Are nurses in other nations bilingual? Should US be? - page 5

I had an arguement with one of my nurse practicioners yesterday. Irregardless of how any of us feel about immigrants, legal or illegal, it's very frustrating to have to treat a patient when you or... Read More

  1. by   mercyteapot
    Quote from Josh L.Ac.
    Just throwing this out there - So what should the primarily English-speakers do when the composition of the United States changes so that native Spanish-speakers are the majority?

    Would we still be able to say "English first"?
    Assuming they ever comprise the majority of the population, they won't ever comprise the force needed to overtake all the systems that already operate in English. Think about it... everything would need to be changed. New everything, written in Spanish. How would people who don't speak English to begin with ever gather enough power to make that happen? It won't happen and it shouldn't happen and since I have more than enough legitimate concerns in my life keeping me awake at night, this notion is one over which I'll not obsess.
  2. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I am bilingual and think it would not hurt for all kids in the USA to study a foreign language. Like Steph said, politics aside, it's great for brain development and has helped me in my job performance COUNTLESS times.

    I also encourage my Hispanic patients to take ESL classes, having learned some of them have been here for in excess of 15 years and have learned minimal English. I try to explain how it's in their best interests, just like I would explain why breastfeeding is, in a non-judgemental way.

    Anyhow that is my less then 2 cents on this matter.
  3. by   DusktilDawn
    Hello/Bonjour

    I live in an officially bilingual country, the official languages being English and French. In fact the area I live in has a lot of people of French descent, and almost all of those people speak English. Some of these descendants can only speak English and some are bilingual.

    It became mandatory when I was 10 years old that French was to be taught from 1st grade until 10th grade. After 3 years of mandatory French in grade school and 3 years of French in high-school (2 of those years mandatory), do I consider myself bilingual? NOPE. For 6 years I passed French with B's and A's, yet I cannot converse, write, or read in that language. The problem with making French mandatory in English schools (IMO) is that the language is only being taught in the classroom, and there is little need to know or use French outside the classroom.

    In fact, after working years in a hospital in my own community, I cannot recall a single time when we needed a French interpreter at the facility where I worked. Of course we had patients that didn't speak English and had situations where an interpretor was needed.

    My point: It was a mandatory requirement that I learn French in school. I did what I had to and passed the courses. Making it mandatory will not necessarily make anyone bilingual.

    As a military brat, I encountered other cultures that told me that in thier nation, they were required to take other language classes in school, from primary and certainly be fluent in at least one other than thier mother tounge to have a university degree.
    I guess I'm curious, did most of these people from other cultures/nations choose English as their required language? You see, I ask because English is often referred to as the "global language." English may not be the official language of many countries, but it is most often taught as a second language around the world. By International Treaty it is the official language for Aerial and Maritime Communications, as well as one of the official languages of the European Union, the United Nations, and most international athletic organisations, including the International Olympic Committee. It is the language most often studied as a foreign language in the European Union by 89% of schoolchildren, followed by French at 32%.

    You see there are about 38 countries, nations, territories, federations, republics, etc where English is considered the primary language. In 28 other countries, nations, territtories, federations, republics, etc where English may not be the first language it is considered an official language.

    An FYI folks, English IS NOT an official language in the United States, in fact English only has official status in 30 out of 50 state. It is actually the de facto national language of the US.
  4. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Oh and the answer to question number one: yes, an overwhelming number of people (not just nurses) in other nations speak not only 2 languages, but as many as 4 or 5 or more. Why should we not learn at least one (besides our primary) here? It would never hurt ANYONE.
  5. by   sockmonkey70
    Quote from Arwen_U

    Yes, I do think immigrants to this country should learn English, and here are a few points on that. 1) Most in my area are at least making an effort, even if you can't see it. 2) Have you seen the waitlists for the ESL classes? Here they are ridiculously long. 3) If you want people here to learn English, be a part of the solution. Volunteer to teach ESL classes. You will not be turned down for lack of demand. Not if you live in my area (and, I suspect, many others).

    I think it would be a great idea for adults to learn a second language so that we know what it is like to have to learn as an adult. That way we can know why someone may be reluctant to use their English after 3 months or even 3 years in the US. Learning as an adult is way different than learning as a child, and we need to understand and respect that.

    I do think Americans need to step outside our comfort zone. Most people in other countries are learning English.
    Thank you. You totally made the point that I was trying to make, expect you didn't come off as abrasive as I did LOL.
  6. by   TazziRN
    I can understand adults being reluctant to speak English because their English isn't perfect, my mom is like that. BUT.....she can communicate in an emergency and she does not expect the people of the United States to learn Korean to accommodate her......which is what many of the Spanish-only population seems to expect of us. I have lost count of how many times I've had pts be irate with me because I don't speak Spanish.
  7. by   Silverdragon102
    I would like to add something about the UK, language is a huge problem in various parts of the country where large groups of immigrants have settled and don't learn the local language. I have nurse patients who have lived in the country over 30 years and haven't learnt anything as it wasn't required as the husband did it all even to the point of coming and translating (it wasn't expected for them to learn) Only now are the government saying something and bringing in a citizenship exam of which they have to prove a good command of the english language. I would love to learn another language and will probably go for Spanish but am finding it very hard to get started as it is hard to practice on one's own

    This is what is currently required in the UK http://www.ukimmigration.com/family/uk_citizenship.htm
  8. by   mercyteapot
    Quote from SmilingBluEyes
    Oh and the answer to question number one: yes, an overwhelming number of people (not just nurses) in other nations speak not only 2 languages, but as many as 4 or 5 or more. Why should we not learn at least one (besides our primary) here? It would never hurt ANYONE.
    Most of the people in other nations speak other languages that they've learned as a child. It is much, much more difficult to learn a new language even as a teenager, much less as an adult. It is unfortunate that in this country we don't start educating children in second languages... except, interestingly enough, those who haven't learned English at home. So they're the ones who end up with the benefit of a bilingual education. The irony is that these leaves fewer funds to introduce English speakers to other languages that would benefit them as they move through life.
  9. by   caliotter3
    While in Germany with the military, we had landlords who told us that their child had studied mandatory English since their equivilent of the second grade. My daughter started learning German from her babysitter. In the ten years I spent in Germany, I noticed that Germans always were receptive to my attempts to communicate in German. Recently when hospitalized, I had the privilege of meeting a couple who were originally from Europe. The husband told me a joke that goes around about Americans not being able to handle languages other than English. I was not offended. I agree that learning a different language is part of being an educated world citizen. However, I also agree that anyone who comes to the US for great lengths of time or permanently, should attempt to learn English. If for no other reason, so that they can attempt to be minimally understood in a medical situation where there is no time for finding a translator. I also worked in a facility with many monolingual people where we did not have translators available for all of the languages. Stating that this added to an already difficult situation, was putting it mildly. In some instances, some of these people had been in the US for decades with no efforts in English, dementia patients taken into account. Sad situation.
  10. by   Tweety
    Quote from TazziRN
    I think it's great that a second language is required for a university degree, but I have a problem with us having to learn a second language (namely Spanish) to accommodate them. And before anyone jumps on me for being biased, I am among the most unbiased people around. No other country caters to people who do not speak that country's language.

    I need to leave this thread.

    Yes, perhaps leaving the thread is a good idea. If your unbiased opinion and the opinoins of others aggravates to so.

    I'm sorry that you took my advocacy for including a foreign language requirement in our children's education to mean it was for accommodating and "catering" to immigrants who don't speak English. I didn't say that. I actually went off topic to say it would be nice to raise bilingual children, the way much of the world does.

    To answer the op's question. Of course English speaking nurses shouldn't be required to be bilingual.
    Last edit by Tweety on May 12, '07
  11. by   mshultz
    There are periodic newspaper articles about how the U.S. government has problems finding qualified people due to a lack of foreign language skills in America. However, when you read the articles, the government is not looking for people who speak the more common languages. They are looking for people fluent in uncommon languages.

    My foreign language training is limited to two years of high school Latin, since the college where I earned my B.A. in Biology did not have a foreign language requirement. For those of you who have completed two years of a foreign language in college, are you able to communicate with the native speakers of this language?

    The problems with learning a foreign language are rarely addressed:

    1. Unlike English, many foreign languages have dialects. The German the Amish speak is not the same as the language spoken in Germany. This limits your ability to communicate to those who speak the same dialect.

    2. Which language? In my area we have Amish and Hispanics. However, Quebec is not all that far away. So we are already up to three foreign languages, and have not yet counted the Indian and Asian immigrants, let alone the international students.

    3. What are you willing to give up in order to learn another language? Americans are already known for their work ethic. The best and the brightest from other countries flock to American colleges due to the quality of our education. Asking people to work even harder is not realistic. I enjoyed playing in the band when I was going to college full-time. It would have been a bitter loss if I had had to spend that time learning a language, instead.

    My suggestion is that medical terminology be offered as a substitute for a foreign language at both the high school and college levels. Learning this last Fall has opened up a whole new world to me (I am not a healthcare worker). And while I think that everyone needs to know medical terminology in order to understand healthcare, I also realize that not everyone can spend the 2-3 hours each day it took to master the subject.
  12. by   miko014
    Bottom line - if you don't use it, you lose it. I can speak a bit of Spanish, but it's terrible, and I can't conjugate verbs very well anymore, even if I *can* remember them. I think that's important - you can teach a person Spanish for 10 years, but if they don't use it, they will lose it.
  13. by   Roy Fokker
    I speak/understand 7 languages.

    Nothing special - where I come from, most people speak at least 3 (and I'm talking languages... not dialects).


    Do I think being bilingual is nice? Certainly. One of my most memorable experiences during community nursing was trying to converse with a Turkish refugee at a refugee shelter in downtown Buffalo. He didn't speak English and I didn't speak Turkish - but we both managed to get by with broken German with bits of Urdu thrown in.

    Do I think it should be a "requirement". I don't think so. Heck, we don't even have "understanding medical terminology" (mostly Latin) as a compulsory part of our training and education.


    I am of the opinion that those who feel it would enhance their health care careers or day to day jobs would seek remedy through taking a part time language course or some such. Forcing people over this issue is pointless - knowledge (especially something as nuanced and delicate as a language) can't be "crammed" into an unwilling brain.

    I like the idea of encouraging children to be raised with more than one language. Languages are easier to learn as a child.

    I for one really want to do basic sign language (in addition to Spanish). Once I settle down with my new job, I fully intend on persuing both

    cheers,
    Last edit by Roy Fokker on May 12, '07

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