Tag Archives: speaking like a local

Sometimes it’s the little things…

Some days in your clinic are just plain peanut-butter-and-jelly days – nothing particularly brain stretching, no cases that you could find in Hunter’s Tropical Medicine, no life-saving measures.

The fact that some of your patients are Hispanic, many of Guatemalan or Mexican ancestry, and speak little English adds some salsa to your tortilla chips though. Like the case that just hobbled through your door…

You can’t get more routine than an ingrown toenail, can you? Thankfully, a medical interpreter is handy to help you communicate with this patient and his wife. However, when the interpreter says “uña encarnada“, your patients blink without recognition.

You have your own copy of the Stedman Bilingüe Diccionario de Ciencias Médicas at home – good healthcare providers are life-long learners, right? – so you know that’s the standard medical terminology. But you decide to go out on a limb.

Uñero,” You say.

The wife’s face brightens. “¡Hay, sí! Esta es la palabra que usamos.”

That starts a fast-paced side conversation between them and the interpreter while you set to work, relieving the poor man of his simple but noticeably painful malady.

I’d better give the interpreter a card for Understanding the Guatemalan Patient before she leaves, you decide. After all, sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. 

A Midwife’s Monday

You’re returning to your clinic after visiting a client in her home. Nothing compares to seeing a new mother caring for her healthy baby after you’ve spent months working as a team and just a few days ago made it through the delivery. What you saw today tops your “why-I-love-being-a-midwife” list. If only all your work weeks could start off this way!

Along with that joy, today you have a midwife-in-training along for the ride. She’s bright-eyed and itching to get into things. You decide to redeem the drive time.

“See that little spiral-bound book peeking out of my bag?” you ask.

“The blue one?”

“Yeah. Go ahead and take a look at it. You’re going to need one for yourself.”

The trainee retrieves the book and looks it over. “Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine.  This looks interesting, but, um, I did take medical Spanish in school. Did I say something wrong with the last client?”

“Oh, no, you did well. It’s just that, as you’ve learned, many of the women we serve in this area are from Guatemala. Some of them, like the mother we just visited. speak what I call “dictionary Spanish”. Others speak their own variety. Sometimes they grew up speaking Spanish as a second language after a Mayan dialect.”

“Can you give me an example?”

“I think you’ll see what I mean with our clients this afternoon,” you grin. “Oh, and remember, as a midwife, sometimes your clients look to you for advice on all sorts of things.”

At the beginning of your visit with your next client – a young mother from rural Guatemala accompanied by her cousin – nothing much unusual happens. A few unique words are used, but your trainee catches on quickly. You begin to wonder if you anticipated too much. Then your client says,

Mi hermana me estaba preguntando si usted tendría consejo para ella acerca de su bebé que tiene rozadura.”

You glance at your trainee. She discreetly raises an eyebrow.

Rozadura es cómo pañalitis, ¿verdad?” you question, even though you know the answer. Both are used to mean diaper rash.

Your client smiles and nods, “Sí, es como pañalitis.”

You continue your conversation. Later that afternoon, the midwife-in-training comes to you looking a little less bright-eyed. “I’ve got to admit,” she says, “starting with that first office visit and continuing all afternoon, I’ve found out I don’t know Spanish as well as I thought I did. At least not the way these ladies speak it. And then there are all the folk medicine ideas I’ve never even heard of!”

You’re encouraging nature kicks in. “Don’t worry. I think you’re gonna do great. Learning a language is a life-long adventure. At least it seems like it has been for me.”

“Well,” she says with the smile in her eyes back on, “I know one thing. I’m going to buy myself one of those books.”

Want your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient? Check it out on Amazon!

 

 

 

Another way to say “pterygium”

You’re in the middle of another day at the downtown clinic. You work here often as an interpreter serving the large Hispanic community. Some of the patients have even gotten to know you a bit. You’ve built up trust because you’ve worked hard to really speak their language and show them you care.

You’re pretty sure you could diagnose the patient yourself. The presence of surfer’s eye – pterygium – is pretty obvious. You haven’t spent all this time with medical people without picking up a thing or two! But you wait until the doctor gives the clear diagnosis. Then you pull up the Spanish medical dictionary in your brain and explain to the patient that he has pterigión. 

When the patient gives you a blank stare, you decide to try a more on-the-street explanation in case it helps. You know the patient is of Guatemalan heritage, so you pull out one of your speaking-like-a-local-phrases and say, “Tal vez lo llaman carnosidad del ojo.

The patient grins, “Ah, sí. Ya entiendo.”

You smile and go on to explain the treatment and answer questions.

That night, you pull Understanding the Guatemalan Patient off your handy shelf and put a check mark by “pterygium carnosidad del ojo”.

You like to keep track of the terms you’ve used from this little book. So far, you’ve used quite a few. It makes you happy to know that you were able to continue serving and building trust today because you knew just the words to use. Maybe you’ll look through this pocket-size book tonight to give yourself a refresher.

Purchase your copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient  today on Amazon!

Pesquezo

It’s been a long day. You’re a nurse on a mission trip in Guatemala, and the heat must be getting to you a bit. But it looks like this is your last patient for the day. The fact that she doesn’t speak English doesn’t bother you. After all, you’ve taken several Spanish classes. During your week here in Guatemala, you’ve been doing pretty well so far.

When you ask what’s wrong, she says, “Me duele el pesquezo.

Pesquezo? That’s a new one! Casually, you glance around. Where is that translator when you need him? No where to be found apparently.

You decide to try to figure it out. You ask her to show you where it hurts. She put her hand on her neck and shows you how it hurts when she moves her head.

Ah-hah! Now you’re getting somewhere. You proceed with the visit and wrap up another rewarding day seeing patients at a special rural clinic.

That night you tell one of your team members about pesquezo. She, also a nurse, says, “Oh, that means ‘neck’, right?”

“Yeah,” you say, “I think so. But how do you know?”

She pulls a little blue book out of her backpack. “I bought this before we came. That word’s in here. It’s says pesquezo is formally used to mean an animal’s neck. I guess that’s why we didn’t learn it in school.”

“Hey, why didn’t I know about this?” you wonder, thumbing through the spiral-bound, pocket-sized book.

“Well, you can look at it tonight if you want,” your friend says. “It’s been really helpful to me.”

“Thanks. That would be great. Then maybe I’ll get my own copy before our next trip.”

Heading out on a medical mission trip to Guatemala or southern Mexico? Make sure everyone on your team is prepared with a copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient ! Check out the special bulk package on Amazon of 8 copies for on $48. (Offer available through April 30, 2015.) Happy reading and happy travels! 

 

 

A toad’s eye?

Today’s post is a great example of the eccentricities of language that make it so fun and fascinating! Have you ever heard the Spanish phrase “ojo de sapo”? Did you know what it means? Of course, literally, it means “eye of toad” or “toad’s eye”, but it also has another meaning…

ojo de sapomoonshine (as in homemade alcoholic beverages)

Really.

What’s the origin? Well, to be honest, we don’t now, but we’d love to find out, so drop us a comment if you know!

 

canilla

You’ve dreamed of this day. You’ve studied and saved for this day. Now here it is: your first day seeing patients with a medical mission team in Guatemala.

The still-cool morning breezes waft through the metal screens over the windows of the concrete building. You smile at your first patient, a man from the campo who looks like he has labored long throughout his life, and begin a conversation. Since you’ve studied Spanish for several years now, your team decided you don’t need one of the in-demand interpreters as much as other team members, so you’re on your own for this conversation. Shouldn’t be hard, right?

Then your patient says, “Me duele mi canilla.” 

Your optimistic thoughts screech to a halt. Canilla? You’ve never heard that word! So much for those years of studying. The way he set his worn hand on his leg makes you think there’s some connection, but you want to know…and you don’t want your ignorance to make him feel uncomfortable.

You calmly look around. No interpreters nearby.

Then you remember that little blue book your dad gave you when he dropped you off at the airport. “Might come in handy,” he said.

You pull it out of the bag on the table next to you. It’s a glossary. Where are the “c” words? Oh, yay, there it is! 

canilla – leg, lower leg

You look your patient in the eye with a smile and say, “¿Se duele su canilla?” You set your hand on your leg like he had. “¿Cómo su pierna?

¡Sí!” He nods his head vigorously. “Me duele mi canilla.”

Oh, good! Now you can continue with your consultation.

Later you get a chance to ask one of the translators about canilla. He laughs. “Canilla is like an animal’s leg,” he says. “People, especially those who grew up speaking a Mayan language and speak Spanish as a second language, use it for a person’s leg, too.”

Ah, now you understand even better. And maybe tonight you’ll look through more of those words from that Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. It seems like it really might come in handy.

Gearing up for a medical mission trip to Guatemala or know someone who is? Maybe you’ll want your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient. Check it out on Amazon today!

 

kneecap

“Me duele la tapita,” your patient says, gingerly touching her knee, to the interpreter next to you.

“Her kneecap hurts,” the interpreter informs you.

You proceed with the office visit, but your brain is wondering, Didn’t I just learn that ‘tapita’ means bottle cap? (You’ve been trying to learn a little Spanish yourself.)

Before the interpreter leaves, you get to ask her.

“Yes, according to your regular Spanish-English medical dictionary rótula is actually the word for kneecap, but I have this.” She pulls a blue, pocket-sized book from her purse.

You look at the title. ‘Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine. Pretty long name for such a small book.”

She laughs. “I know, right? Well, there are more than 600 terms just in the Spanish-English section, a lot of them slang. Since many of the people we serve here are Guatemalans who don’t speak real dictionary Spanish. It’s helped me out more than once. See? Right here in the English-Spanish section.”

Kneecap – tapita.”

“That’s right. I love it when I know just the right word to make our patients feel understood.”