Words matter: Translanguaging in medical communication skills training

Josh Prada
Pilar OrtegaEmail
Soort article
Eye Opener
Medical communication skills,
Medical humanities,
Medical Spanish,
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Medical communication across languages is gaining attention as the multilingual character of local, regional, and national populations across the world continues to grow. Effectively communicating with patients involves not only learning medical terminology, but also understanding the community’s linguistic practices, and gaining the ability to explain health concepts in patient-centered language. Language concordance between physicians and patients improves patient outcomes, but methods to teach communication skills for physicians are usually limited to the majority or official language. For example, in U.S. medical schools increased demand for physician skills in other languages, such as Spanish, has resulted in renewed academic discourse about best practices in teaching practical communication skills for physicians. In language education, translanguaging is an approach that integrates and validates multilingual individuals’ real use of language, which often includes non-standard words, regionalisms, and mixed influences from multiple languages, such as Spanglish or Chinglish. Efforts to improve medical language concordance by teaching a second language to medical students would benefit from an understanding of patient-centered communication strategies, such as is supported by translanguaging. Teaching effective communication skills to physicians should evolve and engage with the fluid linguistic attributes of culturally and linguistically diverse patient populations. In this eye opener, we first introduce the translanguaging perspective as an approach that can increase attention to patient-centered communication, which often includes spontaneous practices that transcend the traditional boundaries of named languages, and then present examples of how translanguaging can be implemented in medical education in order to sustainably enhance equity-minded patient-accessible medical communication.


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