Language of Medicine Conference

Given that this blog is dedicated to teaching medical Spanish, from time to time I attempt to offer information on relevant, high quality sources of information and conferences. For that reason, this week I would like to highlight the international Language of Medicine Conference hosted by CERLIS (Centro di Ricerca sui Linguaggi Specialistici / Center for Research on Specialized Language or Languages for Specific Purposes).

Every other year, CERLIS hosts an international conference oriented towards a specific specialty and this year, 2014, that speciality will be medicine. The themes of the conference will include:

  • History and development of the language of medicine
  • Medical and healthcare terminology
  • Medical discourse
  • Communication in medicine and healthcare
  • Cultural aspects related to the language of medicine
  • Ethics of medical communication
  • Pragmatic aspects of the language of medicine
  • The translation of medical texts

The conference will be held in Bergamo, Italy from June 19th to the 21st. Though the date to submit an abstract has passed, early conference registration will open January 1, 2014.  For more information, see their website: CERLIS. Hope to see you there!

To give a foretaste of the talks that will be given, I leave you the abstract for my presentation in the conference:

Dialect Variation and its Consequences on In-Clinic Communication

Several studies have been undertaken to comprehend the effect of the language barrier on access to and quality of care.  The results of these studies have made apparent the adverse outcomes that can occur due to the presence of a language barrier and have prompted the institution of language support for non-native speakers in the United States.  However, this research generally excludes analyzing the effect of lexical dialect variants on doctor-patient communication and overall care.  As a consequence, Spanish for healthcare professionals courses and reference materials tend to focus heavily on standard language, leaving little or no room for lexical dialect variants.  Nonetheless, lexical dialect variants are a frequent (Bennink 2013) and inevitable part of in-clinic communication, and the misunderstandings which may occur as a result of their use can lead to ineffective communication and undesirable medical outcomes at worst.  In this article, I will briefly describe the lexical variations used by Latin American immigrants when speaking Spanish in a medical context in the United States, and then discuss the negative impact that these variants can have on the medical interview in terms of miscommunication, the patient´s level of trust in the physician and overall satisfaction with care, and, finally, the loss of time dedicated to patient care.  Lastly, I will present some of the challenges inherent to the integration of these variants into the communicative competence of the medical professionals, including the sheer quantity of variants, the lack of adequate educational and reference materials available, and the patient´s (often) inability to facilitate the resolution of misunderstandings when they occur.  An understanding of the impact and challenges of lexical dialect variants in clinic can help effect changes in research and education, which could ultimately lead to better care  for Latino patients.


About abennink

Spanish and English instructor, medical interpreter and health educator. My passion around healthcare, equality, languages and education motivates me to continually seek to develop my skills in each area while also designing ways to use each one to improve the others.
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