Decoding Newfoundland culture

Sep 4th, 2014

Janet Harron

Decoding Newfoundland culture

“I’m feeling right mauzy. Been ‘eaving and I’m all plugged up.”

Translation:  I’m feeling ill and am experiencing vomiting and constipation.

The recent Newfoundland film The Grand Seduction showcased the challenges of attracting and keeping a doctor in a small town. But imagine how different the film would have been if the young doctor wasn’t from mainland Canada but from China. And English wasn’t his (or her) first language. 

The Faculty of Arts' English as a Second Language (ESL) program is launching a second online initiative aimed at bridging language and cultural gaps for internationally trained professionals.

Following last year’s project targeting engineers, the Professional English Program for Internationally Educated Health Care Professionals is designed for health care professionals who are new to Canada, new to the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador, and perhaps most crucially, new to the variety of English spoken here.

International medical graduates play an essential role in health care delivery in Newfoundland and Labrador. According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons (NL)’s annual report for 2013, approximately 39 per cent of the physicians practicing in the province in 2012 received their medical degree from a medical school outside Canada. In 2012 there were 477 international medical graduates holding a full or provisional medical license in NL.

Dr. Kweku Dankwa has lived in Newfoundland for over 15 years, based in St. Anthony. As a member of the IEHP working group he is a great believer in the project. Originally from the Republic of Ghana in Africa, he confesses that he experienced stumbling blocks early in his career here in terms of communicating with patients.

“Typically in Newfoundland the speed with which English is spoken, the tone, the choice of words for a given situation and the ‘dropping out’ or apparent omission of words, combined with some unique vocabulary, make such a course necessary. This program will allow health professionals to communicate effectively with their patients and the long term impact will, I envisage, lead to the enhancement of effective and efficient delivery of health care,” said Dr. Dankwa, who is currently on staff at the Charles S. Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony. 

The program is divided into two modules.

Module 1: Understand Newfoundland focuses on listening to the distinctive Newfoundland varieties of English spoken by patients, colleagues or neighbours and explores the culture and lifestyle of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. 

Module 2: Be Understood, focuses on working on individual’s own particular variety of spoken English so that with clearer speech, he/she will be better understood by the local people.

Marcia Spence is special projects coordinator with the English as a Second Language program. 

“Expanding on our expertise in advanced, specialized language training and intercultural communications, the PEP program is very pleased to be launching this innovative course for IEHPs,” said Ms. Spence. “We hope that the easy access from anywhere in the province and the unique focus on NL English and lifestyle will bring IEHPs closer - closer to understanding the language and culture of their new home and closer to achieving successful communication with their colleagues and patients.”

All four regional health authorities in the province will be contacted directly to encourage employees to register for the program. The program is funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada as a settlement service open to those with permanent resident status. While the program is targeted for IEHPs in medicine, nursing and pharmacy, spouses and other allied health professionals can register for the course as well.

The free online course takes approximately 30 hours to complete and participants can learn at their own pace from anywhere in the province.

Registration opens September 3, 2014 and is ongoing throughout the fall. For further details please visit