Newcomer Story: Anne Sonie Joseph Noel

Three cheers for our Language Contest April Grand Winner, Anne Sonie Joseph Noel!!! We are shining the spotlight on her in our Newcomer Stories this month.

We couldn’t be any prouder of Anne Sonie, who is one of English Online’s (EO) most active learners. Besides attending LINC Home Study sessions with a one-on-one instructor, she also participates in various drop-in group sessions throughout the week. Aside from this, she joins the Language Contest every Friday to practice what she learned in her classes.

“Every day I learn in three or four classes, so the contest provided a space to get involved. It’s an opportunity to do my best. I actually failed the third week and I was very angry with myself! I knew the answer but made a very bad mistake. When I wrote the answer, I used “in” instead of “on” and because of that I didn’t win that week. But I kept trying,” Anne Sonie said.

Because of her perseverance, she garnered the most number of correct answers by the end of the month which earned for her the much deserved title of Grand Winner.

“It was cold but I felt their warm welcome”

Our diligent student arrived at the end of December 2021 in Manitoba. Anne Sonie, her husband, 10-year old son, plus a baby on the way, landed in Winnipeg at the height of winter. Despite being prepared and warmly-dressed, actually feeling -30 °C for the first time was a whole new experience for them. Haiti, their home country, has tropical weather all year round. “It was shocking. It was difficult for me to open my eyes because of the wind and cold outside,” Anne Sonie said.

After the initial shock, what made up for the cold were friendly Haitian families and Manitobans. “Even though we arrived here in winter and it was really cold, the people we met gave us a warm welcome which is good. The family who came and picked us up was so kind and accommodating. They made sure that we were comfortable. I like this heat that emerges from their kindness, Anne Sonie said.

Francophones in MB

Aside from the weather, another thing that was a departure from her expectations was the language. “We were told that Manitoba is a province where French and English were spoken so it would be easy for Francophones when they come here, she said. This was great news for Anne Sonie and her family since French and Creole are the official languages of Haiti. However, while she did find some French services as well as a French school for her son in Winnipeg, she learned that English is still a necessity as most people speak it here.

“When I gave birth to my baby at the women’s hospital, I couldn’t find a French-speaker right away . My husband and I put aside the fear of making mistakes in English and put our words together to make ourselves understood. You have to ask if there are French services or if somebody can speak French with you. If not, you must try,” Anne Sonie said. “I realized that I still needed to learn English to connect with others. Also, if you don’t have enough English, you can’t get work. My husband failed a lot of interviews because of English. It’s a disadvantage, I can say. We have to speak English to adapt faster,” she added.

“This is why I would recommend EO to other newcomers. We not only learn English, but it’s a package. We learn a lot about our host country, about other nationalities, other cultures and how to live with them. This is important because we are living in a multicultural place.”

“English is a language I dream of”

Anne Sonie took a language test at WELARC after giving birth to their second child so she could learn English right away. WELARC referred her to LINC Home Study which allowed her to take classes online while taking care of her baby.

“After I registered, I learned that LINC Home Study is under the umbrella of English Online. I saw that I could also attend Coffee Chats, Multi Week Workshops, and the Citizenship Class. I love that class! I learned about the political system of Canada,” she said.

“This is why I would recommend EO to other newcomers. We not only learn English, but it’s a package. We learn a lot about our host country, about other nationalities, other cultures and how to live with them. This is important because we are living in a multicultural place,” she added.

Another thing she likes about EO are the teachers. ”I like the kindness of the teachers and their ability to create a favourable atmosphere in order to learn and give the best of one’s self. They’re all very nice. They give you confidence to speak. Even if you make mistakes, you’ll learn. They don’t judge you. And if you ask them a question that they do not know the answer to, they will look for it and come back to you afterwards. It’s a good attitude since nobody has all the answers,” she added.

Being such a motivated learner, it’s not surprising that her English proficiency improved in a short span of time. During the interview, I remarked that she speaks English very well. Anne Sonie smiled and said “Most of my teachers say that too. They say that I express myself clearly. This feedback helps me to move forward, I appreciate it. English is a language I dream of, I really want to speak it.”

Future plans

“Now I’m taking care of my daughter who is only four months old. But I want to study and get a job in order to integrate into the community. I could go back to banking but I’m thinking about shifting to the healthcare field,” she said. Prior to moving to Canada, Anne Sonie had been working at Unibank S.A. for almost six years. She holds a degree in Economics (Diplôme en Sciences économiques) as well as a degree in American Accounting and Business Mathematics.

In the meantime, she continues to improve her English to be ready to explore her future prospects. She’ll need a higher CLB to go back to school. “At the University of St. Boniface, they recommend that we have to have level 7 CLB to take up a course like Nursing. It’s a project. It’s on my mind,” she said.

Aside from studies and career, she is also looking forward to exploring her new home. “I don’t know the country very well yet because it’s not easy for me to go out,” she said. With warmer weather finally coming, she is planning on going out more and discovering Canada’s natural beauty.

To all newcomers, this is Anne Sonie’s advice: “Learn English before coming because it’s really important to make yourself understood. Try to build your network even while in your native country. It’s a very important thing. When you’re new in a country and you don’t know anybody, it will be very hard for you. Keep an open mind and don’t be shy to ask for help if needed.”

She adds, “We have a saying in Creole that goes ‘Bwa pi wo di li wè lwen, men grenn pwomennen di li wè pi lwen pase l,’ it means exploring the world gives us more possibilities than staying where we are. I hope that newcomers to Manitoba like me will see this journey as an adventure. It’s important not to feel discouraged by obstacles but to be motivated by the opportunities we see in front of us.”