Hey, US of A, we look kind of silly when just less than 79% of us only speak a language that 7% of the total population of the world speaks. Why are we so anti-forgein language? Perhaps it stems from the fact that we “grew up,” so to speak as a British colony, whose mission was to dominate the world. They certainly won the race vs. their main competitors– the Spanish, French and Portuguese. Or did they? English is rated 3rd most widely spoken language by population, behind Spanish and wait for it… Chinese! Maybe the Chinese won out the global language influence race by just sticking to their own program and not even entering the world’s sphere until just a few hundred years ago.
To the clinicians out there: Do you find a second language a necessity or a nicety in your practice? How often do you have a patient that speaks something else besides your first language? What strategies do you use to connect with them?
Being in south Texas, I speak about as much Spanish on the job as I do English. Although there are days that not a word of English is uttered from my mouth until I get back to the doc room at the end of the day. However, we do occasionally have other languages float through our hospital. While we had the last one (he spoke Russian), we found out that our translation service provider was down! So we had to have a family member come be with him during therapy and I think nursing used a communication board when family wasn’t around. I’ve used the little translation apps on my phone a couple times and use a lot of gestures too. You’d be surprised what you can get across with gestures and context!
No matter your answer to the above questions, I would encourage, no implore you to consider learning or mastering a second (or maybe third! or fourth!) language. It will boost your brain power by inducing neuroplasticity, allow you to better communicate with your patients, and open new worlds of friendships and travel opportunities. Those are why I learn languages. (I was working on sign language when the opportunity to take the NCS came around, at which point I had to choose one or the other. But trust me, I’ll be back at language learning when the NCS is over. I’ve still got sign language on the back burner and want to get into Choctaw as well.) Here are the most popular reasons to learn a language. What’s your excuse? (Click the link to find out why your excuse isn’t a good one. Trust me, it isn’t.) By the way, I am certainly not fluent in Spanish, but I do feel like I can do my job in Spanish satisfactorily. So you don’t need to be “fluent” either to make your foreign language skills useful.
If you’re ready to jump on board, start here: Fluent in 3 Months. You don’t need to spend years in classes (like I foolishly did) or thousands of dollars on silly software or tapes. You just need a guide, which Benny on Fluent in 3 Months has so graciously provided on his above blog. Or shoot, I’ll answer questions for real-life,-down-in-the-trenches reality of language learning.