Learning the language is part of every profession, with every new job featuring its own distinct jargon that takes time to absorb and acquire.
That process presents an even bigger challenge when English isn’t your first language.
To obtain job-specific vocabulary, as well as boost their English proficiency in general, recent immigrants Lei Wang and Balwinder Kaur Loomba, from China and India respectively, both studied at Red River College’s Language Training Centre (LTC) in the English for Health Care Aides (now called Communication for Health Professions) program. Both women moved on to RRC’s Health Care Aide program, graduating in January.
In February, both Wang and Loomba found positions as health care aides at St. Boniface Hospital.
“I remember Mona (Abu-Ghoush, an LTC instructor) gave us lots of articles about the healthcare field,” says Wang (shown above, at right) of the English for Health Care Aides program.
“She gave us different vocabulary. She wants us to get familiar with the sound. A lot of healthcare language comes from Latin, and she found lots of difficult words for us. I like that. When I take my Health Care Aide program, it does help. When I see the thick book, I didn’t get scared.”
In addition to the standard textbook/whiteboard teaching method, English for Health Care Aides also includes guest speakers, workshops, field trips and volunteer work experience. Wang says that hands-on approach to learning English was beneficial.
“We did lots of presentations to better communicate,” says Wang, who came to Canada in 2011. “We have the knowledge, but it’s quite scary to talk to people and communicate with each other. Every week we had presentations and all those presentations were related to health. It’s quite useful.”
Loomba, a teacher back in India, says she chose the Health Care Aide program because she enjoys taking care of people, including her two sons, aged nine and one-and-a-half. As part of her duties at St. Boniface Hospital, Loomba assists patients with their daily activities, including mobility and hygiene, as well as their physical, social and emotional needs.
While she enjoys her job, Loomba would like to one day move into the field of nursing.
“I want to go in nursing, but it (being a health care aide) is a good way to learn,” says Loomba, who moved to Canada in 2010. “I always try to ask the nurses questions. I’m not allowed to do their work, but I always ask questions. If anything is not clear or anything is new, they explain to me.”
Wang, who has a 16-year-old daughter, said she’d also like to go into nursing, but first wants to gain more experience speaking English, and working as a health care aide.
An accountant before moving to Canada, Wang says her outgoing personality is more suited to taking care of people than crunching numbers. That same outgoing nature serves her well when it comes to learning English.
“I’m not an original Canadian, I’m still learning the language, and every day I learn something,” Wang says. “I think the best thing for me is to keep my mind open and learn and not just think ‘I’m good, I have a job, so I can stop learning.’
“I think the best thing is to keep going, keep learning. Every day when I go to work I listen to the radio and after I run home I read the Bible or some article. I want to keep myself updated with English, with the language.”
Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)