Language training models for
health care & social service
personnel
Prepared by Dr. Samantha Wehbi
for the McGill University Training & Human Resources Development Project
September 2005
Presentation Outline
Introduction
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Current situation and need for language instruction
Literature review search strategy
Models
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Common elements
Model description: Summary table
Examples of each model
Impact on accessibility & quality of services of each model
Models: Strengths & Limitations
Recommendations
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Course design
General recommendations
What would a model course look like?
2
Introduction
Current situation & need for language
instruction
Ever-increasing socio-cultural diversity;
Many health care and social service personnel feel
unequipped to work with this diversity;
Access to and quality of services are compromised by
language barriers;
The focus has mostly been on improving clients’
language skills with little focus on the role of
professionals;
Interpretation services are not always available, reliable
or cost-effective;
Language training for health and social service
professionals is as an alternative to improve the quality
and accessibility of services.
3
Introduction
Literature review search strategy
Literature review of journals, books,
dissertations and databases (for reports
on language training programs)
Information was synthesized and three
“models” of language training programs
were drawn out
4
Models
Common elements
Needs analysis component
Listening and speaking (some attention to
grammar)
Terminology and language skills needed for
specific occupations or for specific work-related
situations
Cultural awareness component
Practice component or homework
Differences among the programs lie in the target
audience; three main “models” can be discerned
5
Model Description: Summary table
Model
Model 1:
Teaching foreign
students/ workers
language &
occupational skills
Model 2:
Teaching workers
foreign languages
Model 3:
Teaching students
foreign languages
during their degrees
Participants
Skills
Immigrants whose first
language is not that of the host
country
Occupational skills of
chosen profession &
language skills focused on
occupational terminology;
oral & writing skills & roleplaying; cultural awareness
component
Workers who speak the
language of their country of
residence; & are interested in
better communicating with
clients from linguistic minority
communities
General language skills or
language for specific
purposes; most emphasis on
speaking; role-playing &
cultural awareness
Students who speak the
language of their country of
residence; & are interested in
eventually better communicating
with clients from linguistic
minority communities
General language skills or
language for specific
purposes. Some focus on the
skill of speaking; others also
focus on grammar
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Model 1
Teaching foreign students/ workers language
& occupational skills
Course* at a settlement agency for immigrants interested
in the health care field (with the elderly) in Canada
Course duration: full-time/ 7 months
Course design: 4 hours/day of occupational skills offered
by a registered nurse & 2.5 hours of ESL by a language
teacher
Course content: home maintenance, lifting, personal
care, health, physiology, etc. General English skills,
specific English for health-care & job-search process
2 practica (total of 9 weeks)
Improved self-esteem and self-confidence; acquisition of
occupational and language skills
_______________________________
*
Source: Wong, P., Duff, P. & Early, M. (2001). The impact of language and skills
training on immigrants’ lives. TESL Canada Journal, 18(2), 1-31.
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Model 1
Impact on accessibility &
quality of services
Increased presence of health and social workers
from diverse linguistic/cultural backgrounds
Diversity of cultural worldviews and know-how
Clients more likely to hear about the availability
of services from within their own communities
Clients more likely to access care once inside
setting due to the presence of qualified
professionals speaking their own language
8
Model 2
Teaching workers foreign languages
Experiential learning course* for practising social
workers from US (offered through university)
Course duration: 10 days/full-time
Course design: 3 orientation sessions in Spanish on
cultural awareness and social work; cultural immersion
through home stays with Mexican families
Course content: 3 hours/day of speaking/listening and
grammar skills for everyday functioning (emphasis on
social work terminology); visits to social service agencies
and daily social work/language seminars
Importance of experiential learning for an understanding
of the cognitive and emotional aspects of language and
culture; increase of language skills and cultural
competence
____________________________
*
Source: Boyle, D.P. & Barranti, C. (1999). A model for international continuing
education: Cross-cultural experiential professional development. Professional
Development: The International Journal of Continuing Social Work Education, 2(2),
57-62.
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Model 2
Impact on accessibility &
quality of services
More workers able to communicate with
clients from linguistic communities not
their own (after 1 course)
Interpretation problems are avoided
Improved quality through an increase in
cultural awareness; shedding
preconceived notions about ethno-cultural
minorities
10
Model 3
Teaching students foreign languages
Introductory Spanish course* for upper-class nursing
students at a US University
Course duration: one semester
Course design: classes 2 times/ week.
Course content: speaking skills used in health care
situations. Role playing, audio-visual material,
homework, visits by health care professionals and social
workers
Importance of combining grammar and spoken language
skills (to allow for further development)
Importance of information about diversity of cultures and
the socio-culturally appropriate uses of language
________________
*
Source: Maier, C. (1986). Fitting it all in one semester : An intensive introductory
course in Spanish for health-care personnel. Hispania, 69, 714-719.
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Model 3
Impact on accessibility &
quality of services
Students are given opportunity to build
language and cultural awareness skills
useful in practice settings
Health care and social service practice
settings have access to a greater pool of
qualified bilingual (or multilingual)
professionals
Enhanced quality as clients are able to
express their needs in their language
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Models: Strengths & Limitations
Model
Model 1:
Teaching foreign students/
workers language &
occupational skills
Model 2:
Teaching workers foreign
languages
Model 3:
Teaching students foreign
languages during their
degrees
Strengths
Limitations
--Increases number of professionals from
diverse cultures
--Skills useful to general communication &
specific occupational needs
--Cooperation of professionals with course
implementation
Does not address the
language training needs of
workers or students who are
in the majority of the
population
--Combination of experiential and in-class
learning
--Specialized terminology and language skills
that are relevant to practice settings
--Integration of cultural awareness content
--Accommodates workers with busy schedules
if the employer supports these endeavours
--Professionals do not always
have time or official employer
sanction to take courses
--Cultural awareness must be
instilled earlier
--Provides professionals with the necessary
skills early on in their careers, with more time
to integrate learning before being employed
--Leeway to make mistakes and learn in a
classroom environment
--Students more focused on learning instead of
having to “steal time” to be in a course
--Combines in-class learning with experiential
learning
--Focus is on listening skills
at the expense of grammar
--Students may lose skills if
they do not become
employed in practice settings
where they can apply them
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Recommendations:
General
Start courses early-on in a professional’s
training
Conceive of language training as
professional and personal development
Build on basic skills through regular and
continuing education
Ensure the existence of institutional
supports
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Recommendations:
Course design
Tailor the course to student needs
Combine language training with cultural
awareness
Focus on specialized language with some
exposure to more general language
Balance grammar and speaking/listening
skills
Focus on skills that allow students to
understand the various aspects of
language
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What would a model course for
workers or students look like?
Duration:
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2 semesters or 28 weeks long; meets once weekly (to accommodate
busy schedules)
Instructor:
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Taught by a professional language instructor with the cooperation of
professionals from relevant fields
Students:
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Participation limited to 20 students
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Participants from same field or profession
Content:
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Focus on speaking/listening with basic grammar skills
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Cultural awareness component
Methods:
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In-class learning combined with reflection on practice experiences
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Reliance on texts, audio-visual material, role plays
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Experiential or practicum component
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Language training models in health and social services