Chippy, a nurse at St Vincent de Paul, has already had a few basic Maltese language lessons.

She is one of 60 health professionals at the government-owned elderly home learning basic Maltese.  

"Maltese is really required because we need to speak with elderly people, so as health workers, we should know basic phrases, only then can we properly understand patients," Chippy said.  

On Thursday, a health ministry spokesperson said 30 of St Vincent de Paul's care workers and 30 nurses started their Maltese lessons last week.  

The course, aimed at foreign health workers, is in basic Maltese but focuses on medical terminology and understanding symptoms.

"It's not about being able to write a book or getting a Ph.D. in Maltese, it's about being able to communicate," health minister Jo Etienne Abela told a group of foreign nurses and workers on Thursday afternoon. 

They have two 90-minute lessons a week for a total of 55 hours.

37-year-old Suseelan was among the group attending lessons.

She said: "SVDP is offering this free course for us through the University of Malta here in St Vincent. That is good as we do not have to go anywhere else," she said.

"So far, we have learned simple words and Maltese letters and how to pronounce them," she said.

Eppie B. Palapar, a carer, said "patients feel more at ease when I speak to them in Maltese". 

"We can do our job better if we understand them well," the care worker from the Philippines said.

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