I go into the clinic waiting room and call out a patient's name. No response. I try again, being more careful with my pronunciation of this very long, very unfamiliar name. A woman raises her hand and gets up to walk over to me.
"What language do you speak?"
At this point, I assume she didn't understand me. When, in fact, in the noisy waiting room, she almost certainly just didn't hear me. We proceed into the exam room. Speaking slowly:
"Okay. Have you used the translator phone before?"
Again, I assume she didn't understand me. When, in fact, if you have never used the translator phone, there is probably no reason you would have any idea what in the world I am talking about.
"Language. What language do you speak? Habla espanol?"
So I assume, at this point, I should get a Spanish translator on the phone. And I do. And the patient, looking slightly confused, seems to be struggling to communicate with the translator.
"Ask her if Spanish is her first language, or we should switch to something else."
The patient looks at me.
"I speak English. English is my first language. I don't know why we can't just do this visit in English."
"I didn't think you spoke English."
"You asked me if I speak Spanish. I took Spanish in high school, so I said yes."
"But in the waiting room--"
"I'm slightly hard of hearing. But I speak English."
"Oh, good. Then we should do this in English."
"Yes, we should."
"Thank you, translator. We won't be needing you."