a need to educate the French affiliates that the resources are available and … they should learn English to follow the Journal and stay up-to-date.”
As part of the French-speaking CrossFit community, Dubreucq encourages athletes to ask for help from their community to be successful, and seek it from others online.