* * Anonymous Doc

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"The patient's completely unresponsive. She looks awake, but I've got the translator phone pressed up to her ear and she's not following any of my commands."

"So you think she's had a stroke?"

"I had the translator tell her to move her left arm-- nothing. Right arm-- nothing. Tell me her name-- nothing. Blink her eyes-- nothing. She doesn't even seem to be reacting to the words."

"So you want to get a neuro consult?"

"I think we have to. I already called up there. I'm just trying to decide if it makes sense to keep the translator on the line and keep trying, or just give it a rest until later. I'm not sure how easy it is to get a Mandarin translator on the phone after business hours."

"She speaks Cantonese."


"Yeah, she doesn't speak Mandarin."

"So maybe that's why she isn't responding to commands?"

"I think it might be."

"Oh. Okay then."


  1. ha, though in fairness -- Cantonese and Mandarin sounds similar enough that simple requests should elicit some reaction.

  2. Actually, I was under the impression that the two languages are nearly mutually unintelligible when spoken, and it's the written form that's virtually identical. Could be wrong...

  3. Mandarin and Cantonese do have some similar sounding words. Though I think many Mandarin and Cantonese speakers would be able to tell when someone is speaking the other language (as opposed to some random other language). Should I be surprised that the patient didn't indicate somehow that it was the wrong "Chinese"?

  4. I know this is ages away, but just to clarify, as a Mandarin speaking med student, Cantonese sounds completely different to me. My friend who speaks Cantonese can not understand me when I speak Mandarin. Both dialects share the same written letters but they're spoken differently. Between native speakers, it's controversial whether they're the same "language" or not.