Speaking native languages at work... - page 5

A Sacramento hospital this week passed around a questionare to its nurses. Here is the question... Diversity Council Needs You! To give us input on the question of staff members using their... Read More

  1. by   caroladybelle
    Like I said earlier - it is debatable who even speaks "pure" English - Don Murray, Florry, me with my Southern English, Mario with his New Yorkese, etc. - who are we to complain when one has a social conversation in the language that they are most comfortable with another that speaks it.
  2. by   RNinICU
    I think maybe we need to make a distinction here between professional and personal communication. Patients should always be adressed in a language they understand, either directly or through an interpreter. I agree that patients are frightened as is, and hearing those around them carry on a conversation they don't understand can add to their anxiety. Other professional communication between staff, such as assignments should also be carried out in English. But when two people are having a personal conversation, I don't care what language they speak. To say that one feels left out of a conversation when they don't understand the language is not a valid argument. I have been left out of plenty of English conversations at work. If two people are involved in a conversation, I don't feel I have to be included just because I am in the same room. And I certianly don't need to know what they are saying, unless they want me too. There are some conversations I don't want to be a part of. And I don't necessarily include everyone in the room in my conversations either. Personal communication is just that- personal. It is none of my business what people are talking about when they are having a personal conversation.
  3. by   rebelwaclause
    ^5 RNinICU
    Just wanted to relay an experience I had a few weeks ago.

    I was taking a patient downstairs to be discharged via wheelchair, baby in arms. Dad had run some bags to the car and was going to pull up in the front of the hospital.

    As we get on the elevator, 2 ladies from environmental services were on there. They chit-chatted the mom for a minute, "oh what a pretty baby," and such. Then they began speaking to each other in Spanish. Now, I wouldn't consider myself a Spanish expert, but I know enough, especially the main phrases and words that pertain to maternal/child nursing.

    The women on the elevator were speaking about the woman, and wondering where the father of the baby was.

    I simply looked at them and said "me hablo espanol." And they quickly shut the h*ll up, after giving me a dirty look.

  5. by   donmurray
    I would never claim to speak "good" english, especially since the fashion now is to move away from the standard formal english as spoken very fast by actors in old black-and-white movies! Given the small size of the UK there are huge regional variations in accents and dialects, and even the natives can have difficulty understanding each other at times. I wouldn't be unusual in being able to guess to within 40 miles or less where another Brit came from, just by their accent.
    Some Filipino nurses recruited by Manchester hospitals were given tapes of a tv soap called Coronation Street, set in that city to help them adapt to the local variety of English! This was after they had passed an English fluency test.
    I suppose I am expanding semstr's point that it is possible to speak the same language, and still not understand each other!
  6. by   sanakruz
    I always thought an'' english only '' rule was rascist and just another way for management to put nurses in their place; guess I'm in the minority here.Since only 40% of communication is verbal, if I think someone is bad-mouthing me in someway,the evil eye never fails in any language.
  7. by   jnette
    Thank You, RNinICU ! You stated better than I did EXACTLY what I was attempting to get across ! I agree wholeheartedly with every word.

    And Heather... about the two discussing amongst themselves in Spanish.... so WHAT !!?? I don't GET it ! This was THEIR own PERSONAL conversation between themselves ! They weren't speaking TO her, nor to YOU.. they were speaking to each OTHER.
    Who are we to dictate that everyone must speak the language WE understand at ALL times ! This does NOT fit in with what we as Americans always like to portray to the rest of the world... how wonderful and democratic we are ! To me it reeks of something else. Sometimes people WANT to have a conversation between THEMSELVES... is that so wrong? If you were in China with an American colleague and saw something that grabbed your attention, you were on that elevator, with your friend and wanted to share something personal with her, are you saying you wouldn't have just automatically conveyed your thoughts/opinion to your pal in English? If for no other reason than BECAUSE it WAS a personal thought.. not something you wanted to offend anyone else by, by hearing it? Do we not do the same.. only without a foreign language.. when we talk about something/somebody out of earshot ? C' mon! Lets be HONEST here!

    I sometimes feel that the reason we are so bothered by this is because our country has only recently (in relative terms) seen such an influx of foreigners and we are not yet used to hearing all these languages we don't understand... it just "feels wrong" and it bugs us. Heck, I've seen many an American in Europe who was "OFFENDED" because "THEY" (the Germans, French, Italiens.. whoEVER) did not speak "OUR" language ! GEEEEEEEEEEESH !!!! It even bugs us when we're in THEIR country ! Perhaps in time as we grow accustomed to hearing more languages around us, we'll stop being so paranoid, feeling "left out", etc. I know we think we've been exposed to hearing these foreign languages for a "long" time... to us it may SEEM like a long time, but it's really NOT. We're simply not used to the idea of being surrounded by different cultures and languages yet. In time, this, too shall pass. My point is this.. why are foreigners not offended when they are surrounded by other foreign languages? Because they are USED to hearing numerous languages around them at all times! They've been exposed to this for hundreds and hundreds of years. We in America have been isolated and are only now being exposed. It's a new phenomina.
    Don't sweat it. Most people who are speaking their mother tongue with friends/colleagues are NOT speaking about US.
    And even if they were... who's to say your "friend" down the hall is speaking about you to HER friend back in the locker room ?
    Geez. Let's get over it. I'm comfortable enough with who I am to not let such trivia get under my skin.

    RN in ICU said it exactly right, so did Psychnurse. It would be a sad day indeed in this great country of ours to start dictating what language one is allowed to speak and when. What's next? My THOUGHTS?
    Originally posted by jnette
    And Heather... about the two discussing amongst themselves in Spanish.... so WHAT !!?? I don't GET it ! This was THEIR own PERSONAL conversation between themselves ! They weren't speaking TO her, nor to YOU.. they were speaking to each OTHER.
    Um, but they were in essence gossiping about someone right in front of them. Smiling at her and her baby while they talked about whether or not she was a single mom. Very patronizing and demeaning.

    Answer me this jnette, what if the patient had understood Spanish? Anxiously awating your reply......

  9. by   jnette
    Heather... not wanting to fuss here, truly. And I mean you no disrespect. I'm not one to argue and fuss, although I do appreciate a healthy debate. So please don't take anything I say personally.

    OK... so they were talking about the mom and her baby.. maybe not cool, ok. BUT....!!!... am I anyone to deny the right of another to speak to their friend about any subject or control what
    they talk about? Just because you happened to speak/understand Spanish and what they were saying still doesn't mean they had included you in their private conversation. If that had been me talking to my friend in German, and you happened to understand the conversation and said you didn't appreciate what I was saying, I would have politely and tactfully made you aware that I was talking privately to my friend and did not recall inviting you into the conversation, nor asking your opinion. I would have considerd it rude on YOUR part to infringe on MY conversation. I'm really not being snotty when I say that, Heather, really. I mean it, though.

    I can say this because I've BEEN in many of these situations! I've lived in Germany most of my" growing up" years and went to all German schools. All my friends were German and I'm bilingual.. spoke only German(Austrian) at home with my mother and English with Dad when he was around (often gone for long stretches on military tour of duty). I can't tell you the times I had been hanging out with my German friends and overheard Americans talking about me and my friends.. thinking we didn't understand them. Was I offended? How could I be? It was THEIR conversation ! If I had said anything it would have been as if I was prying into their private discussion! No.. not offended. But had a lot of fun that way ! Then, there were times that I, as an American would be with American folks and would hear the Germans talking about us... same thing! I understood every word, but would not be so rude as to jump into their conversation with a comeback.. I'd just chuckle to myself. If I had done otherwise I would have felt like I was eavesdropping...not right. Heck, the times I was in my American AF uniform (later in life, and stationed back in my hometown in Germany)...I'd be riding the public transport with all my German highschool friends speaking fluent "no American accent" German with all these German friends and WOW! The comments I heard from other Americans on the bus..."must be a spy..." and on and on and on.
    Had a great time dating back then... one time I'd be German, another time American... always left 'em guessing! :chuckle

    My point is merely this... let people be who they are. Allow them their privacy. Allow them to relate to their friends, even if we don't understand what they're saying. We don't always have to know what others are saying. If you're meant to be involved in the conversation,you will be invited into the conversation.. if not, then look at it just as you would if there were a group of others just like yourself (all Americans) having a discussion of their own. I would not want to be part of their discussion if I was not invited to be part of it. People have a right to their own conversations. We have NO right to forbid anyone to talk to anyone they choose in any language at any time ! (barring patient contact, workrelated tasks, assignments and the like) But other than that, it's like forbidding private thought. That's scary to me.

    As for the lady with the baby... how she reacts would be up to her. That's an individual choice. I had to make those choices all my life. I may not have always liked what I heard, but I had enough sense to know that those who were discussing me thought I did not understand, and therefore was a PRIVATE conversation.. and their right. How one chooses to react should not make a difference, nor should it mean that we all have to speak one language so everybody will know everything you're thinking at all times. So much for personal freedoms. I also speak fluent French. I run into all kinds of people from all walks of life who think I don't speak their language ! I love it ! You learn so much ! I take the good and leave the bad. People are entitled to what they think. Who am I to tell someone else they can't speak their language just because I (with a capitol I) don't understand it? How arrogant would I be?
    OK... 'nuff said. Don't want to offend, and I'm speaking from the heart. We in America just have been so isolated for so long we think that we are the only ones who matter, sometimes even the only ones who exsist. Boy, are we wrong!
    Spoken in love... jnette
  10. by   NannaNurse
    I haven't taken the time to read 'most of these' post. The subject is what I want to comment on....regarding nurses speaking 'their own language'.....??? Well, to me, and I may catch some 'flack' for speaking whats on my mind here, but you asked for it.......while at work, I think it is disrespectful for anybody of another country/language to 'speak' their native tongue.....IF.....it is not the language that everybody speaks.......ie: when in America.....speak English (if you can) If your a nurse here, then you should be able to speak fluent english.....most of us here in the USA only understand english.
    I don't mean to sound 'rude' here, but ...case in point....we have new housekeepers at our hospital.....they are from Bosnia....and I'm glad they have found a home here......but the problem is......they don't speak any english......you call them for assistance in cleaning up a spill or just doing their job......."I don't understand english".....while shaking their heads no.....they sit around, in our nurses break room and talk their language while looking at some of the nurses and then laugh......none of the staff like them.....they are lazy, don't do their work and always say..................you guessed it......no english.....
    In any country, I think it is disrespectful to the host citizens to stand around and speak a foreign language if you can speak theirs.......it just makes you look like you don't care enough to learn the language of where your living......
    Just my opinion........
    Last edit by NannaNurse on Oct 9, '02
    Originally posted by OBNURSEHEATHER
    Just wanted to relay an experience I had a few weeks ago.
    I just wanted to quote the first sentence of my original post for you jnette. All I did was relay a particular situation that happened to me, and how inappropriate I felt it was.

    When I'm at the hospital, all I'm concerned about is the patient and their satisfaction with their hospital stay. Whether I deliver their baby, wipe their ass, bring them their meal trays, or clean their rooms..... I should be respectful of the patient. Those women in the elevator were not. If those women had been English speaking, I would have reacted no differently.

    It's like talking about a deaf person in front of them when you assume that they can't hear you.

    I have no problem with people speaking their native languages, as long as they also understand mine in my own country. I never said anything contrary. I said the women in the elevator were hiding behind their "culture" to be busy-body gossipy b*tches.

  12. by   mario_ragucci
    The women may have been brought up in a culture different from present-day American culture. There are many, many women who choose to have kids on their own, without a father around, and some cultures feel that is kinda peculiar and strange of our American culture. Talking bout a single mom's family situation is taboo, even in Spanish. Chismoso? Lol.
  13. by   jnette
    I wish I could be perfect but I know I never shall be. Can't say I've never gossiped about anybody, probably have been a B**** a time or two. May not be right, but I'm human. Guess we find ways to do the same in our own "cultural hiding places". I've heard us talk about many a foreigner thinking they don't understand us. Those 2 women may not have been kind or professional, but by golly, I sure would not be one to throw the first stone. I see enough of "our own" doing that and worse.
    Won't argue. Believe this thread was titled "how do you THINK/FEEL about"... so this is just how I think/feel. I'm not saying I'm right, you're wrong. We can agree to disagree and I'm not offended. Not tucking my tail between my legs, either. Just expressing my thoughts on the subject, never said anyone had to agree or like it. Still love ya! No hard feelings.