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Medical Terminology as a Second Language

Published June 3, 2008 3:41 PM by Jason Marketti
We have a policy at our facility where English must be spoken in front of all patients and family. 

Except, if the patient or family member speaks another language we can communicate in.  I live in Southern California, guess which language is spoken second only to English in my facility?

But Spanish is not the only language I have used to communicate with patients.  I have also spoken Cantonese and Armenian.  Now I am not fluent in a foreign language by any means and my accents are usually way off,  but I do try to pick up a few key words and phrases to better communicate with patients in their native tongue.  I know of facilities closer to Los Angeles where Tagalog and Vietnamese are the most widely spoken language in the facility and if you are a therapist working there it would be a good idea to pick up the language so you can better communicate with staff and patients. 

Over the years I have heard therapists say, "Why learn another language?" 

But didn't that therapist learn Latin and Greek (the roots of medical terminology) so they could better communicate with others in the health care field?  If we want to better communicate with our patients we should try to learn their language. 

I have lived in Turkey and the Netherlands when I was younger.  While there, we traveled to different places and countries.  We would not have survived if we were unable to communicate with others.  We, at times, had to order food, drinks, exchange money, etc. all in another language.  We did it, we survived, and if one is persistent enough to navigate through a foreign language they can do it too. 

The internet offers multiple sites for learning.  One of my favorites is http://www.mangolanguages.com/.

A quick translation site is http://www.babelfish.altavista.com/.

But I do have a question that has not been sufficiently answered.  If I speak in medical terminology in front of the patients can I get in trouble?

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About this Blog


    Jason J. Marketti
    Occupation: Physical Therapist Assistant
    Setting: San Jacinto, CA
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