* * Anonymous Doc: No hablo ingles?

Friday, February 10, 2012

No hablo ingles?

"Hello, sir."

[no response]

"Hello. Do you speak English?"

[no response]

"Habla ingles?"


"Habla espanol?"


I turn to my med student. "I think we should get the translator phone."

"Yeah, he definitely doesn't speak English."

So I get the translator phone set up. Translator comes on the phone. We have a very slow 10 minute conversation, where much of the time it seems like the patient isn't following what the translator is saying.

"Translator, is the patient following?"

"Uh, doctor, I hate to tell you this-- I don't think he really speaks Spanish."

"Then what does he speak?"

The translator says something to the patient. He responds, haltingly.

"He speaks English."


"Mr. Patient, do you speak English?"

"Yes. I do."

"So, all along, you've understood us?"


"Why didn't you say anything?"

"I don't know."

"I don't know either. I think we're going to get a head CT now."


  1. I really enjoy reading your blog, and I have a question for you (I will try not to be like the annoying prospective resident). I will be heading medical school next fall, and a lot of people have said that the ideals you had in college will slowly start to deteriorate as you go through the training. Has this been true for you? How have you changed since college?

    Thanks, buddy! You sound like the type of person that I would love to have as a mentor someday.