Should everyone learn English???

  1. I brought this subject up on another board. There was a lot of responses...the last was we were bordering on racism.

    Here is my concern:

    I work in a very culturally diverse hospital. Not mostly one culture...we are talking all kinds. We have different means of dealing with the language barriers....boards in different languages (so we can learn main requests in their language), boards that patient uses to point what they need and we can find a translator for important issues but as you know they can't always be there. We encourage an English speaking family member to be with them at all times.

    Lately most family members all speak a foreign language...some broken English.

    My last patient....

    I went into his room first thing. He was getting a breathing treatment. I went back into his room as soon as I could. That was 20 minutes later. The family member was walking in ahead of me.

    The patient started talking very angrily and fast. I knew whatever he was saying to the family member wasn't good.

    The daughter in turn started yelling that she's talking to someone about this ...this is uncalled for...etc.

    I intervened....what it was the patient said he pressed his call light 5 times and no one answered. I had him press his call light...he was having difficulty pressing firmly enough. I put the call light on a firm surface...and he pressed it without problem.

    I explained to the family member but the patient was still mad. He said that someone answered over head and no on came. So I inquired with the aide...she hadn't heard a page for that room. I then inquired with the secretary... she said, "yes he paged and she answered it asking can I help you...he said No...No" She never paged over head.

    I left a note near the pager explaining he doesn't speak English.

    The daughter and patient said they wanted to leave today...the patient does better at home. I spoke regarding my concern of his medical condition....S. B.P. in the 80's and unable to tolerate getting OOB secondary to dizziness.

    His Dr. came up...spoke the same language as the family. I had explained with the Dr. my concerns with his condition. (b.p. and dizziness) The Dr. said he'll go home today...

    That never happened though I tried my hardest to stabilize him.

    I just feel bad for my patients. They seem to have a hard time adapting in the hospital secondary to language barriers...I'm very patient with them.
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  2. 42 Comments

  3. by   eltrip
    In the past, during times when large numbers of people immigrated to this country, they usually made some kind of effort to either learn the language or be with someone who spoke their language at all times.

    I think that yes, if you're moving to another country, learn the language. This goes beyond courtesy. This is about survival. How much easier would it have been for your patient if he had understood the secretary when she answered his page?

    I feel for the patients, too. It's hard to be sick & in a different country. Even with translators available, it still doesn't help with basic communication of needs.
  4. by   Katnip
    I agree, I think if you're coming here you should learn English. It's extremely costly to find translators and to print instructions in several languages. There are how many languages in this world that we're expected to accomodate?

    If Americans go to a different country, even if residents of that country speak English they appreciate the forgeiners who have at least the basics in their language. I cannot imagine moving to a country to live and expecting them to accomodate my language.

    Unfortunately, our government refuses to make English the official language.
  5. by   Cynthiann
    I didn't even know that English was never made the official language. I agree with the others, people should learn English, it's about survival. Why move here and be unwilling to assimilate to our culture?

    One of my future goals is to be able to visit different parts of the world. I have full intentions on learning the language of the land before heading off. I wouldn't want to be in that type of situation where the language barrier will make a situation worse (i.e. being in a hospital or being arrested). Life is just so much easier when you can speak the language of the country you reside in.

    On the other hand, playing devil's advocate, some people were brought here by other family members and just have not had the chance to learn English. Although there still are many who live in this country for years and never learn English.
  6. by   RN NascarFan
    If I were going to another country, for any extended period of time, I would learn the language, to the best of my ability
  7. by   gwenith
    I think it is a courtesy thing. We are very culturally diverse and have had waves of immegrants from different countries in different eras. We even have a TV station/netowrk devoted to multicultural programming (it is called SBS) We have telepphoen translation services, lists of hospital workers who can speak a second language and who can act as tranlators, we use signage and specially printed forms and relatives and we still get people who slip through the net. I remember many years ago when we had a major flood it threatened a nursing home (LTC facility) which was run by russians for russians - good facility but no-one spoke English and the water was rising. They got them all out but It is a story that sticks with me.

    I was told that when you go to another country there are a few "mandatory " phrases everyone should learn these are

    "How much is it?"
    "Please and thank-you"
    "Where is my wallet/visa card/mobile phone"
    "Is the water safe to drink"
    "HELP!!"
    and most importantly
    "Quick - where is the toilet?"

    The one big hole in the argument is the Aboriginal people. It is rude to expect them to learn the language of the people who invaded/ settled thier land but it is almost impossible to find translators because every tribe had a unique language. Fortunately or unfortunately there are few Aboriginal people who do not speak some English and usually because family is so important they will have thier own translators.
  8. by   itsme
    I think if folks are going to live in the US, they should learn English. Just as if I were to move to France, I would learn french!!
  9. by   Tilleycs
    I think if folks are going to live in the US, they should learn English. Just as if I were to move to France, I would learn french!!
    My thoughts exactly. I agree that it's a respect/courtesy issue. If you move here and want to function in this country, learn the language. If the native language is English, why should everything be changed to accomodate them?

    And where does it stop? How many languages will we need to print things in so that everyone who may ever come to America can understand it?
  10. by   Gomer
    Although we no longer have a common culture, e.g., WASP, that the founders of this country had and which made us a nation; I wish that we still had a common language. (Not that there is anything wrong with other cultures and/or languages)

    A common language is an attibute that helps a nation develop. A common language is an attibute that helps a nation grow. A common language is an attibute that allows a nation to endure.
  11. by   nursechris1
    I agree, if you want to come to the great land of USA, then you need to learn the language. I have had to take interpreters with me at times to see patients in their homes, or sometimes the grandchildren,who are in elementary school, will interpret. The problem with that is the child may not interpret the medical jargon appropriately because they don't know what the word means that we are saying. There are some schools here that were going to teach in english 1/2 day and spanish 1/2 day. I don't think that's right. I would think that some of the other prominent cultures would be upset by this. It is discrimination of sorts, why aren't we teaching vietnamese, sudanese (I can't remember the name of their language), or any of the other languages I hear in Omaha? Don't get me wrong, I am not predjudiced, but when in Rome, do as romans.
  12. by   BadBird
    My personal opinion is if you choose to live in a English speaking country then learn the language. It bugs me that non english speaking people have the nerve to complain if I don't know what they are saying, they came here I didn't go to their country.
  13. by   Tweety
    Many of these people are poor, struggling to survive and might be in the process of learning the language when they find themselves in the hospital. Or they work long and hard hours doing our dirty work and are so tired when they get home, they can't study, or have the resources to learn the language. So I try to be understanding. We airlift traumas form the farms where migrant workers are.

    Anybody been to Miami lately, or even parts of Tampa? Why learn English when Spanish is the primarily language there, in the stores, hospitals, media. No need to learn English ever. I feel like I'm in a forgein country when I visit.

    I really don't understand though why eventually people choose not to at least try to learn English.

    I was asked by a family member once if I spoke Spanish to take care of his mother, and the rolled his eyes saying "you don't speak Spanish?" and was quite rude about it. I couldn't say what I felt like saying. Seems some people now expect us to learn their language. Perhaps it might get to that point if immigration stays the same growth rates it is now.
  14. by   P_RN
    When in Rome do as the Romans, when in the USA speak English.

    Someone knew that patient spoke no English, why wasn't there a note or flag to alert? Just as if you had a deaf person or a mute person, you would need to actually go to their room.
    Someone let you down there. As soon as he was admitted this should have been done.

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