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PHOTO: Japanese ALI students teach-ing origami to a resident of Broadway by the Sea nursing center

When English is someone’s second language, it can be a challenge just to say “hello.” So imagine what it’s like to say “stethoscope” when you’re a newly arrived international student trying to navigate the U.S. healthcare system.

For that reason, the American Language Institute (ALI) at CPIE has been working hard to offer targeted English training for specialized groups. Over the past 12 years, their English for Nursing program has provided a unique educational experience for 334 students from Yokkaichi Nursing and Medical Care University (YNMCU) in Yokkaichi, Japan—a sister city of Long Beach.

“We have developed an in-house curriculum that covers basic English skills for working with patients,” explained Mallory Massie, the ALI Special Programs coordinator. “During their two-week program, students visit local hospitals to learn more about our medical facilities.” 

This past summer, 22 YNMCU students arrived in Long Beach for the latest intensive English for Nursing program. Their training included highly specific topics, such as culturally appropriate ways to address patients of different ages, asking about symptoms, and providing remedies and medications for particular ailments. One especially useful skill they learned was how to obtain medical history and other information from patients, and enter it on the correct forms.

“I’ve been able to teach in many programs at ALI, and this has to be one of my favorites,” said Harmony Wong, one of two ALI lecturers involved in the program. “The curriculum was well-designed for the students. We cover as much as we can in such a short period of time, and we are expanding the curriculum to include specific fields. There are aspects of culture, grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, and many more elements that help equip the students to interact with English-speaking medical staff and patients.”

Additional lecturers from the CSULB Nursing department provide context on the overall structure of the U.S. healthcare system, while students provide feedback on both the differences and similarities with its Japanese counterpart. This creates a two-way learning experience that benefits both students and instructors.

“The students vary in their English abilities, and some have to rely on a translator,” said Wong. “Medical terminology is very different from the typical English you learn in a foreign language class. We made sure to include pictures and any other helpful aids to help the students have a better understanding of the material being covered.”

Perhaps the most impactful part of the program comes from site visits to local hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other facilities. That’s where students get the opportunity to volunteer and interact with patients.

“This program goes beyond the walls of the school and the pages in their curriculum packets,” said Wong. “Students have shared what a positive experience it has been for them. They really take advantage of the time they are here, and work hard to soak in as much as they can. They build strong friendships that they can continue in Japan along with the English they’ve learned.”

“Their experiences in the study abroad program are always a high point of their college careers,” said Dan Kirk, the YNMCU professor who oversees the program. “The sights, smells, tastes, knowledge, and awareness from their experiences at CSULB—they keep for a lifetime.” 


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