Partnership helping improve English language skills at Sanford Health

Small phrases in English many not mean much for those who grew up speaking the language, but it means a world of difference for those looking to acclimate.
Published: Jun. 12, 2023 at 10:15 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - With employers finding it more difficult to find applicants many have started to explore what other benefits they can offer to employees. A growing trend for companies around the area has been offering English language courses for those who have a different native language, to help them out at work and at home.

Small phrases in English may not mean much for those who grew up speaking the language, but it means a world of difference for those looking to acclimate to new homes. While Sanford Health has been offering English language classes since 2018, they’ve seen interest grow since the pandemic. They have plenty of staff looking to adjust to life in the United States, and this is a way of laying out the welcome mat for them.

“Just learning everything here. Just imagine I had to drop you in the middle of Africa or somewhere, and said, ‘Okay, go figure it out.’ How are you going to do that? They deal with stuff like just reading their bills, going to the grocery store, and reading mail. Things like that, a lot of challenges,” Sanford Health Learning and Development Specialist Felix Nyangamoi said.

The healthcare provider partners with Reach Literacy to provide instruction, with Program Director Brooke Sieff stating that providing the classes at Sanford facilities allows more folks to enroll in the classes.

“It takes about 100 hours of dedicated study and practice to advance from one level of language to another. For our students, it’s really hard to seek out time in their day and lives when they’re supporting so many other people. By making this something that fits into their schedule, we can do it just as part of their day. I think it’s essential to making it work,” Sieff said.

Multiple classes are offered for those at different skill levels of English, starting from beginners before working up.

“I learned reading, writing, and practicing talking,” class participant Antonina Malyhon said.

“It helps better careers, but also my personal goals in the future,” class participant Halyna Ilchuk said.

Sieff said these classes are often filled with very dedicated learners. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the classes at Sanford Health were put on hold, she said they saw many familiar faces when they started back up.

“When we went on a hiatus during COVID, we were so excited to see the same people still at their workplaces, ready for us to come back, which means they didn’t go anywhere. They were still committed to their jobs and to their employers, and they were also committed to being able to come back and work on their education,” Sieff said.

Classes for this semester are wrapping up this week. But Sanford Health says the program is vital for them moving forward in helping train their workforce, and in turn, helping staff in their facilities in the region.