Medical Spanish App: Polyglot Med Spanish

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Last week, I mentioned that one of my New Year’s resolutions is to review more apps and materials related to medical Spanish to be able to share with you more about what is currently available. So this week, before diving back into health beliefs, I will write about an app that I have played with during the last week: Polyglot Med Spanish by Duke University.



Polyglot Med Spanish is a free app for both Andriod and iPhone. However, Duke also offers a free CD version, Polyglot 4.0: Multimedia Medical Spanish Translator. For more information on how to download the app or request the free CD, you can visit their website



This app was designed to support medical students and medical professionals who are learning Spanish or who need to refresh their memory regarding certain terms or phrases. Nevertheless, the creators make it very clear that it should not be used as a replacement for formal language training nor for interpreter use.



The app has four main sections: Phrase Books, Conversations, Phrases and Favorites

  • Phrase Books: When you click on Phrase Books, you find categories such as Adjectives, Anatomy and Physiology, Assessing for Pain, etc. Once you select a category, you are given a list of phrases in alphabetical order which fall within that category (for example, under Anatomy and Physiology, you will find aqueous humor, bipolar cells, blind spot, cells, ciliary body, etc.). Although you can see the phrases in both English and Spanish in the list view, you must click on the phrase in order to be able to favorite it.
  • Conversations: When you click on Conversations, once again a list of categories appears (Emergency: Abdominal Pain Assessment, General Admission Questions, etc.). After clicking on one of the categories, a list of questions with their Spanish equivalents appear.
  • Phrases: Next to last, the Phrases section offers a list of all the phrases and categories available in the app, allowing the user to search the entire database.
  • Favorites: Finally, there is the Favorites section which does exactly what you would expect.

For more information, the video posted below goes through a tutorial of how to use the app and the functionality available.


My Assessment: 

As far as free apps go, this one is of quite high quality. The clean and easy to use layout of the app itself is inviting, but  in my opinion the biggest strength is the separation of the phrases into categories. This structure makes it easy to use for someone who would like to learn about a certain topic or who needs a refresher on a topic before seeing a patient. Additionally, the ability to be able to search all phrases and categories saves time in terms of finding a specific word or phrase. The ability to add phrases to a list of favorites is also helpful since it allows the user to refer back to a phrase which they use a lot or are wanting to learn more strongly. Finally, the free availability on both Android and iOS, as well as in CD format, makes it a must for medical Spanish learners.

That said, the app does have its weak points. For one, it cannot be easily used as a quick reference tool when actively working with a patient. If the user cannot think of a word to say and needs to quickly search for it, this tool´s user interface does not immediately allow for it, but instead requires several clicks / touches before arriving at the desired word or phrase. Also, once a desired word or phrase is found, the app does not offer a way to listen to it nor does it show the phonetic pronunciation, both factors which aid the learner in knowing how to say the word themselves. Finally, though words and phrases can be favorited, there is currently no way to review these words in a manner that facilitates learning them. For example, other language learning apps offer the ability to see the favorited words as “notecards” which can be flipped through or to have them added into a learning game. Instead, this app only allows for reference back to the favorited words.

Nevertheless, despite the drawbacks, this app is an excellent tool for medical Spanish learners and, many thanks to Duke, it is also free.


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.
This entry was posted in Spanish Language, Teaching Spanish to Medical Professionals and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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