Imagine a woman giving birth for the first time in a country where she doesn’t speak the language well.
The thought scared Elena Andreeva, an immigrant from Russia, whose mother was far away in her homeland. Thanks to Oakland Literacy Council, however, Elena didn’t have to face the experience alone.
Like many tutors, Elena’s tutor, Irene Sinclair, tailored her lessons to meet Elena’s individual needs. Elena wanted to know what to expect in the months leading up to and during the birth of her son.
Learning About Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery
Lessons in reading, writing, listening, and pronunciation revolved around the topic of pregnancy and labor and delivery. With her tutor, Elena studied medical terms like contractions, dilation, and epidural. She read about the stages of labor, and she and Irene discussed breathing techniques and breastfeeding. They even read a book about training a baby to sleep well. Irene, who has three children of her own, shared her personal experience.
Tutor Seems Like “Family”
“Irene became like a family for me,” Elena says. She even sought Irene’s advice on baby names. After she chose Zachary, Irene helped her pronounce the word perfectly.
To help Elena with her pronunciation, Irene recorded Elena’s speech to analyze it and reviewed problems common to native Russia speakers.
Speaks English to Doctors
As Elena’s knowledge of English and pregnancy expanded, she became comfortable going to doctor’s visits. Then came the big day. Giving birth at a hospital went so smoothly that Elena didn’t realize until much later that she had been speaking in English the entire time.
The doctors and nurses understood her. “I didn’t have any trouble speaking with the doctors and nurses, and I was able to explain my feelings,” Elena said. “Usually Americans ask me to please repeat myself.”
In addition to lessons related to her baby, Elena and her tutor practiced English for the workplace because Elena is eager to find a job in information technology once her baby is older. Elena, who has a master’s degree in computer science, knows there are job openings for people with her skills.
“My tutor helped me with a lot of things,” Elena says. “She helped me be more confident. To be a more outgoing person. To improve myself. To apply myself. To feel more comfortable here in the United States.”