Spanish-speaking patients are no rarity in United States hospitals and clinics, as many English-speaking health care providers have discovered. To help these providers better communicate with the patients they serve, Ana Malinow Rajkovic has prepared the Manual for (Relatively) Painless Medical Spanish, a lively and innovative self-teaching guide to the grammar, pronunciation, and medical vocabulary of Spanish.
Presented in a systematic and highly entertaining fashion, twelve lessons cover some of the most commonly encountered situations. These include the family clinic, the emergency room, appendicitis, the social chat, pregnancy, family planning, pelvic inflammatory disease and urinary tract infection, depression, children with asthma, patients with angina, explaining a venipuncture and a spinal tap, and patients with shortness of breath. Each lesson closes with a bilingual interview that includes vocabulary and grammar introduced in that lesson. A guide to the medical history and physical examination appears in English and Spanish in the appendix.
Excellent in the classroom or for independent learning, the Manual will enable health care providers better to understand and supply the needs of Spanish-speaking patients.
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You have just spent good money on a catchy title, hoping that the old maxim "you can't judge a book by its cover" will not hold this time. After all, you have bought many a dreary-sounding-titled book, only to find out that it certainly was dreary! So why can't a funny-sounding book be funny?
Well, not exactly funny, but at least not tedious. We are going to learn medical Spanish, which does not lend itself to hilarity too readily. But we shall try.
The purpose of the textbook is to teach you how to communicate with your Spanish-speaking patient. What? You bought this thinking you were going to learn a few words in Spanish before you left for Club Med? Well, who knows, someone might choke on their Chile Rellenos, and you'll be glad you bought this after all! By the end of the book, you will be able to speak Spanish well enough to make yourself understood to your patients and to understand what they are saying back to you (but not if they speak Tagalog; you'll have to get a different book for them).
How will you accomplish this in the next few hundred pages? First, I entreat you to find a pencil (between the sofa cushions is a good place to look) or to buy one. This is not the "in-one-ear-out-the-other" method of learning Spanish. For maximal performance, you should fill in all the blanks, with your new pencil, in full sentences. If I ask you ''¿Dóndé está la ciudad de San Francisco?" ("Where is the city of San Francisco?") don't just write "California," write, "La ciudad de San Francisco está en California." Then check your answers against answers in the back of the book, correct them, and say everything written in Spanish out loud!! If people around you laugh, take it in stride; after all, you took French in high school, right?
So now that you are equipped with a pencil and are ready to fill in all the blanks in full sentences and say everything out loud, what's next? You will soon notice that you are going to learn Spanish the same way you would learn to build a house with blocks. First come the blocks for the foundation upon which everything else is built. Once you build the foundation, you will get a few blocks to put over the foundation, first one way, then another by using slightly different combinations and new blocks For example, once you learn the "cornerstone" question "Do you have?" you can quickly learn "Do you have diarrhea?" "Do you have diarrhea with blood?" "Do you have diarrhea with blood after you eat?" and "For how long have you had diarrhea with blood after you eat?" The "cornerstones" start simply and progress, without your noticing, to greater difficulty, so that by the end of each lesson, you will understand all the new vocabulary, and all the new grammar, painlessly!
Popular methods to teach languages try not to use English. This is good and well if students already know Spanish or, if they don't know English. I like to think I strike a balance: first I make you sweat it out in Spanish, and when you're ready to throw the book out the window, I explain in English. Many of you are of a compulsive nature and have to understand every sentence before you go on to the next. This will not do. There will be many sentences, nay, whole paragraphs, that you will not understand immediately. But I promise you that everything is explained in good time. Trust me.
Often, I write English sentences as literal translations of the Spanish. For example, "Goes the boy sick to the room small?" Seeing the unusual order in English will remind you of the normal syntax in Spanish. For those of you trying to learn medical English, please see if you can't get your money back.
I might as well tell you now, before you tear up that receipt, that you will have to do a fair amount of memorizing. This, of course, is an anathema to anyone in the medical profession, I know. But the Spanish, being so clever, made up a different word in Spanish for every word in English! Well, not quite, because the god of grammar was good and saw fit to create "cognates," similar, or identical words in both languages. For example, words ending in -ion, -ble, -sis, and -itis are frequently the same in English and Spanish. We haven't even started and already you know how to say hospitalization, operable, acidosis, and pancreatitis in Spanish! As a matter of fact, you could sound quite fluent if you manage to speak in sentences with words ending with these suffices.
Another hint: if you have a choice between a word in English with a Latin root (i.e., urticaria) or an Anglo-Saxon root (i.e., hives), choose the Latin one. This becomes problematical if you don't know the difference, in which case, I suggest you add an -o or an -a to the end of the English word and wait for a response. Medicamento and doctora are good examples. Shouldero and necko are not.
One other suggestion, and then we'll get on with the show. That is: break down. Not personally, although you might feel like it at any point from now on, but your language. Take what you want to say in medical English and break it down into basic (i.e., lay) English. This can be translated into the basic Spanish you will learn. Your patients don't want to hear a symposium on the regression of atherosclerosis, they just want to know how many eggs they can eat a week.
The textbook, as you'll soon find out, is made up of twelve lessons. Each section of the lesson is headed by a "Vocabulary and Stress Guide" which should help you with vocabulary for that section and pronunciation. Each lesson closes with a bilingual interview which includes the vocabulary and grammar introduced in the lesson. Obviously, as you progress in the book, so does the difficulty of the interviews. Thus, the interview at the end of Lesson 1 will be the simplest, while the interview from Lesson 12, the most complex.
Interviews which close each lesson include: The Family Practice Clinic; The Emergency Room; Appendicitis; The Social Chat; The Pregnant Woman; The Family Planning Clinic; Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and Urinary Tract Infection; Depression; A Child with Asthma; The Patient with Angina; How to Explain a Venipuncture and a Spinal Tap; and A Patient with Congestive Heart Failure.
In the Appendix, you will notice a complete History and Physical Exam in English and Spanish, as well as lots of specialized vocabulary. Some of you might want to skip the first few hundred pages and turn right to that section, and memorize it by heart.
Sounds like a great vacation, doesn't it? It would be much funner, undoubtedly, to spend four weeks learning intensive Spanish in Guadalajara... but what do you expect for this price? Well, put on your hard-hat, grab that pencil, and let's get started!