Published: 16/09/2004, Volume II4, No. 5923 Page 8

Deciphering the broadest of English regional accents is a stiff challenge for foreign nurses recruited to work in the North East. Now tutors at Newcastle College are coming to the aid with a course designed to help the new recruits translate local phrases 'whey aye, man' or 'howay the lads'.

The 10-week course is being run in conjunction with a number of NHS organisations around the region at the newly established NHS Learning Centre in Gosforth. The course aims to give the nurses - who come from Singapore, the Philippines and India and are all employed by Newcastle Hospitals trust - a better understanding of the region's dialect and culture.

While nurses may not necessarily learn to sing The Blaydon Races, ask for a pint of 'Newkie Broon' or cheer another 'gool for the toon' by Alan Shearer (pictured), the move to lift the linguistic fog on the Tyne has been welcomed by participants.

One nurse, Leoni Balasamy, came to the North East from Singapore five months ago to work as a theatre nurse at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle: 'The course has been good for me, ' said Ms Balasamy, who has two children (bairns) still living in Singapore. 'It has really helped me understand things better, especially the accent.'

Newcastle College director of corporate development Gaye Hutchinson commented: 'We are one of the first places in the country to have a learning centre dedicated to NHS staff.

'Giving people more training increases staff motivation and in the case of these international nurses definitely improves the standard of healthcare.'