Background: Australia has an increasing number of nursing students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds however problems communicating in the clinical setting, difficulty with academic writing and a tendency to achieve lower grades have been reported. Objectives: To identify the language needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students, and evaluate the English language support programme to develop appropriate strategies and assist academic progression and clinical communication skills. Design and methods: An action research approach was adopted and this paper reports findings from the first round of semi-structured individual interviews. The strategies suggested by the participants will subsequently be implemented and evaluated during the first cycle of action research. Setting: An Australian Bachelor of Nursing programme which has students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Participants: Eight second and third year students who have a primary language other than English. Results: Four strategies emerged from initial student interviews. The English language support programme to be conducted during semester breaks, ongoing focus on reading and writing but also to include some International English Language Testing System exam strategies and practice, increase the use of nursing specific language and context in the English language support programme, and informing or reminding lecturers of the impact of their lecture delivery style on learning for students from diverse backgrounds. Conclusion: Themes emerging from the initial round of interviews inform both the implementation of the English language support programme and teacher delivery. It is hoped that implementing these strategies will support the English language development of nurses from diverse backgrounds. Proficient communication will more likely contribute to providing safe and effective culturally sensitive care in a culturally diverse health care environment. Additional cycles of action research may be conducted to further improve the programme.