"You're gonna need to learn Spanish...." - page 4

I'm a new RN, just started orientation last week. I met with my preceptor on the floor for the first time a few days ago and he made the comment, "Working here, you're gonna need to learn Spanish". I... Read More

  1. by   GardenDove
    I enjoy using my HighSchool Spanish and have found my Mexican pts to be understanding and grateful for my attempts. I've never found them demanding that I know Spanish. They always have so many family members around that I'll have no trouble finding a translator.

    My advise is to just be gracious and respectful without being fawning. Try and learn a new word each time you take care of one of these pts. Mexicans are pretty down to earth and they'll enjoy sharing their idioms for bodily functions!
  2. by   TazziRN
    Quote from wooh
    Just because they speak English doesn't mean they're fluent in medical English, and doesn't mean that they are comfortable counting on their English skills in a stressful situation. When I'm scared and stressed, my English skills get limited, and it's my first language! If it was my second language, I'd hate to think that I might say something wrong inadvertently that could make a huge difference in my or my family member's care. I'd much rather they insist on a Spanish interpreter than give me information that's wrong because they used the wrong words.
    There is no stress involved when your two-year-old has had a cold for 2 weeks and it's Sunday. I understand what you're saying, but I guess I didn't make myself clear. And I would much rather hear "My english not so good...you speak Spanish?" At least there's an attempt.
  3. by   GardenDove
    Just a little perspective, I think that it's a universal problem for English speakers to not enjoy learning languages. The UK and Australia have the same national trait. I'm not sure if it's the grammatical structure of English or just a tradition. The English were traditionally oppressive of other languages when they conquored different peoples and managed to practically wipe many languages off the map.

    I've also read that in Spain they have this national trait. Perhaps this is why English and Spanish are such dominant languages in the world?

    My late husband was from Poland and in Europe many people are triligual. Under communism everyone learned Russian from very early in school. Once communism fell, everyone started learning English. Poles go to work all over Europe and learn the language of the country where they go. My husband's niece married a German and was living in Germany with her husband, and she is fluent in German as well as in English. Now she and her husband are living in Sweden and she's probably fluent in Swedish by now. Yet she always spoke to her daughters in Polish so they would always know that.
  4. by   Ruby Vee
    Quote from telerner
    sorry to be the controversial one. but wake up! these folks are in a country where english is the standard preferred language. and, it's not my responsibility to spend my free time learning a foreign toungue.

    if you're in the hospital and you only speek spanish, get a family member who speaks english to help translate for you!

    don't correct me on my use of your spanish language! i'm trying the best that i know how to communicate with you!

    excuse me! you're the one who insists on using your language to communicate with me, when i know you've spent at least a little time here and have some brief understanding of english and can trouble yourself to speak in englsih...this is not mexico!
    [font="comic sans ms"]amen to that!

    [font="comic sans ms"]we get patients from all over the world -- is it also my responsibility to learn to speak mandarin, cantonese, korean, vietnamese, russion, french, german, italian and tagalog? i think not. this is the united states. if you've been here for 30 years (like my mother-in-law) why in he!! haven't you learned to speak the language?
  5. by   caroladybelle
    Quote from prmenrs
    For a large variety of reasons (educational, logistical, and numerous others), demanding that all patients learn English before arriving @ the hospital in need of care is futile. It simply will not happen.

    When your hospital is located <10 miles from the border, and 60-80% of your patients are Spanish only, or limited English, you need to acquire a certain amount of bilingual and, very important, bicultural skills if you wish to maximize your effectiveness and not waste a lot of time finding someone to help you.

    I commend the OP's desire to learn Spanish. It will serve you well!
    I have never lived less than 10 miles from the border, and as the OP is listed as being from NJ, I believe that indicates being substantially distant from the border.

    I still have to deal with large numbers of people that do not speak English. I do attempt to be moderately bilingual and cultural competent.

    But in dealing with those that do not have English as the first language, certain patterns have been noted. My Japanese/Thai/Chinese patients at least try to learn and communicate in English. They also don't chat in their native language for long periods of time around those that do not speak their language. They also don't expect us to know their language, are pleasantly surprised if we do, and they generally attempt to learn English after moving here. After several years here, they tend to be well acclimated to using English. This despite the fact that their languages rely on completely different symbolism.

    Contrast this with many of my Spanish speaking clients. I have actually heard them deliberately saying bad things about the nurse in front of them, thinking that the nurse doesn't know what is being said. I will have several generations, or families that have been in the USA for 10 years or more, that will insist they do not know enough English to speak except through an interpreter. They will chatter along in Spanish and not even attempt English conversation.

    Even my Hasidic patients, that keep to their own community when outside the hospital, will speak English in the hospital in front of others, because it would be rude to do otherwise.

    I am all for supporting the client in a language that is comfortable to them, but we have "supported" some groups so much that it endangers them and their health. What happens outside the hospital when a diabetic or epileptic crisis occurs.

    Learning adequate English is going to promote their health, OUTSIDE the hospital.
  6. by   prmenrs
    I'm coming from the point of view of "how can I get the job done". If I need to do d/c teaching for 5 or 6 moms, and 2 of them are Spanish only, 2 more are limited English, or I need to help one of them w/breastfeeding, whatever, I'm going to have a much more difficult time of it w/o speaking a little Spanish. Charades will only take you so far.

    I am NOT talking about the basic philosophic arguments about controlling immigration and making everyone learn English, etc., I'm just trying to teach the pt what they need to know. Besides, there are forms to fill out saying you did indeed teach them all this stuff. The "here and now nitty gritty"--that's my primary focus. The rest of that stuff, I don't care a whole lot, believe it or not!
  7. by   Ruby Vee
    Quote from cniro7
    these are patients we are talking about; not just a person who you can't help at the grocery store. i am surprised at all the people who are posting with the kind of "they came here; they should learn our language" thing. being nurses, we are supposed to respect cultural diversity and also do the best that we can for our patients regardless of what language they speak. to me that means if i need to learn some spanish or whatever language it may be in order to accomodate that, then i will.
    [font="comic sans ms"]if you live near the mexican border and you'd like to learn to speak some spanish, that's wonderful! if you live near the canadian border and you think it would be useful to know some french, more power to you. if you live in the middle and get patients from every continent speaking literally hundreds of different languages, which language would you advise me to learn? if i just learn spanish, am i then disrespecting the culture of someone who only speaks french? if i also learn some french, am i then disrespecting someone from germany? come on now. this is our country, and the folks who come here came here knowing that english is spoken. if they had a heart attack on a cruise and were airlifted to the us, that's one thing. but if they've been here for awhile, why haven't they learned english? and if the hospital admission was planned, as opposed to an emergency, why haven't they made arrangements for having a family member who is bilingual with them?

    it seems that we're responsible for respecting everyone else's culture. why is it that no one else is responsible for respecting ours?
  8. by   GardenDove
    Now, don't flame me about this, but the people who come from overseas are generally higher functioning people. The Mexicans who sneak across the border are for the most part poorly educated peasants.

    People who have the where with all to get across the ocean are most likely much more motivated to learn English, in my opinion.
  9. by   Euskadi1946
    TeleRNer, NewsFlash!!!!!! Mexico is NOT the only country on the face of the earth where Spanish is spoken. Last I heard, Spanish is spoken in Spain, Central and South America with the exception of Brazil where Portuguese is spoken, many islands in the Caribbean and all over the United States of America. Spanish was spoken on these shores 50 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
  10. by   GardenDove
    Quote from CeCiRN
    TeleRNer, NewsFlash!!!!!! Mexico is NOT the only country on the face of the earth where Spanish is spoken. Last I heard, Spanish is spoken in Spain, Central and South America with the exception of Brazil where Portuguese is spoken, many islands in the Caribbean and all over the United States of America. Spanish was spoken on these shores 50 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
    They know that, but the fact of the matter is that Mexico is the most common country of origin in the U.S. for immigrants, and also Spanish speaking persons. Most of the people who speak Spanish are Mexican.

    That reminds me of a young pt I had who was from Cuba. Here in the Pacific NW, Cubans are a rarity. She made a big point to let me know that she was Cuban, and it was perfectly clear to me that she looked down on Mexicans and didn't want to be mistaken for one! It was rather amusing to observe this.
  11. by   Euskadi1946
    This forum is turning into a Let's Bash Hispanics Forum and I for one am so sick and tired of all this bashing. I'm a 17th generation American with both Spanish and Indian ties who speaks fluent Spanish and I'M PROUD OF IT!!! We are all nurses for heaven sakes and we're are supposed to heal the sick regardless of their race, nationality and religion. GET OVER IT ALREADY!!!!!!
  12. by   GardenDove
    Really, I haven't noticed this. What threads are you talking about where Hispanics are bashed?
  13. by   Euphrosyne7

    I am not advising anyone to do anything as you have suggested.

    I was merely sharing my perspective on the topic as is everyone else. I also am not saying that everyone should become fluent in every language..clearly that is not realistic.....I, personally, just happen to live in a large community of hispanic speaking patients so I am just trying to learn a bit of Spanish to be able to better communicate with them. The OP seems to be working in a facility where there are many Spanish speaking patients so in that instance, perhaps it would help her, as it has helped me, to learn some phrases in order to be better able to speak with them. I feel frustrated when I am unable to communicate with my patients, and it seemed that she may feel the same, particularly if the patient is in a situation where it would be nice to give some words of comfort.

    I happen to live in Rhode Island which is nowhere near California, and I also do not recall mentioning anything about illegal aliens. I think that is an entirely different topic.

    I am also not saying anything about people who have been here for years and do not know or pretend not to know English. Yes, if I relocated to another country, I would certainly be working on learning their primary language, but in the meantime, if there happens to be a large population of a patients who speak a certain language other than English it can only be helpful to know a bit of that language whether it be portuguese, french, or whatever.

    From my personal experience, when I encounter a patient who does not speak English well and is primarily Spanish speaking, they have always expressed their appreciation by thanking me when I speak to them as much as I can in their primary language. The other thing is that when we are speaking in Spanish, I will tell them in English the item they are asking for or if asking about pain, I will ask them in Spanish and then say pain in English, and I find that they then will ask me in a mix of Spanish and English what it is they need or if they are in pain, they will then say pain....Then I will say pain is Spanish and they will say yes. So it just works out well in the situations that I have encountered.