ST. CLOUD -- In the St. Cloud Area School District, there are 1,200 students in the English Language program. According to Program Coordinator Natalie Prasch that number grows every year.

Prasch says they have 28 teachers who work with students who's English skills range from none to limited. She says with 23 different languages in the EL program it can be a challenge...

St. Cloud Police recently bought handheld devices, called ELSA. It provides immediate communication in 180 different languages through a cell phone signal. The unit is about the size of a cell phone, and can be clipped to the officer's shirt. Police Sergeant Jason Burke says language barriers are and always will be the number one hurdle for officers in the field...

Burke says before buying the ELSA units, they often had to wait for hours before an interpreter could arrive on scene.

Tim Lyon

The healthcare industry is no different. Dr. David Tilstra is the President of CentraCare Health. He says nurses and doctors need to break down the language barrier before a diagnosis can be made. He says they use interpreters and a Language Line they can call for help.

Dr. Tilstra says cultural barriers are also a factor. Patients often don't understand certain procedures and are fearful of doctors. Tilstra says it all puts a strain on their budget and they are always studying ways to improve efficiency and break down the language and cultural barriers.  One approach, Tilstra says, is they actively recruit multi-lingual candidates when hiring.

This is part three of a five part series, examining immigrant populations in Central Minnesota.